Mentioned in Shiva Puran, Soot Ji explains the Vidhi and the significance of Shivaratri Vrata as described by Lord Shiva himself.

Rishi asked, “Student of Vyasa! Happy with which Vrata does Lord Shiva grant optimal bliss? Please describe the particular Vrata that provides clover and Moksha to the devotees.”

Soot Ji said, “Maharshi! Brahma, Vishnu, and Parvati Ji once had asked the same question that you have asked now. I am now telling you the thing that Lord Shiva had said in his reply.”

Lord Shiva said, “Many Vrata dedicated to me provide clover and Moksha. Primarily, there are ten Vrata that the wise people of Jabalakshuti call ‘Dasha-Sharva-Vrata’. People dedicated to walking the path of Mukti should adhere to the laws of four Vrata. They are – Worshiping Lord Shiva, chanting Rudra Mantra, fasting in Shiva temple, and death in the city of Kashi.

Hari! Out of these four Vrata, Shivaratri Vrata is the strongest. So, people looking for clover and Moksha should adhere to this Vrata. Shivaratri Vrata absolves the sins from millions of killings. Keshav! I am happily telling you the things to do since the morning on that day; Listen carefully. Wise people should wake up early and conduct bathing and other daily activities with delight. They should not let laziness affect them. Then, arriving at a Shivalaya, one should duly worship Shivalinga and after paying respects to me, Shiva, one should opt in to do the Vrata –

Resolution of Shivaratri Vrata

देवदेव महादेव नीलकण्ठ नमोऽस्तु ते ।
कर्तुमिच्छाम्यहं देव शिवरात्रिव्रतं तव ॥
तव प्रभावाद्देवेश निर्विघ्नेन भवेदिति ।
कामाद्याः शत्रवो मां वै पीडां कुर्वन्तु नैव हि ॥

‘Deva-Deva! Mahadeva! Neel-Kantha! Namaskara to you. Deva! I want to vow into your Shivaratri Vrata. Deveshvara! By your grace, may this Vrata be completed without any obstacles, and concupiscence, etc. other enemies may not give me pain.’

With such a resolution, one should collect the worship material and at night go to a Shivalinga, famous by the scriptures, and conduct the necessary; Then place the accumulated material for worship near Shiva in a beautiful place in the south or west part. After that one should bathe there again. After taking a bath and wearing beautiful clothes, one should circumambulate three times and start worshiping. The mantra for which the substance is intended should be read and worshiped with the same substance. Mahadev Ji should not be worshiped without a mantra. One should be full of devotion with songs, instruments, dances etc. and worship at the first Prahara of the night by chanting the Mantra. If the person makes a Linga at that time, then after performing the daily activities, he must worship the same Linga. One should first make the Linga and install it properly. Then after worship, one should satisfy the Lord Taurus flag with various types of hymns. The wise man should at that time recite the significance of Shivaratri Vrata. Devotees should listen to it with great reverence for the fulfillment of their fast. One should build four Linga in the four Prahara of the night and worship them respectively from invocation to dissolution and be awake through the night with joy and celebration. After bathing in the morning, one should again place and worship Lord Shiva there. In this way, after completing the fast, one should bow his head with folded hands and salute repeatedly praying to Lord Shambhu in this way –

Prayer and Dissolution

नियमो यो महादेव कृतश्चैव त्वदाज्ञया ।
विसृज्यते मया स्वामिन्व्रतं जातमनुत्तमम् ॥
व्रतेनानेन देवेश यथाशक्तिकृतेन च ।
सन्तुष्टो भव शर्वाद्य कृपां कुरु ममोपरि ॥

‘Mahadeva! The Shivaratri Vrata that I took by your permission, Swami! That supreme fast was completed. So now I dissolute it. Deveshvara Sharva! Please bless me with your satisfaction, by the Vrata that I have done to the best of my ability.'

The devotee should offer flowers to Siva and make charitable gifts. After making obeisance to Siva formally, he should conclude the rites. One should feed the Brahmana devotees of Shiva and ascetics in particular, as far as possible to satisfaction. Only then, the devotee should take food himself.

