Maha Shivratri in Odisha
People of Odisha celebrate the yearly Maha Shivratri with utmost devotion and strict fasting. The devotional celebration takes place at each and every temple in the state those are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Amongst the famous temples the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar, Gupteswar temple in Koraput District and Harishankar temple in Balangir District enjoys top spiritual importance in celebrating this auspicious occasion.
As its name offers, the main rituals of Shivratri are performed during night. The festival is celebrated on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha or Phalguna month of the Hindu calendar. The rituals include fasting, worship of Lingam, the manifestation of Lord Shiva, recitation of the names of the God through singing, chanting and nightlong awakening. The night is divided into 4 ‘prahar(s)’ and separate rites are executed in these four prahars.
In Odisha, divine celebrations are an important and unalienable part of the society and so the same stands as a testimonial of its culture. The day starts with an early morning bath followed by a visit to the nearby Shiva temple to offer worship. As everybody is interested in the festival, people often need to stand in the long queue to wait for their turn to come, when they would offer ‘Pooja’ to the deity.
The main ritual includes providing a solemn bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, rose water, curd, ghee, honey and sandalwood paste. Shivratri festivities is all about self-fasting but worshipping together. Most of the devotees perform it at the temples and not in the home. In Odisha, the normal practice is that devotees (including women, men and children) keep fasting, visit the Shiva temple and wait sitting over there to witness the ‘Maha Deep’ (main lamp) to be placed at the pinnacle of the temple at the end of the second ‘Prahar’ at 12 in the mid-night. Then they return to home and again awake till dawn chanting names and verses of the God.
Like other Lord Shiva temples, Shivratri is celebrated with much devotion at the Lingaraj temple in Eastern Odisha, Harishankar temple in Western Odisha and at the Gupteshwar temple in the Southern Odisha. Lingaraj temple, being located in the capital is visited by a lot of tourists and locales across the year. But since the other two temples are not situated within the township but at isolated and solitary places, it is during Shivratri only when huge celebration only takes place there with thick gathering.
Lingaraj temple houses a big size natural Lingam in the ‘Gambhira’ and devotees worship there with grand celebrations.
Harishankar is about 82 km away from the District Head Quarter Balangir where Lord Shiva is worshipped together with Lord Hari (Vishnu) atop the Gandhamardan hills. During Shivaratri people observe there mass vigil during the night and worship Lord Harishankar with much devotion. People from various parts of western Odisha get involved in this festival.
Gupteswar, being located at a cave in Koraput District, people only observe a night stay there mainly during Shivaratri.
Today, Odisha is celebrating the festival of Maha Shivaratri across the state and a huge number of people are observing fast to receive the divine blessings of Lord Shiva.