Fasting on Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is considered to be the best day for Shiva Puja. The Shiva Purana provides detailed explanations of the observance of Maha Shivaratri. In this article, we discuss the attainment of worldly pleasure and salvation, the rites to be performed for worldly pleasure and salvation and the glory of Vrat. In the next section, we present, according to the Shiva Purana, the method to obtain worldly pleasure and salvation.

How does one attain worldly pleasure and salvation?

Once at an assembly of saints, the Rishis enquired from Suta Rishi:

केन व्रतेन सन्तुष्टः शिवो यच्छशत सत्सुखम् । कुिलश्शिवकृत्ये त्वं तस्मात्पृच्छामहे वयम् ॥ ३ ॥

Kena Vratena Santushtah Shivo Yachchati Satsukham. Kushalashshivakritye Tvam Tasmaatprichchaamahe Vayam (3).

The Rishis enquired as to what sacred rite satisfies Shiva. They inquired further about what sacred rite he imparts happiness to the good. Suta Rishi responded that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva had put the same question before Shiva in the manner in which you are asking me now.

Lord Shiva said:

प्रत्यष्टम्ां प्रयत्नेन कततव्यं नक्तभोजनम् । कालाष्टम्ां शविेषेण हरे त्याज्यं शह भोजनम् ॥ ११ ॥

एकादश्ां शसतायां तु त्याज्यं शवष्णो शह भोजनम् । अशसतायां तु भोक्तव्यं नक्तमभ्यर्च्त मां हरे ॥ १२ ॥

त्रयोदश्ां शसतायां तु कततव्यं शनशि भोजनम् । अशसतायां तु भूतायां तत्र कायं शिवव्रत ः ॥ १३ ॥

शनशि यत्नेन कततव्यं भोजनं सोमवासरे । उभयोः पक्षयोशवतष्णो सवतश्शस्मश्शिव तत्पर ः ॥ १४ ॥

Pratyashtamyaam Prayatnena Kartavyam Naktabhojanam. Kaalaastamyaam Visheshena Hare Tyaajyam Hi Bhojanam (11). Ekadashyaam Sitaayaam Tu Tyaajyam Vishno Hi Bhojanam. Asitaayaam Tu Bhoktavyam Naktamabhyarchcha Maam Hare (12). Trayodashyaaam Sitaayaam Tu Kartvyam Nishi Bhojanam. Asitaayaam Tu Bhootaayaam Tatra Kaaryam Shivavrate (13). Nishi Yatnena Kartavyam Bhojanam Somavasre. Ubhayoh Pakshayorvishno Sarvasminchiva Tatparaih (14).

Lord Shiva declared devotees should fast (abstain from food) on Ashtami days (the eighth day in the lunar calendar). He furthers explains that on this Kala Ashtami day, food shall be avoided. Lord Shiva continues that on the eleventh day in the bright lunar fortnight (Shukla Paksha), food during the day is forbidden, and on the eleventh day in the dark lunar fortnight (Krishna Paksha), half food shall be taken at night after my worship. Lord Shiva further advises on the thirteenth day, in the bright half (Shukla Paksha), food shall be taken at night and in the dark half (Krishna Paksha), food is forbidden to those who follow Shiva’s rites. In both the Shukla and Krishna Paksha, food shall be taken only during the night on Mondays.

We see from the above that fasting (abstaining from food) is an integral part of our worldly pleasure and salvation. We now proceed to present from the Shiva Purana the rites to be performed for worldly pleasure and salvation.

The rites to be performed for worldly pleasure and salvation

Lord Shiva continued to inform Brahma and Vishnu on what rites could bring about worldly pleasures and salvation. In the dark half of the month of Phalguna, Shivaratri is specifically glorified. The rite of Shivaratri is performed when the Chaturdashi extends up to midnight. The observance of the rite on that Tithi quells the sin of even a crore of human slaughters.

Lord Shiva then specifies the Pooja procedure on Maha Shivaratri.

प्रातरुत्थाय मेधावी परमानन्दसंयुतः । समाचरेशित्यकृत्यं स्नानाशदकमतश्शितः ॥ २६ ॥

शिवालये ततो गत्वा पूजशयत्वा यथाशवशध । नमस्कृत्य शिवं पश्चात्संकल्पं सम्गाचरेत् ॥ २७ ॥

Pratarutthaaya Medhaavi Paramaanandasanyutah. Samaacharennityakrityam Snaanaadikamatandritah (26). Shivalaye Tato Gatvaa Poojyitvaa Yathaavidhi. Namaskritya Shivam Pashchatsankalpam Samyagaacharet (27)

Rising in the morning, the intelligent person with great delight, shall perform his daily routine of bath with care. He shall then go to the temple of Shiva for worship. After making obeisance to Shiva, he shall observe the ritualistic affirmation of his performance according to the prescribed course.

