The Significance of Mahashivaratri
Maha Shivaratri, which literally translates to “great night of Shiva” is a Hindu festival largely celebrated in India as well as in Nepal.
The fourteenth day of every lunar month or the day before the new moon is known as Shivratri (this year it is February 24th). Among all the twelve Shivratris that occur in a calendar year, Mahashivratri, the one that occurs in February-March is of the most spiritual significance. On this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being.
"In the yogic tradition, Shiva is not worshipped as a God, but considered as the Adi Guru, the first Guru from whom all knowledge originated. After many millennia in meditation, one day he became absolutely still. That day is Mahashivratri. All movement in him stopped and he became utterly still, so ascetics see Mahashivratri as the night of stillness" - Yogi Jagi Vasudev
Shiva is the soul (of everything) – there is no difference between the soul and Shiva. Your true nature is Shiva, and Shiva is peace, infinity and beauty. Ratri means 'to take refuge'. Shivratri is taking refuge in one’s own spirit (Shiva). It is the day that we celebrate the soul or spirit (Shiva Tattva) within ourselves.
On the auspicious day, Hindu's who believe Shiva to be "Mahadev" the great god, observe fast and keep vigil all night. Mahashivaratri also marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ′Tandava′ (his wild but beautiful dance). It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva married the divine Parvati.
According to the Puranas (ancient hindu text), during the great churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean.
The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri also celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.
The Hindu tradition believes that when creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the top of Mount Kailash. Parvati asked, “O venerable Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?”
Shiva replied, “The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense"
She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.
"When we say Shivratri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve their limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of creation which is the seed in every human being. Mahashivratri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation".
"It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you" - Yogi Jagi Vasudev
A Discourse on Shivaratri - By Swami Sivananda 2010
Encyclopedia of Hinduism 2006
"Shiva". The Theosophical Movement 1962
Mahashivaratri – The Night of Lord Shiva" 2009.