Shivratri is the night of the cosmic creator when the whole world rests and the universe goes into a state of slumber. It is believed that on this night, when Lord Shiva comes out from his period of solitude and again begins to dance in joy called Tandava; all evil is destroyed, and peace and goodness once again reign supreme.
The fast on Shivratri is one of many ways in which we pay homage to this purifying force of nature and its redemptive power. Cultures around the world mark different days as special or holy.
In India, there are several such days that are marked by fasting, either partially or completely, along with rituals like praying, singing hymns, or reading scriptures. These practices are known as vratas or vrats.
These fasts are done for various reasons, and that’s what we are going to discuss in this post. So if you want to know why we fast on Mahashivratri and awake till midnight then read this post till the end.
The Story that Lies Behind the Mahashivratri Fasting Or Vrat
Gods and devils were always at war. Together, on Lord Vishnu’s instruction, they churned the Ocean of Milk to extract amrita, the nectar of immortality. They made a rope out of the serpent king Vasuki, who sits on Lord Shiva’s neck, and the poison was the very first thing that emerged out of it.
Both the gods and the demons (asuras) went to Lord Shiva in prayer. The Lord saved them by drinking all the poison.
His wife, the Hindu goddess Parvati, feared the poison would hurt the Lord if it entered his system. Because of this, he turned a bluish color as a result of her holding her hand over his throat for twenty-four hours in order to prevent the poison from spreading further (and being called Neelakantha).
Since Parvati fasted all day and night, Mahashivratri has become a custom of fasting and staying awake. Though the initial reason behind fasting and being awake is because Mata Parvati fasted for whole day, there are further many more reasons which I am going to discuss.
Reasons Behind Fasting On Mahashivratri
1. Hindu Scriptures Recommends Fasting
To appease deities, gain divine favour, or make amends, fasting is recommended in Hindu legal texts.
Today, people of various ages, sexes, and socioeconomic backgrounds still fast to mark significant occasions. As a penance (vratam), they may do this to appease the gods and earn their favor, to counteract the effects of bad planetary alignments and bad omens, or to protect themselves from harm.
2. It is a Way To Worship Lord Shiva
Observing a fast is a ritual practiced by those who worship Shiva in the Shaivite religion. It is common practice among Shiva worshippers to abstain from eating until they have paid their respects and presented him with sacrifices. Most days, they don’t have to fast for the entire day because the worship takes place so early in the morning.
The Shivaratri worship, however, goes on late into the night, so they have to wait. It is believed that from the moment of his birth to the moment of his death, a Shiva devotee must worship him before every bite.
3. Helps In Focusing On Meditative Practices
On the holy day of Mahashivratri, when the benefits of meditation are said to be one thousand times greater than on any other day, devotees put all of their attention and energy into this practice.
By regulating the body’s metabolic rate, fasting makes it easier to concentrate on the present moment and feel at one with one’s true nature.
Why is Shivratri celebrated at night?
Now, the question that arises is why it is necessary for us to worship Shiva during the night rather than throughout the day.
The word “Shivaratri” translates to “the night of Shiva.” As Lord Shiva, the destroyer and concealer, personifies the tamas quality of the night, he is associated with the nighttime and this is the reason why Shivratri is celebrated at night.
Early morning is Brahma’s time, according to Vedic shastras( also known as Brahma muhurta). Vishnu rules the daytime, whereas Shiva rules the night. Shiv symbolizes the night and tamas, although he does not embody any of those qualities.
In reality, he is the cause of their destruction. In order to catch Maya, he uses tamas as bait. When the moment is right, he rids us of the tamas, or darkness, that has settled into our thoughts and bodies.