BY RAVI R PONANGI
Atlanta, GA: The Indian community in Georgia celebrated Maha Sivaratri by observing fast and offering prayers throughout the day of March 27. It is believed that the formless God appears in the form of “Lingodbhava Murti” at midnight on Maha Sivaratri. This is said to be the reason as to why Siva devotees keep vigil at night and offer prayers to the Lord Siva. Maha Sivaratri is observed on the 13th night/14th day of the 11th Hindu month of Phalguna (South India) or Maagh (Northern India) every year. In both calendars it is naming convention of Lunar month which differs. However both, North and South Indians celebrate Maha Sivaratri on the same day.
Maha Sivaratri is not just celebrated in India but also in other parts of the world. Among the many legends associated with Maha Sivaratri are marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Maha Sivaratri also marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ‘Thandava” dance. Devotees offer Bael leaves to Lord Shiva and chant the sacred Panchakshari mantra Om Namah Sivaaya on this day.
The Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) and other community shrines were the ultimate destination for everyone. Thousands of devotees thronged the Siva (Sri Ramalingeshwara) temple located in Riverdale and other shrines like Sadhana Mandir, Shiv Mandir of Atlanta, both located in Global Mall, Shakti Mandir in Lake City, Sanatan Mandir in Smyrna, Shirdi Sai temple in Cumming, and Vedic temple. These places wore a festive look. Thousands of devotees wearing traditional dresses visited these places and worshipped Lord Siva with abhishekam to Siva lingam and offered prayers to lord Siva.
HTA Riverdale celebrated Maha Sivaratri in a unique way for two days on Thursday, February 27 and Saturday, March 01. Maha Sivaratri is much awaited festival in the Siva temple dedicated to Sri Rama Lingeswara which is adorned in the Hindu temple of Atlanta complex. This is the only temple in Georgia dedicated exclusively to lord Siva and built in accordance with agama sastras.
The celebration of Maha Sivaratri started at the early hours and continued all through the night. Devotees observed fasting and spend the day and night engrossed in worship of Lord Siva. The celebrations began with an early waking up prayer (Suprabhatam) to Lord Siva at the temple sanctorum in the early hours followed by anugna, sankalpam, Maha Ganapati Puja and punyahavachanam in true traditional style. The temple’s resident priests, Srinivasa Sarma Adarasupally, Pavan Kumar Kristapati, Siva Naga Kumar Dusi and Sunil Kumar performed with grandness Sri Rudra Homam at 10AM, Maha Nyasam and Ekadasa Rudrabhishekam at 01 PM, First Yaama (prahara) abhishekam at 5 PM, Second Yaama (prahara) abhishekam at 7 PM, Siva Parvati Kalyanamu at 9.30 PM, Santana Paasupatha Maha abhishekam at 11.30 PM (February 27), Astottara Sata Kalasa Abhishekam at Lingodbhava kaalam at midnight at 12 AM (February 28)fourth Yaama (prahara) abhishekam at 3.30 AM (February 28). Devotees who could not able to attend on Maha Sivaratri day (Thursday, February 27 is working day in USA) performed Sahasra Lingarchana on Saturday, March 01.
It is believed that this year’s special Santana Paasupatha abhishekam, help couples to get good children who are waiting to get children and live happier household life by the grace of Lord Siva. This will bring a new life to them. The temple priests reminded devotees that on every Maha Sivaratri, the temple performs special abhishekam at midnight called Lingodbhava kaalam abhishekam.
The temple has also made elaborate arrangements to enable devotees to offer milk to Shiva Linga throughout the day. Long lines of devotees patiently waited for their turn to offer milk to Siva Linga. There was special Puja, abhishekam, alankarams, arati, etc., on all four praharas (quarters) of the night. The temple resonated with all these rituals. Maha Sivaratri celebrations concluded with the customary mantra Pushpam, Mangala arati and distribution of Maha Prasadam to the assembled devotees.
Two Shrines Shiv Mandir and Sadhana Mandir in Global mall remained crowded till late at night. A large number of devotees visited these two shrines in global mall. People from nearby cities were also seen.