Hindu Festival Maha Shivaratri
Hindu devotees pour milk over Shivling (a symbol of Lord Shiva) inside a temple during the Maha Shivratri festival in the northern Indian city of AllahabadReuters

Update: "Maha Shivratri Celebrated with Religious Fervour; To Look at Photos, Click HERE

The Hindu festival of Maha Shivratri (Great Night of Lord Shiva), dedicated to worship God Shiva, is celebrated today (27 February).

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

Hindu devotees will be celebrating the auspicious day by fasting and offering special prayers to Lord Shiva, the god of 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 Maha Shivratri night.

Why Maha Shivratri is celebrated?

There are interesting mythological stories pertaining to the celebration of Maha Shivratri.

It is believed that the formless God appeared in the form of "Lingodbhav Moorti" at midnight on Maha Shivratri. This is said to be the reason as to why Shiva devotees keep vigil at night and offer prayers to the Lord.

Devotees believe that Lord Shiva married Devi Parvati on Shivratri. The day is considered auspicious for women. They fast and pray to the Lord to get blessed with blissful married life, while unmarried woman would pray for an ideal husband like Shiva.

Shivaratri is also celebrated to mark the day when the Lord saved the world from destruction. As per mythology, when the ocean was churned (Samudra Manthan), a pot of poison emerged which gods and the demons believed would cause destruction to the entire world. It is said that Shiva consumed the deadly poison to save the world. However, the Lord held the poison in his throat instead of swallowing it. And the Lord's throat turned blue due to the poison's effect.

One of the main highlights of Maha Shivratri is that the Hindu holy men smoke intoxicating substances such as marijuana during the occasion, as they believe that Lord Shiva is fond of it. Devotees also drink Thandai, a drink which is made of cannabis and milk.