Story behind the celebration
Lord Shiva, one of the most powerful Hindu deities in the Indian mythology, represents goodness, benevolence and serves as the transformer. Along with Brahma and Vishnu, Shiva is considered as a member of the holy trimurty. There are many stories in the mythology that denote the reason behind the grand celebration of Shivaratri. According to one of the many stories, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean during samudra manthan.
It was then that the people approached Shiva out of fear and terror. Looking at the evil effects of the poison, the lord swallowed the poison and kept it in his throat that turned blue and shinned in this throat. It was then he was known as the Neelkanth, leading to the grand celebrations of Shiva as he saved the world from destruction. Also, it is said that the celebration on this day marks the marriage of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati.
It is said that after Shivaratri, the dry trees start bearing fruits and the earth becomes fertile. As everything has its significance, the Shiva Linga that is worshipped all across the country on Shivaratri symbolises fertility.
It is a saying that by worshipping lord Shiva on this day, a person is absolved of past sins and is blessed with moksha or salvation. People bath early in the morning, wear new clothes and head to the temple. Some people even perform puja at home by offering bilwa leaves, flowers and garland to the deity. Six different dravyas are used during the abhishek of the Shivalinga which denotes:
Water: It stands for purity
Sugar: It symbolises happiness
Milk: It denotes purity
Honey: Leads to sweet speech
Yoghurt: It is for prosperity
Ghee: It symbolises victory
Married women observe a day long fast for their husbands and break it the next day with the prasad that is offered to Shivji. There is no end to celebrations; as the sun sets, the devotees gather in huge numbers and sing bhajans, chant mantras and offer prayers to the almighty. The devotees continue to observe their fast.
Shiva pilgrims thronged by devotees
During this time devotees visit famous Shiv temples, popularly known as jyotirlinga. Kedarnath, Somnath, Amarnath, Omkareshwar, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleshwar, Bhimshankar, Rameshwar, Nageshwar, Parli - Vaidhyanath, Kashi Vishwanath, Trimbakeshwarare the 12 jyotirlinga where people go on Shivaratri.