Mahashivratri (also known as Shivaratri) is a Hindu festival dedicated to Shiva, who destroys the universe, one of the deities of the Hindu Trinity.
While most Hindu festivals are celebrated during the day, Mahashivratri is celebrated during the night and day that come just before the new moon.
Each new moon is dedicated to Shiva, but Mahashivratri is especially important because it is the night when he danced the ‘Tandav’, his cosmic dance.
It also celebrates the wedding of Shiva and Sati, the mother divine. Night represents evil, injustice, ignorance, sin, violence, and misfortune.
Shiva is offered special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables, and coconuts, during ritual worship.
Those who observe the Mahashivratri fast only break their fast the next morning, and eat the prasad (food offerings) offered to Shiva.
Devotees at the temple observe the fast and worship Shiva so that he may bless them with good husbands. They sing devotional songs in praise of the lord, and holy texts are chanted throughout the night.
The pandits in the temples perform the puja (religious worship) according to the scriptures. This is done four times during the night.
In temples, Shiva linga the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva is worshipped. Devotees flock to the temples to perform the ritual of bathing the Shiva linga.
It is bathed with milk, water and honey, and then anointed with sandalwood paste, and decorated with flowers and garlands.