: Throughout Orissa
Also Known As
Falls In : Month Of Falguna Or Phalguna (February - March)
Maha Shivaratari (February-March)
The festival "Shiva's Great Night" falls on the 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun and is observed by devotees all over the country. Devotees keep fast and perform puja throughout the night and keep a vigil to witness the sacred lamp on the temple top.
The festival can be best enjoyed at mahendragiri, Gupteswar,
Kapilas, Puri, Bhubaneswar and Khiching. In times of yore, Orissa was a great seat of Shaivism. It was the state religion for over four centuries and as a result, innumerable temples were built and dedicated to Shiva throughout the length and breadth of the State by the pious rulers.
Bhubaneswar alone has about five hundred shrines for Shiva, both big and small.
The earliest temples date back to 6th-7th century A.D. Since then Shaivism is a great religious force among the people of Orissa. Most of the prosperous villages have a temple for Shiva. Therefore, the festival is held with great religious fervor in the State.
The devotees observe strict religious discipline by abstaining from food for the day and keep themselves awake the whole night. 'Shiva Linga' is worshipped with 'vilwa' leaves throughout the night with chanting of the 'Panchakshyara
Mantra' - "Om! Namah Shivay!". The next morning, they take their bath and after worshipping Shiva again break their fasts.
Other Legends From Shiva Puranas
Many are the stories narrated in the 'Puranas' about the efficacy of the observance of this festival. The story of the king 'Chitrabhanu' of 'Ikshvaku' dynasty is one. It is stated that during his previous birth the king was a hunter by name 'Suswara' and was eking out his livelihood by hunting birds and animals and selling them.
When the day dawned he went home, sold the deer and purchased food for the family. He fed a stranger who begged him for food, because of this virtuous deed that he performed, even if unknowingly, two messengers of Shiva came to him at the hour of his death and conducted his soul to the abode of Shiva. After enjoying divine bliss for long, he was again reborn as king 'Chitrabhanu' of 'Jambudwipa' i.e. India.
Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived below to ascertain the depth and Brahma on his swan vehicle scaled high to ascertain the height. High above in the void Brahma came across a petal of 'Ketaki' flower drifting downwards. As it was falling from the top of the Linga, He asked the petal about the further distance upward. The petal couldn't answer since how many ages that it was drifting downwards.
Brahma refrained from going up and went to the nether world to meet Vishnu. Showing the petal He claimed to have ascertained the height of the
Linga. At this false pretext, the petal objected. As Brahma was exposed because of the disclosure of the petal, He, in wrath, cursed - "From this day you would be unworthy for the worship of Shiva".
Vishnu, being pleased with her truthfulness blessed saying, 'On Shiva Chaturdaphi you will be worthy for Shiva's worship. Therefore only on this day
Ketaki flower has the right to be offered to the deity. On no other occasion the flower is ever used for worship.