Maha Shivaratri Vrat : Fri, 24 February 2017
Maha Shivratri falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means “the night of Shiva”. The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.
People observe a strict fast on Maha Shivaratri. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.
Maha Shivratri Stotra & Mantra
On Maha Shivaratri Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana’s Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya.
He who utters the Names of Shiva during Maha Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
Smearing ash (bhasma) & Wearing of rudraksha during Shiva Puja
The devotee worshipping Lord Shiva should smear holy ash on his forehead in three horizontal stripes - Tripundra. The stripes symbolize Absolute Knowledge, Purity and Penance (Yogasadhana).
The devotee should wear a rudraksha beads' mala while worshipping Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri. The rudraksha is red in color with yellow stripes and its shape is flat like that of a fish. On one side of each bead is a slight opening, which appears like an open mouth.
A brief on Maha Shivaratri Vrat Sankalp and Puja Vidhi is also available in Hindi.