Shivratri is celebrated with great fervour across India, Nepal, Mauritius and parts of Indonesia every year, on the Fourteenth day of the month of Phalgun. It is the moonless night, in dark fortnight of the waning moon.
Millions of Shiva devotees will wake up today before dawn and make their way to the nearest Shiva temple, carrying with them offerings of water, milk,honey, bael leaves, fruits, flowers and incense.
According to the ancient text, the Shiva Purana, Mahashivratri worship must include six items.
- Bathing the Linga with water, milk and honey followed by bael leaves, representing purification of the soul
- The vermilion paste applied on the linga after bathing it, representing virtue
- Offering of fruits, for long life and gratification of desires
- Burning incense, yielding wealth
- The lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge
- And betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
Many will fast through the day and prepare themselves to keep vigil all night. This is the night to lose one’s self in thoughts of Shiva. Chants of Om Namah Shivaya will be heard in temples and ashrams all through the night.
The story goes that it was on this day, that Shiva swallowed the deadly poison Halahal which rose from the Churning of the Ocean. The poison was so strong that Shiva had to be kept awake all night to stop him from losing consciousness. Hence tonight all his devotees will keep awake and remember the night Shiva chose to bear the intense agony of the poison in order to save the world.
It is believed that the Great God Shiva( Mahadeva) will bless any devotee who seeks his blessing today and grant them their heart’s desire. Unmarried girls will pray to get husband as devoted as Shiva, married women will ask Shiva to bless their husbands with long lives, those seeking children will ask to be blessed with them, men will pray for Shiva’s strength and seek his protection.
But, the spiritual aspirant will seek Shiva himself. For it is said, that tonight Shiva will make himself known to those who lose themselves in his thoughts and will enlighten them like the crescent moon that appears at dawn after the dark New Moon night. ( In India no moon is visible on the new moon night)
The twelve Jyotirlinga temples situated around India will see the biggest crowds.
These stone lingas are said to be Swayambhu( appearing naturally,not man made) and belong to the pre-historic times. They are mentioned in ancient texts like the Puranas and are said to embody the Jyoti, the flame of Shiva. The temples were built around them much later.
For more information on the Jyotirlingas you can check this link