Lord Shiva, also known as Mahadeva, is regarded as one of the primary forms of God. He is the worshiped as the supreme god within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism. He is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, and ‘the destroyer’ or ‘the transformer’ among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. Shiva has many benevolent and fearsome forms. At the highest level Shiva is limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya and in fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts.
The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, a snake around his neck, the crescent moon adorning, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the trishula as his weapon and the damaru as his instrument. Shiva is usually worshiped in the form of Lingam.
The Pradosh vrata is very auspicious form of worshipping Shiva and Parvati. Pradosham, a day dedicated to Lord Shiva, falls on the 13th day of every lunar fortnight. In each year there are 24 Pradosham. The Pradosha worship is done in the evening twilight or sandhya kala on the Trayodashi of both lunar fortnights (Shukla and Krishna Paksha). These are the 13th tithi, or lunar days, from the new moon (Amavasya) and full moon (Poornima).
Of all the Pradosha’s Shani Pradosh and Soma Pradosh are considered to be important. Sani Pradosham is the Pradosha Vrata falling on Saturday. And Soma Pradosh is observed when Pradosha falls on a Monday. The 12th Prodosha which will be worshipped on 24 June is Bhauma Pradosham.
Maha Pradhosh is the Pradosha which falls before Maha Sivarathri in the month of Maagha.
The performance of the vrata involves a fast followed by a vigil. A bath is taken one hour before sunset and Lord Shiva, goddess Parvati, Ganesha, Skanda, and Nandi are worshipped. Following this, Lord Shiva is invoked. The Pradosh story is read out after the formal worship is concluded.
Lord Shiva visiting a Hindu temple, receiving the Shakti from the majestic Gods of our religion, can all together change the life of an individual. It alters the flow of the pranas or life currents within this body. Shakti coming from the great temples of our Gods and can change the patterns of karma dating back many past lives, clearing and clarifying conditions that were created hundreds of years ago and are but seeds now, waiting to manifest in the future. If a temple or shrine is not available for worship, then it is possible to establish a communication with the deity through visualisation. Take for example, Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed governor of nature, dharma, science and knowledge. Worship of Lord Ganesha is immediate; to think of his form is to contact him. Close your eyes for a second visualise his form. According to Vedas, to worship of Lord Vishnu in the morning and Lord Shiva in the evening especially during Pradosha kaala is highly beneficial to the devotees. When the 12th tithi (Dwaadashi) in Krishna Paksha or Shukla Paksha ends before midnight. Generally people observe Pradosha Vrata on every trayodashi tithi (i.e. 13th Lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) during Sandhya Kaala (ie. during or after sunset). The lord of 13th Trayodashi Tithi is Kaama Deva whereas the Lord of the succeeding tithi i.e. 14th chaturdashi is Lord Rudra (Shiva) himself. The 14th day of the dark half of every month – is called Sivaratri or Masa – sivaratri. The one in the month of Magh (Feb-Mar) is called Mahasivaratri, since it is the greatest of all.
The legend behind origin of Mahasivaratri has it that when Brahma and Vishnu were disputing each other’s greatness to establish their own supremacy, a huge Linga or pillar of fire appeared suddenly that who ever finds the starting or ending point of this Linga would be the greatest of all. Neither of them succeeded and was hence obliged to accept the greatness of Siva who had manifested as that pillar of light. This was the origin of Sivalinga and Mahasivarati. It is also attributed as being the day of marriage of Siva with Parvati.
Another legend has it that once devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were churning the ocean to extract out amrit (immortality potion). To churn the ocean they took the help of Vasuki, who was the King of snakes. During the process, Vasuki got scratches and thus, emitted out extremely dangerous poison. Seeing her act, the gods and demons got frightened and approached Lord Shiva for help.
To save the world from the deadly poison, Lord Shiva swallowed it. As he took the poison inside, Goddess Parvati stopped it in his throat. As a result, his throat turned blue and he got the name Neelkantha (blue throat). As per beliefs, it is said that on 13th lunar day i.e. Trayodashi, devas and asuras understood that by not worshiping the Lord Shiva they have committed a mistake. After realisation, they requested Shiva for forgiveness. Lord Shiva forgave them and then danced between Nandi's (celestial bull) horns. It is this time which is known as Pradosham. Worshiping Lord Shiva during this period of time results in the fulfillment of every wish and desire.