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Mahashivratri is a major Hindu festival that is celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva. It is considered one of the most important festivals in India, and one of the best places to celebrate Mahashivratri is Varanasi. Also known as Kashi or Banaras, Varanasi is considered one of the holiest cities in India, and it has a special significance for Lord Shiva, who is said to reside in the city.
Mahashivratri is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Phalguna, which usually falls in February or March. This year, it is being celebrated on 18th February 2023. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a lingam on this day, and so devotees offer prayers, perform rituals, and fast to seek his blessings.
In Varanasi, Mahashivratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion. The city is decorated with lights and flowers, and the streets come alive with processions, music, and dance. The festival is an occasion for both religious and cultural festivities, and it draws thousands of devotees and visitors from all over the world.
In this blog, we will take a closer look at Mahashivratri in Varanasi and everything you need to know about the festival.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most important shrine in Varanasi and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that the lingam in the temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas (a sacred object representing Lord Shiva) in India, and it is considered one of the most sacred shrines for his devotees. On the day of Mahashivratri, the temple is decorated with flowers, and the lingam is bathed with milk, honey, and other sacred items. The devotees offer prayers and perform rituals throughout the night, and the temple remains open till the early hours of the morning.
The Panchakoshi Temple is another important shrine in Varanasi and is located in the heart of the city. It is dedicated to the five elements of nature – earth, water, fire, air, and space. It is believed that walking around the temple complex, which covers a distance of about 15 km, is equivalent to circumambulating the five elements of nature. Many devotees undertake this pilgrimage on the day of Mahashivratri, which is considered a way to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva.
The Ghats of Varanasi
The Ghats of Varanasi are also an important part of the Mahashivratri celebrations. The city has over 80 ghats along the banks of the river Ganges, and on the day of Mahashivratri, the ghats are lit up with thousands of diyas (lamps) and candles. Devotees offer prayers and perform aarti (ritual of worship) at the ghats, and it is considered an auspicious way to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva and the river Ganga.
Apart from the religious rituals, Mahashivratri in Varanasi is also an occasion for cultural festivities. The city is famous for its music and dance, and on the day of Mahashivratri, there are many cultural programs organized throughout the city. The performances include classical music, folk dance, and street theatre, and they provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the city.
The Mahashivratri procession is one of the highlights of the festival in Varanasi. The procession starts from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and winds its way through the streets of the city. It is a colourful and vibrant display of devotion, with devotees carrying large banners, flags, and pictures of Lord Shiva. The procession also includes decorated chariots, drummers, and dancers, and it creates a festive atmosphere throughout the city.
Food and Prasad
Food plays an important role in the Mahashivratri celebrations in Varanasi. Devotees fast during the day and break their fast at night with a special meal called the Mahaprasad. The Mahaprasad is prepared in the temples and distributed among the devotees. It is a delicious and nutritious meal that includes rice, lentils, vegetables, and sweets.
Dos and Don’ts
If you are planning to visit Varanasi for Mahashivratri, there are a few dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind. Here are some of the important ones:
- Dress modestly and conservatively.
- Avoid wearing leather and silk as they are considered inauspicious on this day.
- Be respectful of the religious sentiments of the locals.
- Do not engage in any kind of illegal or immoral activities.
- Avoid consuming alcohol and non-vegetarian food during your stay in Varanasi.
In conclusion, Mahashivratri in Varanasi is a unique and memorable experience that is not to be missed. The festival is a beautiful blend of religious and cultural traditions, and it offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the city. Whether you are a devotee or a traveller, the Mahashivratri celebrations in Varanasi are sure to leave you with a sense of wonder and awe.