SHIVRATRI:

       
Shivratri is observed as a festival as well as a vow. It means the ‘Night of Shiva’ and is observed on Shiva Chaturdashi of Phalgun, that is, on the fourteenth day of the dark half of phalgun February- March. The Hindus of all faiths and castes celebrate it all over the country. The devotees remain awake the whole night either indulging in meditation, japa, kirtan or reading and recitation of Shiva is worshipped with Gangajal, milk, curd, honey and clarified butter. Bel leaves are considered very sacred and dear to Shiva.               

        Devotees in hundreds and thousands collect at the  Shiva shrines and spend the whole night practicing devotion and piety. Special puja and prayers are held at Varanasi, Tarakeshwar, Baidyanath, Balkeshwar, Rameshwaram and Ujjain. At Pashupatinath, in Nepal , a grand celebration is held on this occasion. The devotees keep strict fast and do not take even a drop of water. Being known as Mahadeva, various gods, including Brahma and Vishnu worship him. He is a deity who can be easily pleased to earn a desired boon. He is a great and powerful god and one of the Hindu Trinity. He is Mahakal and destroys and dissolves every thing into nothingness, but at the same time as Shankar, he restores and reproduces that which has been destroyed and dissolved. His symbol of phallus represents this reproductive power. As a Mahayogi or the great ascetic, he combines in himself the highest perfection of austerity, penance and abstract meditation. In this form he is a naked ascetic or a Digambar, ‘clothed with the elements’. He is also called Chandrashekhara, ‘moon-crested’. Gangadhara, ‘bearer of Ganga’. Mountain lord’ Kala, ‘time’; Maha-kala, ‘great time’; Pashupati, ‘Lord of the beasts’; Vishwanath ‘Lord of the universe’; etc.