The literal meaning of Mahashivaratri is "Night of Lord Shiva". This festival is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva who is considered to be the destroyer of all life in Hindu religion. The significance of Mahashivaratri can be explained by the fact that it is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of India. It occurs generally in late February or early March. The devotees of Lord Shiva celebrate this very auspicious festival by keeping fast and remaining awake the whole night, continuously worshipping Lord Shiva.
For the women, the festival of Mahashivaratri holds special importance. Lord Shiva and his wife Goddess Parvati are believed to be the perfect couple. All married and unmarried women worship both of them and seek their blessings. Married women perform pooja on this day to be blessed with happy married life while unmarried girls perform pooja to get a husband as good as Lord Shiva.
The celebration of Mahashivaratri is also believed to bring salvation to Lord Shiva's devotees. Strict rules are laid down for celebrating this festival in the ancient Hindu scripture of Shiva Purana. The devotees after taking a bath at sunrise have to observe a fast throughout the day. In the temple, Lord Shiva has to be worshipped as per the laid down rules. The main ceremonies are performed during the night. The devotees have to remain awake throughout the night and have to worship Lord Shiva by chanting his name and singing bhajans in praise of him. The sacred mantra of "Om Namah Shivaya" is also chanted several times. The fast is broken next morning with the Prasad given by the temple priests. The devotees who have observed this strict fast are believed to attain moksha or salvation, freeing him from the cycle of life and death and also given a place to reside in Lord Shiva's abode after death.
Hence, the significance of Mahashivaratri is there for both men and women. The devotees follow all the religious rituals and rules as per prescribed instructions. To get a good husband or be blessed with happy married life or to attain salvation, the worship of Lord Shiva is performed with great devotion and enthusiasm. The day is also good for business as shops do brisk business, selling various items and products which are offered to Lord Shiva.
The Year 2012 date of MahaShivratri, you may find Maha Shivaratri on 20 February 2012 Monday.
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