Maha Shivratri Festival Celebrations
In the Morning
The devotees of Lord Shiva wake up early in the morning to take a ceremonious bath, after which, they would wear new clothes, smear bhasm (holy ashes) on their forehead and head towards the nearest Lord Shiva temple to take part in the celebrations. On the other hand, if they are at home, they would conduct a puja in the morning, by offering Bilwa leaves, flowers and garlands to the deity and thereafter, observe a fast for the entire day. A certain diet is formulated especially for the day, which consists of fruits and beverages (including tea, milk and coffee) as the food for the day.
Celebrations At Temple
Lord Shiva temples are decorated beautifully with festoons, on the wonderful occasion of Mahashivaratri. Apart from the usual pujas of the temple, special pujas are conducted to make the day different from the ordinary. On the festival, as many as six types of Abhisheks can be witnessed, each using milk, ghee, sugar, honey, water and sandalwood paste. The priest would chant mantras and conduct the pooja, while the devotees would queue up to have a glimpse of the rituals performed at the altar and offer prayers to the deity. The devotees would often offer incense sticks, dhoop, Bilwa leaves and garlands to the temple, which are offered to the Shiva Linga.
Celebrations In the Night
The merrymaking reaches its peak in the night of Mahashivratri, when devotees of Lord Shiva would sing songs, bhajans, chant mantras and offer prayers to the Almighty. The devotees would continue to observe their fast. In fact, they would remain at the temple premises all through the night, to take part in the keertans or jaagrans that are arranged by the temple authorities, for the festival. The devotees are served tea occasionally, to keep them awake during the night. Either the devotees themselves would sing the bhajans or professional singers are called upon on the festival, to serve the purpose. The celebrations of Maha Shivaratri would culminate only in the dawn of the next day, when the devotees would break their fast by eating the prasad that was offered to the deity in the previous night.