Celebrated either February or March, Shiva (Lord Shiva), ratri (night), Shivaratri meaning night of Lord Shiva. According to the ancient Hindu text Srimad Bhagavatam 4.4.14 Shiva means Auspicious.
Once Parvati asked, “O adorable lord, which of the many rituals observed in your honour pleases you the most.” The Lord replied, “the fourteenth night of the new moon in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my favorite day. It is called Maha Shivaratri. My devotees give me great joy and happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flower, sweets and incense.”
Following are some explanations on the significance of Shivaratri.
As well as this being the night that Lord Shiva came into being, it is also believed that this was the night of the marriage between Lord Shiva and Paravati.
Some Hindus say that this is the day that Lord Shiva drank poison to save the universe.
Its also believed that this was the day that Lord Shiva performed his dance of creation, preservation and destruction.
How do devotees of Lord Shiva worship on this day?
Aspirants and devotees of Lord Shiva fast the whole day, many of them without taking a single drop of water. Some temples and ashrams perform fire yajnas (fire sacrifice) to Lord Shiva for peace and welfare of all. The whole day is spent in chanting of the mantra “Om namah Shivaya” and in meditation upon the Lord.
Both Lord Shiva and Paravati are worshiped on this day. Married women perform pujas (prayers) to the goddess Paravati for the longevity of their husbands. Unmarried women would pray to Lord Shiva to attain a husband like him as Lord Shiva is considered the ideal husband.
Nataraja – the supreme Lord of dance is another of the many names of Shiva. Some major Hindu temples will hold annual dance festivals as a sign of respect for Lord Shiva.