During samudra manthan, a poison pot emerged from the ocean. This terrified Gods and demons, as it can destroy the whole world. All of them went to Shiva for help. To protect the world, Shiva instead of swallowing it, he kept it in his throat. On account of this event Shivaratri is celebrated.
Once there was a poor tribal man who was great devotee of Shiva. One day he went deep into the forest to collect firewood and lost his way. He was not able to return his home before night. He was afraid by hearing the growls of wild animals. He climbed the nearest tree for shelter till day-break. He was afraid that he may sleep and fall off the tree. He decided to chant the name of Shiva while plucking leaves from the tree. In darkness without seeing he has dropped the leaves on Linga. The tree was Bel tree. By this all night worshipping, Shiva was pleased and offered divine bliss to the tribal man.
Shivaratri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Maagha month of Hindu calendar. According to English calendar it comes in the month of February or March. It is celebrated throughout the country.
Devotees take bath in holy water and go to Shiva temple early in the morning and worship Shivalinga. Devotees take pots of water from the river to bath Shiva. After bathing Shivalinga, devotees offer prayers to Lord Sun, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Devotees circulate the lingam for several times, and then pour milk over it.
According to the Shiva Purana, Mahashivaratri worship must include
● Shiva Ling should be bathed with water, milk and honey. Bel leaves are also added which represent the purification.
● After bathing Vermilion paste is applied to the Shiva Linga.
● Fruits are offered.
● Burning incense.
● A lamp is lighted.
● Beetel leaves.