• Hindu devotees place their offerings on a Shivling (a symbol of Lord Shiva) while praying inside a temple on the occasion of the Mahashivratri festival in Agartala, capital of India's northeastern state of TripuraReuters
  • A sadhu smokes marijuana on premises of Pashupatinath Temple during the Shivaratri festival in Kathmandu.Reuters

Auspicious Hindu festival Maha Shivratri, which falls on 17 February this year, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is celebrated with religious fervour by devotees.

Maha Shivratri is observed on the 13th night/14th day of the 11th Hindu month of Phalguna or Maagh (February-March) every year.

There are various interesting mythological stories about why Shivratri is celebrated. One such story is that the formless God appeared in the form of 'Lingodbhav Moorti' at midnight on Maha Shivratri and this is said to be the reason why devotees stay awake at night and offer prayers to the Lord.

Thousands of devotees take a holy dip at various pilgrim destinations on this occasion. From early morning, devotees form long queues in various temples in India to offer prayers and also witness the Rudra Abhishekam of the Almighty. The day is also observed with devotees smearing their bodies with ash.

Devotees also celebrate the festival by fasting and offering special prayers to Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction.

Maha Shivratri is not just celebrated in India but also in other regions including Nepal, where Lord Shiva is worshipped.

As devotees pray to the Lord, they chant "Om Namah Shivaya!" throughout the night.

There are few intriguing facts about this auspicious occasion.

  • To start with, Maha Shivratri is said to be the day when Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. Thus, the day is the union of Shiva and Shakti, the two greatest forces of the Universe.
  • Shivratri night means a lot to unmarried women who worship to get a husband like Lord Shiva. Also, devotees worship to achieve success and to drive away evil spirits.
  • It is believed that Hindu devotees stay awake all night to give company to God Shiva, who was not supposed to fall sleep after drinking the ocean poison after Samudra Manthan.
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