0 Vishnu! I should tell you how a devotee should perform the worship, in every Prahara of Shivaratri night.

First Prahara

0 Vishnu! During the first Prahara, the devotee should worship the Linga, duly installed by way of good devotional services. One should always worship Shiva with the five materials at the outset. One should offer different articles of worship separately, with their respective Mantra. After offering the materials, steady water-pouring should be made. The intelligent devotee should consecrate the materials of worship with the steady pouring of water. He should worship Shiva, both Nirguna and Saguna, by the steady pouring of water, reciting the 108 mantras. He should worship the bull-bannered deity by reciting the mantra imparted by the preceptor. Or he should worship Sadashiva by means of Nama-Mantra. One should perform the worship of Shiva, the supreme soul with sandal-paste, unbroken rice-grains, and black sesame seeds. He should again worship Shiva with lotus and Karavira flowers. The devotee should offer the flowers with the eight Nama-Mantra to Shiva. They are - Bhava, Sharva, Rudra, Pashupati, Ugra, Mahana, Bhima and Ishana. The names used for worship should be prefixed with ‘Shree’ and then the names should be put in the dative case like ‘Shree Bhavaaya Namaha’ etc. One should use incense and lamps and thereafter make the food-offering. In the first Prahara, intelligent devotee should make cooked rice as food-offering. One should offer half a coconut, and Tambula afterward. Obeisance and meditation should follow, and one should use the mantra taught by the preceptor, for Japa. Or the devotee should propitiate Shiva by means of the five-syllabled mantra. The devotee should exhibit the mystic gesture of cow and offer Tarpana with pure water. He should then feed five Brahmins or more in accordance with his capacity. Then till the end of that Prahara, one should observe festivities. After dedicating the fruit of the worship to the deity himself, one should perform the ritualistic dissolution.

Second Prahara

Then in the second Prahara one should perform the resolution rites as before. Or one may perform the resolution rite once for all the four Prahara. He should perform the worship as before. After performing the worship with the materials as before, one should offer a steady flow of water. Then the devotee should worship Shiva with sesame seeds, barley grains and lotus flowers. The devotee should worship lord Shiva particularly with the leaves of the Bilva tree. He should offer the Arghya with a citron fruit. The Naivedya should consist of milk pudding. 0 Vishnu! the repetition of the mantra should be twice as that of the previous one. Then one should feed the Brahmana sumptuously. One should perform other rites as before till the end of the second Prahara.

Third Prahara

In the third Prahara, he should worship. But instead of barley, he should use wheat grains, and offer flowers of the sun-plant. He should use incenses and lamps of several types. 0 Vishnu! The Naivedya should consist of fried pies and various vegetable dishes. One should perform the waving of light, as part of worship, with camphor. The Arghya should consist of pomegranate. The Japa repetition should be thrice of that of the previous. The feeding of brahmins should follow along with the monetary gifts. Till the end of that period, one should celebrate the festivities as before.

Fourth Prahara

When the fourth Prahara arrives, one should perform the ritualistic dismissal of the previous worship. He should perform the worship duly with the ritualistic gestures. The devotee should worship lord Shiva with black gram, green gram, grains of any of the seven kinds of cereal, the flowers of Shankhi and the leaves of Bilva. He should offer the Naivedya with different sweets or cooked black gram and rice in order to propitiate Sadashiva. O Vishnu! Arghya should be offered to Shiva with the plantain fruit or with several types of fruits. The excellent man should perform the mantra Japa twice in a number of that on the previous occasion. The intelligent devotee should decide on the number of Brahmana to be fed. Till daybreak, the devotee should pass the time in songs of prayer, musical instruments, devotional dances, and other festivities along with his fellow devotees. When the sun rises, he should take his bath and then worship Shiva.

One should perform the ablution of the deity with devout services and adorations. He should offer charitable gifts, feed Brahmana and ascetics with different dishes, their number being in accordance with what was decided before. After making obeisance to Shiva, one should offer flowers. The skillful devotee should then pray by eulogizing the lord with the Mantra –

तावकस्त्वद्गतप्राणस्त्वच्चित्तोऽहं सदा मृड ।
कृपानिधे इति ज्ञात्वा यथा योग्यं तथा कुरु ॥
अज्ञानाद्यदि वा ज्ञानाज्जपपूजादिकं मया ।
कृपानिधित्वाज्ज्ञात्वैव भूतनाथ प्रसीद में ॥
अनेनैवोपवासेन यज्जातं फलमेव च ।
तेनैव प्रीयतां देवः शंकरः सुखदायकः ॥
कुले मम महादेव भजनं तेऽस्तु सर्वदा ।
माभूत्तस्य कुले जन्म यत्र त्वं नहि देवता ॥

‘0 Shiva, the storehouse of mercy! Knowing that I belong to you, my very life is embedded in you and my mind is dedicated to you, please do what is proper. 0 lord of living beings! Be favorable to me viewing sympathetically at the Japa and worship conducted by me with the requisite knowledge or in ignorance. May Lord Shiva the bestower of happiness be pleased with the fruit arising out of these fast and other rites. 0 lord Shiva! May your worship flourish in my family always. Let me not be born in a family where you are not a deity.’

