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Maha Shivaratri

1008 Shivalingam carved on a rock in Hampi on the banks of River Tungabhadra

Fig: 1008 Shiva Lingams carved on a rock in Hampi on the banks of River Tungabhadra

Very very long ago Suswara lived in the city of Varanasi. He was a hunter and earned his living by killing birds and animals. One day he was roaming the forest he spotted a dear and aimed his arrow. As he was about to shoot the arrow, he saw the rest of the dear's family looking at the hunter with sad eyes. Suswara, lowered his arrow and let the dear go. He was unable to find any other animal and by nightfall he decided to take shelter on a tree. His water canteen was leaking and soon he was out of water too. Tired and hungry, he was unable to sleep and thought about his wife and child. To spend time, he took to plucking leaves.

The next morning he went home and was about to eat when a stranger asked for alms. Suswara gave some of his food and then ate the rest. The day this incident took place was on Maha Shivaratr;i the 13th day of waning moon in the month of Magha (as per Shalivahana calendar) or Phalgun (as per Vikrama calendar).

Days went by, Suswara grew old and he was convinced he would not go to heaven because all his life he had killed. Upon his death, two messengers of Shiva came for his soul and took him to the abode of Shiva. He asked the Lord why he had this good fortune. That night in the forest, his leaky canteen washed the Shiva Lingam under the tree and the leaves he plucked were bael leaves. He had unknowingly earned great merit by his unconscious worship through his fast, his watch the whole night and his generosity with the stranger. He enjoyed divine bliss and was later reborn as King Chandrabhanu of Ikshwaku dynasty. He was born with a gift of remembering events from his past life. He continued with his special worship on Maha Shivaratri. This practice has continued. People fast, sing bhajans the whole night and the next morning they break the fast after giving some alms.