The auspicious Shivratri festival takes place on the fourteenth night of the new moon during the Krishna Paksha, or the dark fortnight, in the Hindu month of Magh or Phalgun. The Mahashivratri is celebrated on a moonless night.

It is believed that the stars in the northern hemisphere are at most optimum positions on this day and help raise the spiritual energy of a person.

According to Hindu mythology, Mahashivratri, or the “Great night of Lord Shiva” is celebrated to mark Lord Shiva’s wedding with Parvati. Another legend says Lord Shiva performed the Tandava nritya, the dance of creation, preservation and destruction, on this night. According to yet another legend, the day has its roots in the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) episode mentioned in the Puranas. It is said the exercise was undertaken by the gods to obtain amrita, the nectar of immortality. However, the Samudra Manthan also churned out a pot of halahal, a deadly poison that threatened to end the universe. As per Hindu mythology,  Lord Shiva drank the poison to protect the world. It is believed that Shivratri commemorates this event.

When is Shivratri 2019

This year, the Mahashivratri festival will be celebrated on Monday, 4 March. The Chaturdashi tithi begins at 4.34 pm and ends at 7.07 am (5 March).

Shivratri puja rituals and significance

On this day, devotees keep a daylong fast and visit a temple to perform a puja late evening. During the puja, they give a bath to the Shivalingam with milk mixed with other holy ingredients. People across India, and also in Nepal, celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm. Many spend the night singing devotional sings and hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.

Women, both married and unmarried, take part in the festival in large numbers. It is believed, women do this puja to get a good husband and for a happy and blissful marital life.

While Mahashivratri finds mention in the Puranas, it is not known as to when did people exactly start celebrating this ancient festival.

Shivratri has a great significance for the Kumbh Mela also. The festival marks the end of the mega event celebrated after every 12 years. This year, the Ardh Kumbh Mela is currently on in Prayag, and will end on 4 March when devotees will take the last holy dip on Shivratri.

Shivratri is one of the biggest festival in Nepal. Thousands of people visit the famous Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, one of the holiest Hindu shrines.  The temple sees the biggest crowd on this day as Hindus from all over the world visit the place.

In Kashmir, Shivratri is known as Herath, derived from Har-ratri, or the night of Hara (Shiva). Kashmiri Pandits celebrate the festival for fays together.