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Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Magh or Phalguna in the Hindu Calendar (that is, the night before and day of the new moon). The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.
In North India and Nepal, many people consume Bhang (Cannabis sativa), which is believed to be Lord Shiva’s favourite drink.
There are many stories associated with Shivaratri and its origin.
Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Ocean)
During the Samudra Manthan (the churning of the ocean) by the Gods and demons, Halahala, a poison, came out of the ocean. It was so poisionous, it could have wiped out the entire creation. At this juncture, on the advice of Vishnu, the gods approached Mahadev and prayed to him to protect their lives by consuming this poison. Pleased with their prayers, out of compassion for living beings, Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat by binding it with a snake. The throat became blue due to the poison (thus Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkantha) and Shiva remained unharmed. The incident shows that Shiva, who may be seen as the Destroyer, is also the Protector.
Pralaya (The Deluge)
In another version, it is believed that the whole world was once facing destruction and the Goddess Parvati worshipped her husband Shiva to save it. She prayed for the Jivas (living souls) remaining in space — like particles of gold dust in a lump of wax — during that long period of pralaya (deluge) night, should, upon becoming active again, have his blessings, but only if they worshipped him just as she did. Her prayer was granted. Parvati named the night for the worship of Ishwara by mortals Maha-Sivaratri, since Pralaya is brought about by him.
Shiva’s Favourite Day
After creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 14th night of the new moon, during the month of Magh, is his most favourite day. Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread over all creation.

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