Maha Shivratri is the great night of Lord Shiva, during which followers of Lord Shiva observe religious fasting and the offering of Bael (Bilva) (Billipatra) leaves to Lord Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri Festival or the ‘The Night of Lord Shiva’ is celebrated with devotion and religious fervour in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the deities of Hindu Trinity.
Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to the month of February – March in English Calendar.
Celebrating the festival of Shivaratri devotees observe day and night fast and perform ritual worship of Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva. To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Lord Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, honey and water.
On Shivaratri, worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the day and night. Every three hours’ priests perform ritual Pooja of Shiva Lingam by bathing it with milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, sugar, and water amidst the chanting of “Om Namah Shiva’ and ringing of temple bells.
Nightlong vigil or jaagran (wakening) is also observed in Shiva temples where a large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. It is only on the following morning that devotee breaks their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.
Why on Mondays we observe as a day for Shiv?
Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva is easily pleased. Therefore, many people observe Upvaas (fasting) on Monday.
Those devotees observing fast only eat food once. People visit Lord Shiva shrines and conduct Poojas, especially, Ardhanarishwara Pooja. The mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ is chanted continuously. Shiva devotees also read Shiva Purana. Unmarried women observe the ‘Vrat’ to get good husbands. Others observe it for a happy and prosperous family life.