Maha Shivratri or Maha Sivaratri or Shivaratri or Sivarathri (Great Night of Shiva or Night of Shiva) is a festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha (as per Shalivahana or Gujarati Vikrama) or Phalguna (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu Calendar (that is, the night before and day of the new moon). The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil. Cannabis is traditionally used as an offering for Lord Shiva and his followers. Per scriptural and discipleship traditions, the penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach the goal more swiftly and avoid rebirth.
Significance of the day :
Per Hindu puranas, the day was determined as follows: after creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favorite day. Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread over all creation.
Rituals of Maha Shivratri
Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshippers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga), so also they represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
Wearing a rosary made from the rudraksha seed of the rudraksha tree (said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshipping Lord Shiva is ideal. A rudraksha seed is a mahogany-like color, sometimes black, and sometimes may have traces of sacred sandalwood powder, turmeric, kumkum, or holy ash if the rosary was used in worship ceremonies or anointed.
On Shivaratri, only cold water and bael leaves are offered to the Lingam. Other traditional offerings, such as bathing Him in milk and Panchamruta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey (symbols of sustenance) one after the other respectively, or anointing it with vermilion (kumkum) or white consecrated rice (Akshata) (symbols of fertility, or creation), are done on this day, when Lord Shiva is worshipped as the deity of dissolution. ..
Chanting the Rudram is considered very auspicious.