What is Mahashivaratri?
Shivaratri is observed on the fourteenth night of the dark half of every month. It is a well established fact of Yogic discipline that it is easier to control the mind during the dark half of the month, when the moon is on the wane. The fourteenth night is particularly suitable for a little more intensive sadhana to completely sublimate the last and the remaining fifteenth fraction of the mind, corresponding to the last fraction of the moon. It is possible to achieve complete victory over the mind during this night.
The ancient seers and rishis were fully aware of the influence exercised by the planets on the human body and they used these influences for their spiritual benefit. Thus the practice of intensive sadhana on the fourteenth night of the waning moon has its roots in the personal experience of the ancient sages of India. In the month of Maagh (February/March), the fourteenth night is known as Maha-Shivaratri. ‘Maha’ means great, ‘Shiva’ means auspicious and ‘Ratri’ means night; the Great-Auspicious-Night. Not only is the night auspicious for obtaining complete control over one’s mind, but Shiva, the formless Divinity, is born in the form of the lingam on that night. Shiva in the form of the lingam, is adored and revered for the acquisition of divine wisdom.
It is said that those who have the good fortune of seeing the manifestation of Divinity in the act of Lingodbhava, will be granted complete salvation in this lifetime and that there will be no more rebirths for them. The good acquired by many years of involving oneself in meditation or austerities for many centuries cannot even be compared to the good acquired by witnessing the Lingodbhava.
When the manifestation of a lingam occurs through the body of a great spiritual being, the whole of creation witnesses the event on a spiritual level. However, physically, a precious few people are able to witness this event with their physical eyes. It has been written in Vedic books that every 7-8,000 years a great spiritual being is born and blessed with the ability to manifest lingams. For many thousands of years, these great spiritual beings would manifest the lingam in the seclusion of their Ashrams or rustic retreats. Once the lingam was manifested, it was buried as those great spiritual beings did not consider any human beings present on the earth at that time to be worthy of receiving the lingam as a gift for worship and veneration.