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How to Celebrate the Great Night of Lord Shiva in India

How to Celebrate the Great Night of Lord Shiva in India

Maha Shivaratri (The Great Night of Lord Shiva) is one of the most significant holidays in India, observed by devoted Hindus each year. In this article, you’ll learn about the mythology behind this holiday, explore its traditions, and study some new Hindi vocabulary.

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1. What is Maha Shivratri?

Maha Shivratri is a major festival and celebration in India. Its name translates to “The Great Night of Lord Shiva,” and this is a full night of worship to this Lord.

While the exact origins of this holiday are unknown, there are several stories and myths associated with it. The most well-known of these stories in India is that of Lord Shiva saving the world. He achieved this by drinking Halahala, a poison created of seawater by two people who hoped to achieve immortality. Upon drinking it, Lord Shiva’s throat turned blue because of the poison’s effect on his body. In a different version of this story, people say that the poison was actually dark matter.

Another popular story is that of Lubdhaka, a poor man who went into the woods to gather firewood. Frightened by the sounds of wild animals at night, he hid in a tree, praying to Shiva and dropping the tree’s leaves, one by one. Once day broke, he realized that the leaves had fallen into a शिवलिंग (shivling), or “lingam,” of Lord Shiva. For this reason, he was able to make it back home safely.

Many Hindus also celebrate Maha Shivratri as a commemoration of Lord Shiva’s marriage to the Goddess Parvati. In the same vein, many people believe that Lord Shiva saved the world due to Parvati’s pleading. Parvati promised that if he saved the world, people would worship him for the rest of time.

The Night of Shivaratri, and the day leading up to it, largely focuses on worshipping Shiva, trying to create admirable virtues within oneself, forgetting sins and wrongdoings of the past, and inviting good luck into the following year. There’s also a great emphasis on marriage, especially for women.

2. Maha Shivratri Date

Full Moon in a Night Sky

The date of Maha Shivratri varies each year on the Gregorian calendar. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years:

  • 2020: February 21
  • 2021: March 11
  • 2022: March 1
  • 2023: February 18
  • 2024: March 8
  • 2025: February 26
  • 2026: February 15
  • 2027: March 6
  • 2028: February 23
  • 2029: February 11

3. How is Maha Shivratri Celebrated?

Hindu Woman Praying to Shiva

There are many traditions on the Night of Shiva. The day leading up to it is largely a day of worship. Hindus take part in उपवास (upvaas), or “fasting,” and पूजा (pooja), or “worship,” of Lord Shiva. In addition, there’s usually lots of music and folk dancing. These Shivaratri celebrations continue into the night, and the most devoted Hindus actually partake in this festival all night long.

As mentioned earlier, a major component of this holiday is that of bettering oneself and showing devotion to Lord Shiva. People visit temples and provide a चढ़ावा (cadhaavaa), or “offering,” of water, milk, and bilva leaves to Lord Shiva. On this night, Lord Shiva’s devotees also light अगरबत्ती (agarbaTTii), or “incense,” in worship.

One of the most important acts of worship on Maha Shivaratri is शिवलिंग पर पानी चढ़ाना (shivling par paani chadhaana), or “bathing the Shiv Linga with water.”

Maha Shivaratri is also a day for women to pray and ask Lord Shiva to either bless their husband (if they’re married) or to grant them a husband as good as Lord Shiva himself (if they’re unmarried). This is because, in addition to having saved the world, Lord Shiva is considered the best possible example of a husband.

In turn, Hindu men observe the rituals and celebrations in hope of having good luck and fortune in the coming year.

4. Thandai

On Maha Shivratri (and during Holi), there’s another common tradition of drinking something called thandai. This is a milk-based drink that’s combined with an array of spices and nuts, usually served cold.

There are many different variations of this drink, including one made with rose petals, another made with a mango puree, and still another that uses cannabis.

If you’re in India during Maha Shivratri, make sure you try thandai!

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Maha Shivratri

Statue of Lord Shiva

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s the essential vocabulary you need to know for Maha Shivratri in India.

  • पानी (paani) — “water”
  • दूध (doodh) — “milk”
  • मंदिर (maNDir) — “temple”
  • महाशिवरात्रि (mahaa shivraatree) — “Night of Lord Shiva”
  • उपवास (upvaas) — “fasting”
  • भक्त (bhakT) — “devotee”
  • चढ़ावा (cadhaavaa) — “offering”
  • अगरबत्ती (agarbaTTii) — “incense”
  • बेल पत्र (bel paTr) — “bilva leaves”
  • शिवलिंग पर पानी चढ़ाना (shivling par paani chadhaana) — “Bathing the Shiv Linga with water”
  • पूजा (pooja) — “worship”
  • रात (raaT) — “night”
  • भगवान शिव (bhagvaan shiv) — “Lord Shiva”
  • शंकर जी की जय (shankarjii ki jai) — “Hail Shiva”
  • शिवलिंग (shivling) — “lingam”

Visit our Hindi Maha Shivratri vocabulary list to hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Maha Shivratri with us, and that you were able to take away something valuable from this lesson. What are the biggest holidays in your country? Tell us about them in the comments section!

One of the largest holidays in India, Maha Shivratri is still only the beginning of India’s colorful and vivid culture. If you’re interested in learning even more about Hindi culture and the language, check out the following pages on

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