Maha Shivarathri : The beginning of a new and pure life form.
The festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the Supreme Gods of vedic Hinduism. Shiva is believed to be an almighty entity who is omnipotent and is present in both the cosmos and atoms. Shiva controls the cycle of birth and death and the creation of all languages, art, dance, music, yoga, ayurveda and herbal remedies among others. He is one of the most worshiped Hindu Gods.
Shivratri is observed on the fourteenth day of each lunar month, the day before the new moon. Out of the twelve Shivaratri that fall within a year, the February–March Mahashivratri, is the most spiritually significant.
There are several beliefs surrounding the significance of Mahashivratri. The legend of Lord Shiva and Parvati's union is among the most well-known festival stories. It is thought that in order to wed Lord Shiva, Mata Parvati underwent tremendous penance after which Mata Parvati ultimately won Lord Shiva's heart. Their marriage took place a day before the new moon in the month of Phalgun.
Spiritually, this union represents the fusion of knowledge and energy. It is also known as the union of Shiva and Shakti and is believed that during this night, the northern hemisphere of the Earth is positioned in such a way that there is a natural increase in human energy. It is the perfect time for people to reach their spiritual zenith on this day.
It is believed that on the night of Shivaratri the supreme lord performs the divine dance or Tandava. The Tandava represents the end of the universe and the beginning of a new and pure life form. This dance is thought to depict the universe's cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
The Shaiva Hindus (those who follow Shiva) mark this night as "overcoming darkness and ignorance" and reawakening, celebrated by keeping a "jaagaran," an all-night vigil and prayers. Devotees offer fruits, leaves, sweets, and milk to Lord Shiva. Some people also worship Shiva in tantric or Vedic forms, while others chant the Panchakshari mantra.
Offerings of fruits, leaves, sweets and milk are made to Shiva, some perform all-day fasting with Vedic or tantric worship of Shiva, and some perform meditative Yoga. In Shiva temples, "Om Namah Shivaya", the sacred Panchakshari mantra of Shiva, is chanted throughout the day. Devotees praise Shiva through the recitation of Shiv Chalisa.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated over three or ten days based on the Hindu luni-solar calendar. Every lunar month contains a Shivaratri (12 per year). The main festival is called Maha Shivaratri, or great Shivaratri, which is held on the 13th night (waning moon) and the 14th day of the month Phalguna. In the Gregorian calendar, the day falls in either February or March.