As Per Vikram Samvat, Mahashivratri falls on the moonless 14th night (Krishna Paksh) of the Phalgun Maas(month), which corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar.
Shiva Married Parvati on this day!
Mahashivratri (Shiva's great night) is celebrated with devotion and religious fervour in honour of Lord Shiva all over the world. Lord Shiva was married to Devi Parvati on this day.
Sagun Brahman - Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva without Parvati is pure 'Nirgun Brahman'. With illusive power (Maya, Parvati), Lord Shiva becomes the "Sagun Brahman" for the purpose of the pious devotion of his devotees.
The destroyer of ego
Lord Siva, the destroyer of ego, enables clearance of past karmic negatives that have blocked us from our true potentials. Observing Mahashivratri is transforming as we awaken to whom we truly are.
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Awakening the soul
Mahashivratri is rejuvenating as we tune into the eternal yogi within ourselves by surrendering our body, consciousness to the awaken soul - the eternal yogi.
Night of the Tandav
As per common belief- on this night, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction and people worship to appease lord Shiva to stop the destruction.
It is believed that absolute formless God, Sadashiv appears in the form of Lingodbhav Moorti exactly at midnight on Mahashivratri. Hence, all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivratri.
Rudra Abhishekam of Shivalingam
On Mahashivrratri, every three hours priests perform ritual puja of Shivalingam by bathing it with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water amidst the chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and ringing of temple bells.
Observing night-long vigils
Night-long vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large numbers of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva.
Preparing for Mahashivratri Puja
According to the Shiva Purana, six items form an indispensable part of Mahashivratri puja.
Sindoor for Mahashivratri Puja
Vermilion paste (Sindoor) - Applying this on the linga represents virtue.
Bael Leaves for Mahashivratri Puja
Bael leaves - The ceremonial offering of bael leaves represents purification of the soul.
Fruits and rice for Mahashivratri Puja
Food items - Food items such as rice and fruits are offered to the Lord to ensure a long life and fulfilment of desires.
Incense for Mahashivratri Puja
Incense (Dhoop) - Incense sticks are kindled before the deity to gain wealth.
Lighting lamps for Puja
Lamp (Diya) - The lighting of the lamp is believed to be conducive to the attainment of knowledge.
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Betel leaves (Paan patta) - This signifies satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
Devotees observe fast during the whole day and night. It is only on the following morning that devotee break their fast by taking prasad offered to the deity.
Fasting on Mahashivratri
Ideally, the Shivaratri fast starts in the morning and continues till the next day morning --- the person observing the fast can have fruits and milk, along with regular "vrat" food. However, no food should be consumed after sunset.
Night vigil on Mahashivratri
It is said that the person observing the fast should ideally stay awake for the entire night while singing devotional songs and praying. The next morning, the fast can be broken after eating prasad and applying Tilak to Shiva.