Lord Shiva, the god of destruction from the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh is worshipped on this festival. This day falls in the month of falgun, fourteenth day of krishna paksha, as per the hindi calendar.
How puja is performed?
On this day,devotees visit the Shiva temples in their area. They bath in the morning and bring holy water such as gangajaal to bath the Shivalinga. Womens observe this festival for well being of their husband and children. Leaves of bel, Dhatura, Milk are deemed to be favourites of Lord Shiva and devotees bring them to offer to him. Unmarried girls pray and keep fast on this day for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. The temples are reverberated with words “Har Har Mahadev”. Devotees then take rounds of Shiva linga and then offer gangajal or milk. There is also the custom of staying awake all night on Shivaratri while chanting the name of Lord Shiva which relates to Neelkanth.
Legends of Mahashivaratri
A number of legends are associated with this festival. The most important is the legend of Neelkanth on consumption of poison.
Neelkanth – churning of ocean
During the churning of ocean, a pot of poison (halahal) came out of the ocean. This had the potential to destruct the whole universe. Lord Vishnu advised gods to request Lord Shiva to consume the poison.
To save the mankind, Lord Shiva drank the poison after requested by gods. Goddess Parvati pressed her neck to prevent the poison reaching to stomach. Thus, the poison remained in the neck and his neck became blue. Thus the name Neelkanth. In an effort to keep Lord Shiva awake at the night,gods danced and played music. As the day broke out, Lord Shiva, pleased with their devotion blessed them all. Mahashivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.
According to another legend, Mahashivaratri is the celebraton of wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati.
Fair and melas
A number of melas are organized and celebrated in the indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Pashupati Nath temple celebrates Lord Shiva’s birthday with grandeur. At midnight, all the four doors of the main temple of pashupatinath are opened for whole night. Rudra mantra is enchanted and offerings are given to Lord Shiva. Nepal Army pay homage to Lord pashupatinath by volleys of gun fires at Tundikhel parade ground in Kathmandu.
In Mandi (‘Varanasi of the Hills‘), Himachal pradesh, the Shivaratri fair is celebrated for seven days. About 200 deities are assembled in this holy town. This festival has gained the importance of international festival.
Pachmarhi hosts Shivaratri mela every year. The religious festival celebrates the wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati. This is done at Mahadev Temple, nearby Pachmarhi.
In 2013 – This festival will be celebrated on 10th March.