ANNOUSHKA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Celebrated during the month of Falgun which is the last month of the Hindu calendar, Mahashivratri translates to ‘the great night of Shiva’ and marks the arrival of spring right before or during the month of March.
It is on this night that Lord Shiva is said to have performed the ‘Tandava Nritya’, the dance of primeval creation, preservation, and annihilation. It is believed by Hindu scholars that it was on this day that Lord Shiva took out the poisonous negativity in order to protect the earth.
Unlike many festivals, this solemn event is celebrated during the night and is observed to mark the remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance. While most Hindu festivals are celebrated with great zeal, solemnity, and splendour, Mahashivratri in particular focuses on meditation, fasting, self-discovery, introspection, etc.
Hindu mythology states that Mahashivratri is considered to be Lord Shiva’s favourite day. On this day, devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to offer milk, water, and bael leaves to the Shiva ‘lingam’ after they have cleansed it. The Shiva ‘lingam’ is considered as a symbol for the worship of Lord Shiva. Some temples observe a ‘jaagran’ or night vigil wherein devotees sing devotional songs, hymns, and chant the sacred mantra of Shiva and observe a fast through the night. The fast is broken the next morning by consuming ‘prasad’ following the ‘aarti’.
In Goa, Mahashivratri is celebrated with great devotion and traditional fervour especially at all the Shiv temples since ancient times such as the Curdi Mahadev, Tambdi Surla, Saptakoteshwar Opa and Narve, Ramnathi, Mangeshi, among others.
In fact, the oldest Shiva temple is in Saptakoteshwar Opa, Khandepar situated in Ponda. The temple lies beyond the rock cut rivers. The second Shiva temple was built on Divar Island which was later destroyed by the Portuguese. However, the broken temple was later transferred to Narve, Bicholim. “The first ‘pooja’ was held at Khandepar in the morning and the flowers and the big bunch of bael tree that were put on the ‘ling’ there were tied into a bundle and people sailed it down to Divar Island and these flowers were used in Divar,” says historian, Sanjeev Sardessai.
On the occasion of Mahashivratri, Hindus in Goa throng to the Shiv temples in the mornings after a bath, and offer poojas, flowers etc to the deity.
“Every Hindu wakes up early in the morning to perform the ‘abhishek’ on the ‘shivling’ along with the ‘pooja’. Later people visit the temples and get into the ‘japa mala’ activities which basically mean penance,” says heritage activist, Yogesh Nagvenkar.
In fact, on the occasion of Mahashivratri, Nargvenkar specially offers a ‘pooja’ at the desecrated Shiva temple in Chandor which was built by the Kadambas. “We go and offer flowers, incense in memory of the bygone era and the rich cultural heritage which was destroyed by the Portuguese. People have different ways of celebrating it but this is how we celebrate,” adds Nagvenkar.
In Goa, the celebrations are restricted to mainly rituals in the temples unlike Northern India where people add ‘bhang’ to their celebrations. “Here, people perform the ‘abhishek’ by bathing the ‘shivling’ which is traditionally done by the temple priest but on the occasion of Mahshivratri even the common man is allowed to do so,” says Sardessai.
Sardessai adds that people also take a holy dip in the waters just across Divar where the three rivers namely Mandovi, Mahedai and the Cumbarjua canal meet.
Besides a fast, people also limit their diet. “A few people observe it in a way where they turn vegetarian or do not eat rice or heavy food, they only eat pulses, fruits and that’s called ‘upwas’,” says Nagvenkar.
Echoing a similar statement is video editor, Anjana Saini from Ponda. “This day is an auspicious occasion for Hindus. The ‘shiv lingas’ are bathed with milk, flowers and ‘bael patra’ (leaves from the bael tree) on it. Then some Hindus perform the ‘pooja’ and ‘archana’ of ‘lingas’ and fast as it is believed that fasting detoxifies the body,” says Saini. She adds that some people even meditate during the night and chant ‘om namah shivaya’.
While people use flowers of different colours, Sardessai says that flowers which are white in colour are to be traditionally offered to Lord Shiva. “The main colour flower to be used is white. It can be any flower but should be white in colour. Now people offer coloured flowers but what Lord Shiva likes is white,” says Sardessai.