Maha Shivratri or ‘The night of Lord Shiva’ is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in the Indian subcontinent. The festival occurs on the 14th day of the Hindi calendar month Phalgun (Around February, according to the Standard English calendar). Throughout the day, the devotees perform puja along with a fast as auspicious rituals. Lord Shiva or Mahadev, is one among the 3 Lords of the Hindu Trinity. Maha Shivarathri festival is celebrated all over India with great vigor and zeal.
Maha Shivaratri festival is celebrated as a folk festival in West Bengal. Girls in the state keep fast and offer their sincerest prayers to Lord Shiva so that they get blessed and live happier married life and good husbands. Staying awake throughout the night is a part this festival. The Tarakeshwar temple, which is situated on the outskirts of the bustling city of Kolkata (approximately 57 kms away), bare-footed devotees carry containers of water from the sacred river Ganges, to pour over the stone image of the Lord Shiva, and offer the flower garlands to the granite phallus, as a symbol of their faith and devotion.
Celebrations in South India
In Andhra Pradesh, The Maha Shivaratri festival is most popular at Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple, located at Kalahasti. Other place where the festival is celebrated with a lot of zeal is Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple, located around the Srisailam. All of these places attract a lot of devotees from all parts of the neighboring states, as well as from all over the country.
Celebrations in North and West India
In Jammu and Kashmir, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated for a long period of 15 days. In Rajasthan however, the festivities are flanked by a special ceremony to initiate the auspicious rituals. It is widely believed to be an auspicious time for the devotees, pilgrims, and tourists to travel to the twelve Jyotirlinga located at different parts of the Indian subcontinent. This is sure to earn blessings from Lord Shiva, and improve their lives in ways more than one.
There are a range of rituals and norms that are associated with Maha Shivaratri festival. The devotees and followers take a dip in a river which is nearby in the wee hours of the night, right before sunrise and visit the temples to offer prayers to Lord Shiva with Bilva leaves. The devotees here too, observe a daylong fast, like most of the other states in India.