Monday was a Hindu festival called Maha Shivaratri (translated as the grand night of Shiva) that is dedicated to the god Shiva, one of the three most important ones in the religion. It occurs on the moonless, 14th night of the new moon in the month of Phalgun (on the Hindu calendar) that falls during February or March. This festival is strictly followed since it is believed that it will release one from his sins and free one from the cycle of death and rebirth.
To ensure success followers wake early on the auspicious day and take a bath (in the Ganges River if they live nearby). Wearing fresh clothes they attend their local Shiva temple and pray and sing devotional songs through the day and night. Fasting is an essential part of the festival. Some may eat fruit or milk during the day but no one drinks any water at all. The following morning they break their fast with an offering to Shiva. He is considered to be the perfect husband so unmarried women pray that they will get one like Him while married women pray for the health and happiness of their husbands and sons.
There are many legends about Shiva. One says that Shivaratri was the wedding day of Shiva and Parvati, his wife. In another one, on this day Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga (means a distinctive sign or representation of Shiva) for the first time. It is legends like these that explain the importance of this festival to the followers of Shiva.
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