Mahashivaratri or the 'The Night of Shiva' is a Hindu festival celebrated with devotion and religious fervor in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the deities of Hindu Trinity. Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, corresponding to the English months 'February-March'. This year it falls on 20th feb, 2012.
• According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaratri is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
• It is also believed that Lord Shiva performed Tandava , the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction on this auspicious night of Shivaratri.
• According to another popular legend, described in Linga Purana, it was on Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga for the first time.
Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by the devotees of Shiva and they celebrate it as Maha Shivaratri - the grand night of Shiva.
• Shiva devotees observe strict fast on Maha Shivaratri. On Shivaratri, Devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc.
• As Shiva is regarded as the ideal husband, unmarried women pray for a husband like Him, on Shivaratri.
• Nightlong vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva.
• It is only on the following morning that devotee break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Shiva is considered the Adi (first) Guru from whom the yogic tradition originates. Hindus of Kashmir observe Shivaratri with utmost zeal and devotion. Here, Shivratri is celebrated for three weeks. Shivaratri is a much-anticipated festival in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal. In Mauritius, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in a big way for over three days.