After offering flowers and accepting the Tilaka and blessings from the brahmins, the devotee should ritualistically dismiss the deity. The rite if performed thusly, I do not stay away from him. The fruit that he derives is inexplicable. There is nothing I have that I should not give to the performers of this rite. Even if someone performs this excellent rite casually, to think, the seed of salvation still is sown for him. There is no scope for any doubt in this matter. The Shivaratri Vrata should be performed with great devotion every month. After performing the concluding rite, the devotee should reap the fruit with subsidiary benefits. Certainly, for the performance of this Vrata, I, Shiva, the destroyer of all miseries, grant all desired benefits, worldly pleasures, and salvation.”

Soot Ji says, “After hearing these beneficial and wonderful words of Shiva, Vishnu returned to his abode. Thereafter this excellent rite became popular among the people desiring the welfare of their soul. Once Vishnu narrated to Narada this divine Shivaratri Vrata which yields clover and salvation.”

Udyapana of Shivaratri Vrata

Rishi said, “Please narrate the Udyapana (formal concluding) of the rite of Shivaratri as a result of which Siva himself becomes delighted.”

Soot Ji Said, “0 sages, Listen to the concluding rite with devotion and respect. By performing it, the Vrata certainty becomes complete. The auspicious Shivaratri Vrata should be performed for fourteen years. On the Thrayodashi, only one meal should be taken and a complete fast should be observed on the Chaturdashi. On the Shivaratri day after performing the routine, the devotee should go to the temple of Shiva and perform worship. He should make the mystical diagram that is famous in the three worlds by the name of Gauri-Tilaka. In the middle of the mystical diagram, Lingatobhadra Mandala should be delineated. Or Sarvatobhadra Mandala should be erected in the altar. As in the Prajapatya rite, Kalash should be placed wrapped in cloth, with a coconut above and some Dakshina. The pots should be carefully placed at the sides of the altar. In the middle, a gold-Kalash should be placed. The devotee should make a golden idol of Parvati and Shiva, one Pala in weight. According to his capacity, the weight may be reduced to half of a Pala. Parvati should be on the left side and Shiva on the right. The devotee should worship the idol at night. He should woo a pious preceptor accompanied by Ritvija. With their formal permission, he should begin the worship of Siva. He should keep awake during the night performing worship in the different Prahara and singing songs of prayer or devoutly dancing. After performing the worship thus in accordance with the injunctions, he should propitiate the lord. He should worship again in the morning and perform Homa duly. He should perform the Prajapatya rites according to his ability. With pleasure, he should feed Brahmins and with devotion, he should make charitable gifts.

He should make gifts of good clothes and ornaments separately to the Ritvija and their wives for bedecking themselves. Saying "May Shiva be pleased", he should make the gift of a cow and a calf together with the essential requisites to the preceptor. He should offer to him the Kalash and the Shiva idol with all ornaments, placing them on a· bullock. He should pray to Lord Siva the great lord with immense pleasure, with palms, joined in reverence, with shoulders drooping and words choked with emotion –

Prayer

देवदेव महादेव शरणागतवत्सल ।
व्रतेनानेन देवेश कृपां कुरु ममोपरि ॥
मया भक्त्यनुसारेण व्रतमेतत्कृतं शिवा ।
न्यूनं सम्पूर्णतां यातु प्रसादात्तव शङ्कर ॥
अज्ञानाद्यदि वा ज्ञानाज्जपपूजादिकं मया ।

कृतं तदस्तु कृपया सफलं तव शङ्कर ॥

‘0 great Lord! Lord of the gods! Favorably disposed to the devotees! Be merciful to me, thanks to this Vrata. 0 Shiva! This Vrata is performed by me according to my ability. 0 lord! If it is deficient in any respect let it become perfect in your favor. Japa and worship and other things have been performed partly in ignorance and partly with knowledge by me. May these be fruitful, 0 Shiva! by your mercy.’ After saying this, the flower-offering should be made to Siva, the great soul. He should make obeisance and pray again. If the Vrata is performed thus it will be complete and no deficiency will remain. The devotee will attain Siddhi desired by him. There is no doubt in it.’”

To read more about the different festivals of Sanatana Dharma, click here. Or to know other interesting facts about Sanatana Dharma, click here.

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