Rajesh Kaul knelt, preparing an abundance of vibrant flowers, as head priest K.C. Upadhyay led a prayer. The fresh petals, sprinkled gently into a silver bowl, were an offering to lord Shiva.
Feb. 12, “the night of Shiva,” is considered a particularly auspicious evening on the Hindu calendar, and it’s one of the most important holidays in the religion. Hindus call it “Maha Shivaratri.”
“We celebrate the wedding of lord Shiva. It’s a pretty big festival, one of the main festivals of Hindus,” said Kaul, who celebrated with other worshipers at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in South Jeffco. “We pray to lord Shiva, and we offer the holy baths.”
Offerings such as fruit, rice, coconuts and milk were added to the large bowls, known as “abhishek pitham,” or holy baths.
“Milk is auspicious. Milk is a symbol of prosperity,” Kaul added.
Maha Shivaratri, which many locals celebrated Feb. 11 because of the time-zone difference with India, is tied to several legends, the most prominent of which is Shiva’s marriage to the goddess Parvati. Another tale depicts Shiva swallowing poison that came from the ocean during a clash between gods. Shiva stayed up through the night to protect himself from the effects of the poison, and his act, which is credited with saving the world, pleased the gods.
“We have trinity gods. There are: Brahma, who creates; Vishnu, who preserves; and Shiva, who annihilates, destroys,” Upadhyay said. “We fast sunrise to next sunrise and worship him. A special prayer goes in the night. … Our prayers to him grant us good health.”
The day is celebrated in India beginning with a holy bath in the River Ganges, if possible. Worship continues through a fast during the day and prayer in the evening.
“This is a very auspicious day for the Hindu religion,” said Sudhir Verma, who serves on the board of trustees at the Hindu Temple, at 8375 S. Wadsworth Blvd. “It’s one day where everything is coming together.”
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