Maha Shivratri or Maha Sivaratri or Shivratri or Sivaratri (Night of Shiva or "Great Night of Shiva") is a festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Phalguna, As per as English calendar it occurs in the month of February-March . Shivratri festival is celebrated on a moonless night.
According to Hindu mythology, Shivratri or 'Shiva's Great Night' symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Many however, believe, Shivratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water and offerings of Bael (Bilva) leave to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.Some of them chant the "Om Namoh Shivaya" mantra through the night.
Devotees strongly believe that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivratri absolves them of past sins and they are blessed with Moksha.
Worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the night on Shivratri Festival. Devotees stay awake all night and spend the night in Shiva temples in worship of Lord Shiva. Singing of hymns and verses in praise and devotion of Lord Shiva besides the intense chanting of Om Namah Shivay, the mantra that is said free people from all their sins, continue through the night on Shivratri.
Festival of MahaShivratri is the most important festival for the millions of devotees of Lord Shiva. The festival has been accorded lot of significance in Hindu mythology. It says that a devotee who performs sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivratri is absolved of sins and attains moksha.
Hence the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as MahaShivratri - the grand night of Shiva.
Significance of Shivratri for Women
Mahashivratri Festival is also considered to be an extremely significant festival by women. Married and unmarried women observe fast and perform Shiva Puja with sincerity to appease Goddess Parvati who is also regarded as ‘Gaura’ - one who bestows marital bliss and long and prosperous married life. Unmarried women also pray for a husband like Lord Shiva who is regarded as the ideal husband.