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Maha Shivratri


This festival is celebrated on the night of (Maha) vad 14, when Lord Shiv manifested as Shivaling. There are numerous stories extolling the glory of Mahadev (Lord Shiv) in the Puranas. He has been worshipped in Bharat (India) since ancient times. Archaeologists have discovered his meditative-postured murti in Mohenjo-daro. Initially his murti was worshipped. Later this was replaced by the Shivaling, symbolically representing the jyoti-flame of the fire, and not as a phallic symbol, as has been persistently and ignominiously misrepresented by non-Hindu writers since colonial times. The Shvetashvatava Upanishad (1-13) refers to Shivaling upasana-worship.

Two other significant events occurred on Maha Shivaratri; the onset of Dwapar yuga and the manifestation of the 12 Swayambhu Jyotirlingas of Bharat.

Glory

The Shiv Puran relates a story of Maha Shivaratri's glory.

In ancient times, a Bheel (forest inhabitant) named Gurudruha trudged through a forest to hunt deer. At night, without having sighted a single animal, he unknowingly climbed a bili tree on the banks of a lake. Later at night, a doe arrived to drink water. Gurudruha aimed his bow and arrow at her. While aiming, he unknowingly dropped some bili leaves and his drinking water below on a Shivaling. The deer then requested him to allow her to entrust her fawns to her husband, after which she would return. After much haggling he agreed. While awaiting her return, he stayed awake by aimlessly plucking leaves and dropping them below. Again they fell on the Shivaling. Thus he unknowingly performed its puja while remaining awake all night.

Finally the doe returned with her family, She informed him that along with her, he'd have to kill her family too. As he aimed, some more leaves fluttered down on the Shivaling. The collective punya (spiritual merit) accrued from the puja performed unknowingly, eradicated all his sins. This purified his heart. Repenting his flawed life of sin, he set the deer free. As he sat repenting, Lord Shiv manifested in front of him and granted a boon, "You shall be born in a town known as Shrungver, as a man named Gruha. Lord Vishnu will grace your home as Lord Rama and redeem you."

Shivji also blessed the deer which attained a better destiny.

The Garud and Skand Puranas cite similar versions, about a king named Sundersenak and an evil hunter named Chand, respectively.
 

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