Maha Shivatri Rituals

From the very early morning, Shiva temples are flocked by devotees, young and old, who come to perform the traditional Shivalingam worship (puja) and hence hope for favours from the god. Devotees bathe at sunrise, preferably in the Ganga, or any other holy water source (like the Shiva Sagartank at Khajurao). This is a purificatory rite, an important part of all Hindu festivals. Wearing a clean piece of clothing after the holy bath, worshippers carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalingam. They offer prayers to the sun, Vishnu and Shiva.Women pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons. An unmarried woman prays for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. The temple reverberates with the sound of bells and shouts of “Shankerji ki Jai” meaning “Hail Shiva” . Devotees circumambulate the lingam, three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk.

According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship must incorporate six items:

Bathing the Shi Lingam with water, milk and honey, and Wood apple or bel leaves added to it, representing purification of the soul;

The vermilion paste applied on the Shiv Lingam after bathing it, representing virtue;

Offering of fruits, which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires;

Burning incense, yielding wealth;

The lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge;

And betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures.

Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshippers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga), so also they represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.

Wearing a rosary made from the rudraksha seed of the rudraksha tree (said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshipping Lord Shiva is ideal. A rudraksha seed is a mahogany-like colour, sometimes black, and sometimes may have traces of sacred sandalwood powder, turmeric, kumkum, or holy ash if the rosary was used in worship ceremonies or anointed.


In India, all foods are believed to be either heat-giving or cooling. Thandai is a North-Indian drink made especially when the hot, dry summer winds blow through the region leaving everything and everybody parched. This thirst- quencher is tasty and cooling. The recipe below makes six glasses. Recipe:

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


1 liter milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk          
30 almonds blanched
6 teaspoons whole pumpkin/sunflower seeds (unsalted)          
1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder          
3 teaspoons rose water (optional)          
Crushed ice
Rose petals to garnish

Grind the almonds, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, cardamom powder and rose water into a fine paste in a food processor.
Add the milk, condensed milk and crushed ice to the paste and blend well.        
Strain the drink through a fine sieve or muslin and serve in glasses, garnished with rose petals.
Shiva (Sanskrit: Auspicious One), or Shiva, is one of the main Deities of Hinduism we have seen above, worshipped as the paramount lord by the Saivite sects of India. Shiva is one of the most complex gods of India, embodying seemingly contradictory qualities. He is the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.