Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon
during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus
offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (Sanskrit ‘ratri’ = night) is the
when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation,
preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.
According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a
pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the
entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly
poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since
then he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this
which Shiva saved the world
Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well-being of
their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva, who is the
spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. It is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during
Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is
liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
All through the day the devotees keep severe fast, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra “Om Namah
Shivaya”, make offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord amidst ringing of temple bells.
maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns and songs. The fast
is broken only the next morning, after the nightlong worship.