Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”. Its remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing Yoga, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva.
The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana. These medieval era Shaiva texts present different mythologies associated with this festival, but all mention fasting and reverence for icons of Shiva such as the Lingam.
The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.
Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash (vibuthi) applied to the forehead by worshippers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga) and also represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
“Endeavour. That is the main thing, that is the inescapable task for all mortals. Even those who deny God today will have one day to tread the pilgrim road, melting their hearts out in tears of travail. If you make the slightest effort to progress along the path of liberation, the Lord will help you a hundred-fold. Shivaraathri conveys that hope to you. The moon, which is the presiding deity of the mind of man, wanes, until on the fourteenth day after full moon, it is just a tiny curve of glimmering glow. The mind too must be starved into that condition, so that man becomes free. Spend all the days with Shiva and the conquest of the mind is easy. Spend the fourteenth day of the waning moon with Shiva, reaching the climax of spiritual effort on that final day, and success is yours. “