It is said that on this moonless night of Phalgun, Shiva reveals himself to his devotees like the sliver of the new moon which is yet to become visible, but whose presence can be felt in the subconscious.
It is Mahashivratri, the divine night of Shiva who is Mahadev, the Great God. A night of celebration for his devotees.
Shiva represents the complete cycle of generation, destruction, and re-generation. From the dawn of creation, the Great Yogi, the sum of all opposites, has been the guardian of the absolute. He is the totality of existence — male and female, light and dark, creation and destruction.
This all embracing nature of Shiva is reflected in his 1008 names.
He annihilates evil, bestows grace, destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in his devotees.
Shiva is worshipped both in his anthropomorphic form and in his iconic form, the linga.
In his human form he is seen seated on a skin of a tiger, cobras coiled around his neck, his long matted hair tied into a knot atop of his head and adorned with a crescent moon and the sacred River Ganges flowing from his matted locks. He holds a trident and a mendicants bowl. He is depicted alone as an ascetic lost in meditation as well a householder with his wife and children by his side.
In the form of the shivalingam, Shiva represents both the formless, all pervading Brahman and the merging of Shiva and Shakti, the creative energies of the universe.
Linga in Sanskrit simply means a symbol or defining mark. The term linga is also used as the distinguishing mark of the gender of a person. I.e. masculine or feminine and a lingam means a phallus.
In worshipping the shivalingam the two meanings merge.
The legend of the Jyotirlinga, when Shiva appeared as a never-ending pillar of light, is one of the most popular and enduring myths of the Puranas. The legend says this was the first linga or the first symbol by which Shiva was revealed and known.
In Shiva temples, the linga rises form a petal shaped seat that points to the North Pole. This is the yoni or entrance to the womb of the Goddess. The Goddess envelopes him and it is through this meeting of Shiva and Shakti that the universe is created again and again.
Many ancient civilisations recognised the wonder of this meeting of the male and female energies like the Chinese, who represent it somewhat more abstractly in the symbol of Yin and Yang.
Thus the linga represents Shiva as the Lord of the Universe, the fountain-source of light, and Shiva as the creative force of nature.
Om Namah Shivaya !