The affirmation that the devotee makes is that I wish to perform the Shivaratri rite sacred to you. The devotee continues to affirm that thanks to the power of Shiva, I hope to conclude the Shivaratri Vrat peacefully and appeal for passion and other enemies not to afflict him.

यस्य मंत्रस्य यद्रव्यं तेन पूजां समाचरेत् । अमंत्रकं न कततव्यं पूजनं तु हरस्य च ॥ ३४ ॥

Yasya Mantrasya Yaddravyam Tena Poojaam Samaacharet. Amantrakam Na Kartavyam Poojanam Tu Harasya Cha (34)

The worship shall be performed in due concordance with the material and the mantras. Shiva’s worship shall always be performed in accompaniment with the mantras.

Mantras are repeated phrases or sounds that help with focus when meditating. The word mantra is derived from Sanskrit and means “sacred message or text.” In several Poojas, the mantra “Aum” is very important. It is an illustration of a seed syllable mantra or bijamantra. It is thought to be the fundamental sound of the ultimate heavenly reality and the first sound in Hinduism. The Gayatri Mantra, the Hare Krishna Mantra, and Om Namah Shivaya are a few examples of mantras. As significant as it is to recite mantras, it is as crucial that devotees have pure intentions and genuine kindness.

As mentioned already, vrat is an integral part of the Maha Shivaratri celebrations. We therefore offer a further explanation of the importance and benefits of abstaining from food on Maha Shivaratri.

The glory of Vrata

[Vrata (Sanskrit: व्रत) means “vow, resolve, devotion“, and refers to the practice of austerity, particularly in matters related to foods and drinks, as part of a pious observance or prayers seeking health, fertility, long life or happiness for her loved ones.]

The Shiva Purana declares that the intelligent devotee shall proclaim the glory of the Vrata. It is highly recommended that devotees fast and keep vigil on the night of Shivarathri. In the Bhagwad Gita, Sri Krishna says that when the whole world is asleep, the one who has brought their senses under control is AWAKE. One way in which we can bring our senses under control is to FAST. We are fully aware of the effects of alcohol and drugs. But are alcohol and drugs the only intoxicants in this world? FOOD is also an intoxicant. One experiences this after a meal when drowsiness and sloth overtake the body and mind. Once our stomach is full, we are ready to watch a film or to go out to the theatre or a concert. But a hungry person has no relish or taste or desire for the satisfaction of the senses. Therefore, in order to stay awake, FASTING IS NECESSARY. No sleep overtakes one who fasts and brings one’s senses under control. It is said that after creation was completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on top of Mount Kailas. Parvati then asked Shiva: of the many rituals observed in your honour, which pleases you the most? So Shivaji replied:

My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.


Observing Maha Shivaratri makes Lord Shiva accessible to the observer. The fruit that is derived from the observance of Maha Shivaratri is inexplicable. Lord Shiva himself says that there is nothing which he shall not give in return. The Maha Shivaratri Vrata should be performed without attachment so that we become eligible for salvation. There is no scope for any doubt in this matter. This Vrata shall also be performed with great devotion. After performing the concluding rite, the devotee shall reap the fruit with subsidiary benefits.

Certainly, for the performance of this Vrata, Shiva, the destroyer of all miseries, grants all desired benefits, worldly pleasures and salvation.

We all want to get closer to God; we desire God’s grace. On Shivaratri, we are enlisting the help and assistance of Shiva to achieve this. Shiva is out and about on the night of Shivaratri. More than any other night, He is ready to meet us on Shivaratri night. It is, therefore, appropriate that we should spend the Shivaratri night in fasting, prayer, and singing of kirtans and bhajans and discourses.

    Article Credits

Shree Sanathan Dharma Sabha of South Africa

Editorial Committee:
Pundit Rishipaul R Maharajh; Dr L R Maharajh; Pundit Rohith W Maharaj; Pundit  Sajeel Maharaj; Pundit Deenanath (Danny) Maharaj; Pundit Basanth Panday.

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