Today is Maha Shivratri, an auspicious and important Hindu festival celebrated every year in honor of Lord Shiva, the lord of cosmic destruction and dance. Maha Shivratri, 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 prayers to the lord of destruction. Shivratri is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya, (the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction). Throughout the day, devotees typically fast, offer prayers, chant the sacred mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya.” Shiva is often worshiped in the form of a lingam, representing the male creative force and the infinite, indescribable nature of God, and the yoni, representing the female creative energy. Together, they represent the totality of creation.
On Maha Shivratri, Hindu temples across the country are decorated with lights and colorful decorations, and people can be seen offering night long prayers to Shiva Lingam. On this day, woodapple leaves, cold water and milk are offered to the Shiva Lingam, as they are believed to be Lord Shiva’s favorite. It is believed that the people who fast on this night and offer prayers to Lord Shiva bring good luck into their life. Numerous interesting and intriguing mythological stories are believed pertaining to the celebration to Mahashivratri, beyond the one above re: Tandava Nritya. One other story is that this day is auspicious because it marks the marriage ceremony of Lord Shiva and Parvati. For women, Mahashivratri is a special day when they fast and offer prayers both to Lord Shiva and Parvati to shower their grace with a peaceful and blissful married life.
Maha Shivratri is not only one of the magnificent festivals in India, but also in Nepal and other regions where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Among the various popular shrines, Mount Amarnath, is believed to be the holiest in Hinduism. Surrounded by majestic terrains and picturesque snowy mountains, this shrine remains crowded by pilgrims throughout the year, but especially on Maha Shivratri.