Maha Shivratri in Sri Lanka is a Hindu holiday that gives Hindus an opportunity to pay tribute to Lord Shiva.
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It also allows Hindus to preserve sacred Hindu traditions. This holiday is closely related to the story of the Samudra Manthan and other events from Hindu texts. Since Hindus make up nearly 13 percent of the Sri Lankan population, Mah Shivrati is an important and exciting day in Sri Lanka. As a public holiday, Maha Shivrati gives Hindus and other Sri Lankans a chance to relax and spend time with their friends and family members.
The Samudra Manthan
The story of the Samudra Manthan is commonly recited during Maha Shivrati. This is a story that demonstrates the love that Lord Shiva has for mankind. According to both oral and literary traditions, the Samudra Manthan was a period of warfare between gods and demons. The demons understood that the gods favoured humans, so they released a poison from the ocean to destroy humanity.
Upon learning that the oceans were poisoned, many humans sought the guidance of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu told the humans that they should pray to Lord Shiva for assistance. Since Lord Shiva was caring, he responded to the prayers of the humans by consuming the poison. Many of the other gods feared that Shiva would perish if he was allowed to fall asleep with the poison still in his body. To prevent Shiva from dying in his sleep, the gods danced and played music throughout the night. When the poison was gone, Lord Shiva thanked the other gods and told the humans that they could enjoy good fortune if they were loyal to him during Maha Shivrati.
Lord Shiva’s Burning Pillar
Many Hindus also enjoy reciting the story of Lord Shiva and his burning pillar during Maha Shivrati. According to this story, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were overcome with hubris. Both of these gods thought that they were the most superior deity in the world. Lord Shiva did not enjoy seeing his two noble friends bickering and challenging each other, so he devised a clever ploy to end their conflict. When Vishnu and Brahma were arguing, Shiva intervened with an infinite pillar of flames. Since the pillar was infinite, it did not have ends. To prove their dominance over each other, Brahma and Vishnu raced in opposite directions to find an end of the pillar. After following the pillar for many years, Vishnu determined that the pillar was infinite. Lord Shiva confirmed that Vishnu was correct. Lord Brahma also failed to find an end, but he lied and told Vishnu and Shiva that he discovered the top of the pillar. Since Shiva knew the truth, he was deeply angered by Lord Brahma’s treachery. After Lord Shiva scolded Brahma, Brahma admitted that he was equal to Vishnu. This story represents Lord Shiva as a keeper of order.
Maha Shivrati is a day of respect and obedience. Because of this, most of the celebratory activities are very religious.
To show their respect for Lord Shiva and other Hindu gods, Hindus participate in the puja. The puja is a worship ritual that consists of many hymns and prayers.
During Maha Shivrati, Hindus are expected to eat only small rations of milk and fruit. This allows people to show humility.
Many Hindus also engage in long meditation sessions during Maha Shivrati. These meditations give Hindus opportunities to reflect on topics like religion and self-improvement.
In every Hindu community, images and statues of Lord Shiva are paraded through the streets on decorated chariots. These processions are often accompanied by gifts of charity to less fortunate members of society.
- Temple Visits
Hindus in Sri Lanka also visit temples that are dedicated to Lord Shiva during this holiday.
Some of the most popular temples for worshiping Lord Shiva are:
- Siva Temple
- Konecharam Kovil