The Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, celebrated the Maha Shiva Ratri on 3rd March 2011 with whole-night Special Puja starting from 8.00 p.m. till 4.30 a.m. on 4th March 2011. The Garbha Mandir was tastefully decorated with garlands and flowers and Sri Sri Thakur’s idol was adorned with white silk dhoti and chadar.
Revered Swami Shantatmanandaji Maharaj, Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, performed the Puja the whole night. The Puja was conducted on the Baneswar Shiva Linga, which was kept on a silver plate in a brass vessel in front of the Garbha Mandir covered with a beautiful yellow umbrella over Shiva Linga.
The Puja was performed four times during the four Prahars of the night. The timings of performance of the puja were as follows:
First Prahar puja was started at 8.10 p.m. and completed at 9.40 p.m. on 3rd March; Second Prahar Puja was started at 10.45 p.m. and completed at 11.35 p.m. on 3rd March; third prahar Puja was started 12.23 a.m. and completed at 1.22 a.m. on 4th March; Fourth and last prahar Puja was started at 2.00 a.m. and completed at 2.55 a.m. on 4th March.
The devotees started arriving by 6.00 p.m. on 3rd March to attend evening arati followed by puja to Lord Shiva the whole night.
The special Puja started at 7.35 p.m. on 3rd March after the regular evening arati in the temple. When the Puja started, as many as 115 devotees were present in the temple up to the end of first prahar at 10.30 p.m. As soon as the first prahar was over, all devotees were served black tea, bel juice (the favourite of Lord shiva), butter milk and fruit prasad.
The second prahar started at 8.10 p.m. on 3rd March and as the time was advancing towards midnight, some devotees left and only about 75 devotees were present in the Temple for the rest of the night. At the end of second prahar, the devotees were served prasad consisting of puri, alurdam, Chutney and (sweet –Laddu).
When the puja was going on, a few devotional songs were sung by Shri Champak Chatterjee and Shri Chandra Nath Mukherjee accompanied by Shri Ratnendu Batabyal on tabla Later, Swami Gunashrayanandaji Maharaj led many Bhajans sung in chorus by all devotees. There was spiritual fervor among all devotees assembled in the Temple while singing in chorus the hymns and songs in praise of Lord Shiva.
The Naivedya to Lord Shiva, among other things like fruits and sweets, included misri sarbat and bel juice, the favourite of Lord shiva. The Bhoga too was offered to Lord Shiva in every prahar, i.e., at 9.45 p.m. and 11.40 p.m. on 3rd March and 1.22 a.m. and 2.55 a.m. on 4th March each time for a duration of 15 minutes. After the first puja was over, monastic members and devotees offered milk and Ganges water to Shiva Linga. Similarly, curd was offered in the second prahar, ghee was offered in the third and honey in the last prahar.
After all the pujas were over, homa was done from 3.39 a.m. to 4.25 a.m. in the morning of 4th February, after which the Mangalarati was conducted from 4.00 a.m. to 4.25 a.m. All the devotees present till morning (about 75 in number) were served puris, alurdham, chutney, laddu and fruit prasad.
Many volunteers participated wholeheartedly in temple, kitchen and prasad distribution services and along with monastics, they made the Shiva Ratri Puja a memorable event.
This time, the number of devotees who participated in the Puja both before and after midnight (115 and 75) was less compared to last year (142 and 100).