Maha Shivaratri is a festival of worship of the Hindu god Shiva, along with his wife Parvati, the “mother goddess”.
This holiday is celebrated throughout India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other parts of the world with a significant Hindu population.
The festival is held in February or March on the Gregorian calendar. On the Hindu calendar, it comes on 13th night and 14th day of the month Phalguna, which is the day that Shiva is said to have called his “favourite day of the year.” Of the twelve Shivaratri festivals held during the Hindu year, Maha Shivaratri is consider to be the holiest by Hindus.
“Shivaratri” means “the great night of Shiva,” which name refers to the all-night worship vigil kept up by Shiva devotees on the 13th of Phalguna. This differs from most Hindu festivals, which are observed in the daytime. Prayers and worship of Shiva through the night are supposed to commemorate the time Shiva “saved the world from ignorance,” which is symbolized by darkness.
On the 14th of Phalguna, Hindus fast all day long. They also offer flowers, betel tree leaves, and fruits to Shiva. They also offer incense, light ceremonial lamps, take holy-water baths in the Ganges or elsewhere, engage in Yoga meditation, and chant the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” all day long.
At temples throughout India, devotees shout out “Hail Shiva!” amid ringing temple bells and, after circling Shiva’s statue, pour water or milk on top of it. Finally, they also receive three lines of “holy ash” on their foreheads to symbolize purity, knowledge, and penance.