Shivaratri, an Introduction
Shivaratri is an important festival, considered highly auspicious for the worship of Lord Shiva. It is Shivaratri, that is, the Night of Shiva and is meant for offering prayers to the Lord. Shivaratri is actually a monthly occurrence, which takes place on every 13th or 14th night of the dark fortnight of Krishna Paksha, which also happens to the night before Amavasya, the New Moon day. The greatest of such monthly Shivaratri, Shiva Nights is known as Maha Shivaratri, a day considered extremely sacred for the worship of Lord Shiva. This falls in the Hindu month of Phalguna or the Tamil month of Masi (February–March) and is celebrated with intense religious fervor all over the country and even beyond.
Observing Vrat or fasting forms a very important aspect of Shivaratri worship. Many people observe complete fasts during the day and also in the night of Shivaratri, remain awake right through and spend all their time in meditating, reading, singing and hearing about the glories of Shiva. While people offer worship to the Lord at home, a very large number of people flock to Shiva temples, especially during the Shivaratri night and offer prayers to him. Shiva is believed to be very fond of Abhishekam or hydration ceremony, and grand rituals are held in the temples in the night when sacred baths are given to Shiva Lingas with materials like milk, coconut water, honey, water etc. amidst the chanting of sacred hymns.