Shivaratri is celebrated sometime during February-March. It is believed that Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati prayed, meditated and fasted on this day for the well being of Shiva and hoped to ward off any evils that may fall upon him. Though, both men and women celebrate Shivaratri, it is an especially auspicious day for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband.
On Shivaratri, devotees awake at sunrise and bathe in holy water (like the Ganges River) and wear new clothes. On the day of the festival, people will fast and spend the day focused on Shiva, meditating and chanting “Om Namaha Shivaya.” Thus, offering their obeisances to Lord Shiva, the mind is held in such single-pointed concentration throughout the day. Then they flock to the temples carrying holy water to bathe and worship the Shivalingam. This bathing of the Shivalingam symbolises the cleansing of one’s soul. Next, the Shivalingam is decorated with flowers and garlands. It is customary to spend the entire night awake singing the praises of Lord Shiva.
Shivaratri is a festival that is held in the typical pattern of preparation, purification, realisation and then celebration. Then at the stroke of midnight Shiva is said to manifest as the inner light of purified consciousness. Thus, this climax at night represents our overcoming the dark ignorance and reaching the state of purified spiritual knowledge.