Nation celebrates Maha Shivratri today

Nation celebrates Maha Shivratri today March 2, 2011 as well as in United States, Canada, Britain and in all countries around world except in Australia and New Zealand where it is observed on March 3. Some Hindu communities, ashrams and spiritual organizations in India will also be observing Shivratri on March 3, 2011. Shivaratri is the night dedicated Shiva. The formless Supreme Truth – Shiva – took form and appeared on this night to remove Maya or illusion and lead devotees on the path of bliss. The path to bliss is to realize that all that is living and nonliving is nothing but the Supreme Truth. There is no second. Observances on the day include chanting of Shiva mantras, fasting and keeping vigil at night. Special pujas are performed at midnight.
Why Celebrate Maha Shivratri?
Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna (Feb / March) when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction.
Here're three reasons to celebrate Shivratri:
1. The absolute formless God, Sadashiv appeared in the form of "Lingodbhav Moorti" exactly at midnight on Maha Shivratri. That is why all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivratri and do "Shivlingam abhishekham" (coronation of the phallic idol) at midnight.
2. Lord Shiva was married to Devi Parvati on Shivratri. Remember Shiva minus Parvati is pure 'Nirgun Brahman'. With his illusive power, (Maya, Parvati) He becomes the "Sagun Brahman" for the purpose of the pious devotion of his devotees.
3. It is also believed that on Shivratri, Lord Shiva became 'Neelkantham' or the blue-throated by swallowing the deadly poison that came up during the churning of "Kshir Sagar" or the milky ocean. The poison was so deadly that even a drop in His stomach, which represents the universe, would have annihilated the entire world. Hence, He held it in His neck, which turned blue due to the effect of poison. Shivratri is therefore also a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from annihilation.
The 14th shloka of Shivmahimna Stotra says: "O three eyed Lord, when the poison came up through the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons, they were all aghast with fear as if the untimely end of all creation was imminent. In your kindness, you drank all the poison that still makes your throat blue. O Lord, even this blue mark does but increase your glory. What is apparently a blemish becomes an ornament in one intent on ridding the world of fear."