Mahashivrathri, the ‘grand night of Lord Shiva’ is a Hindu festival that is celebrated in the Krishna Paksha of the Maagha or Phalgun month of the Hindu calendar.  

Every year, Hindus celebrate this festival on the 14th night (Amavasya) of the new moon in this month. People celebrate this day by offering Bilva/Vilvam leaves to Lord Shiva, fasting all day and keeping vigil all night.


There are various legends behind the spiritual significance of Mahashivrathri.

Destruction of Evil and Ignorance

Mahashivrathri is associated with Amavasya, which represents Kaliyuga. Lord Shiva appeared before the beginning of Kaliyuga to protect the world from evil and destruction.

It was on this holy night that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of creation, preservation and destruction.  He also manifested himself in the form of a Linga on this night. Therefore, Mahashivrathri symbolizes annihilation of evil and ignorance.


Yet another story is connected to Mahashivrathri. Devas and Asuras churned the deep oceans to obtain the sweet nectar – ‘Amrit’ to attain immortality. Among the several things that came out of the ocean was also poison (Halahala), which had the power to destroy the universe.

The problem was that the poison could not be discarded but had to be drunk by one of the Asuras or Devas.

Lord Shiva came forward to drink the poison and thus consumed the poison to protect the universe. He is also named Neelakanta (the blue-throated) because the throat of the Lord turned blue upon drinking the poison. Thus, Shivarathri is celebrated for the huge sacrifice that saved the world.


Devotees flock the Shiva temples to perform the Shivalinga Pooja. The old and the young take a bath at sunrise and carry pots of water to bathe the Shivalinga.

Milk, curd, and butter are used to bathe the Linga, followed by offerings of milk, clarified butter, honey, and sugar for Lord Shiva. Bilva leaves, betel leaves, Ber or jujube fruit, and Thandai (cannabis drink) are some of the other favorite offerings for the God.

People fast all through the day and worship Shiva throughout the night by singing hymns and verses in the name of the God. Mahashivrathri is significant, especially for the Hindu women.

While unmarried girls pray for an ideal husband, married woman pray for the well-being of the family. Those observing the fast break the fast, the following morning by consuming the pooja prasad.

Popular Shiva Shrines

Jyotirlinga is a group of twelve temples spread across India. Visiting these shrines is considered holy during the occasion of Mahashivrathri.

Somnath (Gujrat), Mallikarjuna (Andhra Pradesh), Mahakaleshwar (Madhyapradesh), Omkareshwar(Madhya Pradesh), Kedarnath(Uttarakhand), Bhimashankar(Maharashtra), Kashi Vishwanath(Uttar Pradesh), Tryambakeshwar (Maharashtra), Vidyanaath Jyotirlinga (Jharkhand), Nageshwar Jyotirlinga(Gujrat), Rameshwaram(Tamil Nadu), Grishneshwar(Maharashtra) are the twelve locations of Jyotirlingas.

Mahashivrathri Fast

Sacred texts mention that a person observing fast on this day leads a life of enjoyment as well as salvation. People take a bath in water with black sesame seeds at sunrise, to purify the body.

They wear new clothes and visit the nearest Shiva temple. Devotees observing fast shun food made or rice, wheat or pulses. They go on a diet of fruits and water. They break the fast next morning after spending a night chanting the mantras or listening to stories of Lord Shiva.

A day of fasting and chanting kills illusion, arrogance, anger, jealousy and greed, which helps a person to handle life’s challenges in a better way.

Vrat Food

Here are few links to various recipes for Mahashivrathri:

Useful IL forum links for further reading


We have drawn inspiration from various posts within IL forum on the topic of Mahashivrathri.  IL sincerely thanks those members who have posted valuable information in the forum, which has helped us to collate and present in the form of an article.