Shiva (or Siva) is one of the most important gods in the Hindu mythology and, along with Brahma and Vishnu, is considered a member of the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. Donning many hats, Shiva associated with Time is believed to be the destroyer of all things. Also known as Bholenath, for his benevolence, goodness and care for the universe and its inhabitants, Shiva also has a darker side to him where he is the protector of evil spirits, ghosts, vampires and demons. Also associated with creation, Shiva is believed to destroy the universe at the end of each cycle and creates everything again from scratch. A great ascetic, Shiva shuns pleasure and indulgence instead concentrating on meditation to find happiness.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as the god of power and destruction. MahaShivaratri is an annual Hindu festival that is completely dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The MahaShivaratri is celebrated at night unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day time. Dedicated to Shiva, Mahashivratri ('great night of Shiva') is celebrated by Hindu community in India, Nepal as well as in West Indies with great enthusiasm and religious fervor. Celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha, Mahashivratri traces its origin to many mythological events. One version is that it was on the day that Shiva got married to Parvati. Another version states that Mahshivratri is celebrated in honour of Shiva drinking poison, which was churned out during Samudra Manthan, to save the world. Yet another story goes on to say that Shivratri is celebrated to commemorate the day when Brahma and Vishnu got into a tiff regarding their supremacy. This angered Shiva who took the form of a huge fire that spread across the universe.
'Jaagrans'(a night-long celebration full of religious hymns and prayers) are prominently performed to mark the occasion. Devotees offer fruits, leaves, sweets and milk to Shiva with chants of “Om NamahShivaya".
Furthermore, it is a solemn event notable for its introspective focus, fasting, meditation on Shiva, and an all night vigil at Shiva temples. There are references of MahaShivaratri in several Puranas, particularly the SkandaPurana, LingaPurana and Padma Purana. According to a belief at this very night lord Shiva performs the tandav dance of creation, preservation and destruction. As per another legend Shiva and Parvati had got married at this night, so there is a special significance of this festival for married as well as unmarried women. On this day all Shiva temples are decorated and devotees offer puja to Shiva. Not only in India but MahaShivaratri is also celebrated in Nepal. On this day there is a National Holiday in Nepal.It is celebrated widely in temples all over the country, but especially in the Pashupatinath temple. Thousands of devotees visit the famous Shiva Shakti Peetham. The Nepalese army parades around the city of Kathmandu to pay tribute to Lord Shiva. The "jaagaran" is maintained in temples and all-night vigil and prayers are offered. Hindus mark this night as "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in one's life and the world through Shiva. Devotees offer fruits, leaves, sweets and milk to Shiva. The sacred mantra of Shiva “Om NamahShivaya", is chanted.