There are several mythologies surrounding this day. It is believed that on this day Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati were married. He revealed to her that the 14th night of the Krishna Paksha (dark lunar moon), was his favorite night. It is also said that on midnight of this day, Shiva revealed himself in Lingam form for the first time. This is also the night when Shiva revealed the Tandava, the primordial dance of creation and destruction.
Today, in honor of Maha Shivratri, people fast during the night. Hindu temples throughout the country are decorated with lights and brightly colored decorations so that the people can be seen offering night long prayers to Shiva. Rituals include bathing the Shiva Lingham with water, milk and honey which represent purity. Vermillon paste is also applied to the lingham, symbolizing virtue.
Worshippers offer gifts of fruit, incense and betel leaves. Oil lamps are lit to represent knowledge and wisdom.
Those who honor Shiva on this night with prayers and offerings believe the practice welcomes good luck into their lives. It is said that anyone who truly worships Shiva on this day is freed of bondage and sin, and blessed with good health, prosperity and success. The ritual fasting and worship are a process of purification.
Shiva is regarded as the supreme God, and one of the Trimurti, which is the Hindu trinity that embodies the primary aspects of the divine. In this trinity, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the maintainer and Shiva the transformer or destroyer.
Shiva symbolizes the process of destruction and rebirth. Sometimes it is necessary to destroy old ways, so that new wisdom and opportunities can come forward. Shiva also represents the uniting of opposites and creation of harmony. In his dancing form, he symbolizes the dynamic forces of creation and destruction coming together in harmony to create the full wonder and experience of life.
Keep a statue or representation of Shiva to remind you of the processes of change and cycles that bring new potential and growth. As one door closes, another one opens. Honor the natural cycles of endings and new beginnings in life.