Famous festivals of Lord Shiva
Besides Maha Shivratri, the main festival of Lord Shiva, the following festivals are celebrated by devotees with equal zeal.
Teej is a very popular festival in the northern part of the country and is basically a festival for ladies. The festival is dedicated to the re-union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and thus it is celebrated by ladies for the long and healthy life as well as the well-being of their husbands and children. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and some parts of Bihar.
It is also celebrated to welcome monsoons and long rope swings decorated with flowers can be seen during the celebrations. The ladies get gifts in the form of new clothes and jewellery from their parents. It is also believed that by celebrating this festival with great devotion and dedication the marital bond strengthens. Ladies dress up in new saris and other traditional attires, buy colourful bangles and put mehndi on their hands. The festivities are incomplete without ladies singing and dancing in joy. There are three types of Teej –
- Haryali Teej – Haryali literally means greenery and the Haryali Teej is marked to celebrate monsoon. It is associated with a good harvest, prosperity and growth. Ladies dress up in green coloured clothes and wear green bangles. The Moon, Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha are also worshipped on this day.
- Kajari Teej – According to the Hindu calendar, Kajari Teej is celebrated on the fourth day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) of the Shravan month. Women get together and sing bhajans (devotional songs) and chant mantras. On this particular day the neem tree is worshipped and processions are taken out with beautifully decorated idols of Goddess Parvati
- Hartalika Teej – This is the most important occasion during the entire festival of Teej. The fasting lasts for three days and ladies keep a fast on the second day. The fast is called ‘Nirjara’ which literally means without water. Ladies keep a fast for the long life, prosperity and wellbeing of their husbands.
2. Kanvad Yatra
The festival is named after Kanvad which is a single bamboo pole and on either side of it loads are fastened that remain dangling. The people who carries the kanvad is called the kanvadias. The Shravan month of the Hindu calendar is particularly dedicated to Lord Shiva and many people observe a fast on Mondays all through this month. It is during this month that we can see kanvadias in saffron coloured clothes carrying water from the holy Ganges or Gangotri and Yamunotri (from where Ganges originates) on their shoulders. The kanvads have two pots attached on each side and they fill up these pots with the holy water and walk back towards their homes. After returning home they perform puja and offer the holy water as ‘abhishek’ to the Shivling on the day of Maha shivratri or Amavasya (new moon day).
During the entire monsoon season when the kanvad yatra is undertaken, one can see camps on road sides and highways that provide shelter, food, water and medical care to the kanvadias. Traditionally it is believed that while returning from the kanvadias one should walk back to one’s hometows but as times have changed some of them can be seen in cars, jeeps, motorcycles and even cycles.
3. Shravan Maas
The fifth month of the Hindu calendar and one of the most auspicious months is Shravan. This month is particularly dedicated to Lord Shiva and many people observe a fast on Monday, Shravan Somvar (as Monday is the day of Lord Shiva) during this month. During the course of the month the star shravan rules the night sky and hence the month is named shravan. In this holy month the Shiva temples are filled with devotees who offer prayers to Lord Shiva. People offer Bel leaves, white flowers and fruits to the Shivling and the nandadeep (24 hours lamp) is constantly lit in the temples. The legend says that when the churning of oceans also known as the Samudra Manthan took place, fourteen different types of treasures emerged from the ocean. Thirteen were distributed amongst the demons and the Gods, the fourteenth one called Halahal (poison) was not given to them. Lord Shiva drank the poison and stored it in his throat. Hence the name ‘Neelkanth’ which actually means blue throat is attributed to Lord Shiva. To reduce the strong ill effect of the poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to lessen the effect of the poison. Since, this happened in the month of Shravan, it is considered auspicious and Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month.
The other things that people do during this month include, reciting Shiv chalisa, keeping fast, wearing a Rudraksh and offering Bel leaves, Panchamrit (Water, milk, Ganga jal, honey/sugar and saffron) and flowers to the Shivling. It is believed that girls who keep a fast on all Mondays in the month of shravan would get a good husband.