Mahashivratri is celebrated in India in approbation of Lord Shiva. Hindy mythology believes it to be the day Shiva got married to Parvati. The festival is also celebrated as the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava, the cosmic dance. Shivratri essentially means the night of Shiva.
The festival is usually celebrated by offerings of Bael leaves to Shiva along with day-long fasting. Believers worship their god by bathing the deity (Shivaling) with milk, curd, ghee, honey, sugar, coconut water, butter, and rose-water along with offering bael leaves and flowers.
Worshipers of Lord Shiva apply Tripundra, the three horizontal stripes of holy ash, to the forehead. These stripes symbolize spiritual knowledge, purity and penance . They are also believed to represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva. Also, wearing a mala made from the rudraksha seeds of the rudraksha tree which is believed to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva, is ideal while worshipping the lord.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship must incorporate six items:
- Bathing the Shiva Linga with water, milk and honey. Woodapple or bel leaves are added. They represent purification of the soul;
- Vermilion paste is applied to the Shiva Linga after bathing it. This represents virtue;
- Offering of fruits, This is good for longevity and gratification of desires;
- Burning incense for yielding wealth;
- The lighting of the lamp which is beneficial for attainment of knowledge;
- And betel leaves which mark satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
The Mandi festival is quite popular for its worship of all gods and goddesses of Mandi, it starts on the day of Shivratri. Nishita Kala is the ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja on Maha Shivaratri. Nishita Kala celebrates the appearance of Lord Shiva on the Earth in the form of Linga. Shivratri is another Indian festival that is celebrated in various forms depending on the different cultures and traditions across the different regions.