Maha Shivratri

               Maha Shivratri is celebrated in the month Phalgun, on the thirteenth and fourteenth day of the waning moon. On this day, Lord Shiva is worshipped. Lord Shiva is the destroyer of the universe, but at the same time he is also considered as the most benevolent god. Young girls worship Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati in the hope of getting a perfect mate for themselves. Most devotees observe a fast on this day. lord Shiva is also worshipped in his phallic form, namely the lingam.
               There is an interesting legend attached to the worship of the Shiva lingam. It is said that once a hunter was looking for prey in a forest. The whole day passed by but he could not find even a rabbit. Towards evening, he climbed on a bel tree in the forest to spend the night. He just drank water that he had collected from the spring, and while he was drinking some of it tell on the ground below. He eagerly waited for an animal and, in sheer desperation, he plucked leaves from the bel tree and threw them on the ground. When a doe or female deer came to the spring to drink water, the hunter took aim. The doe saw him and requested him to spare her as she wanted to go back, just once to meet her kids. The hunter agreed. When the female deer came back, the male deer asked the hunter to spare her, and kill him instead.
               Actually beneath the bel tree, in the thicket, was a Shiva lingam. The hunter had unwittingly worshipped that lingam by sprinkling water and throwing bel leaves on it. When he had pardoned the deer family even in dire hunger, he had pleased Lord Shiva. As a result, Lord Shiva bestowed wealth and prosperity on him. From that day, the Shiva lingam is worshiped on this auspicious day, which came to be known as Maha Shivratri. Devotees throng the Shiva temples since morning and offer water, milk, bel leaves , flowers, and fruits to the Shiva lingam. People who observe a fast, eat only fruits on this day and chant the mantra "Om Namoh Shivaya," right through the night as well.