Maha Shivaratri: Hindus meditate and fast for Lord Shiva

Man with painted face and body, closing his eyes, while sitting outside on a sunny day in front of a stone structure

A devotee at the Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, on Maha Shivaratri. Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28: Millions of Hindus in India, Nepal and around the world fast and chant for Lord Shiva today, on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri. (Dates vary by region, worldwide.)

This is the principal festival for Lord Shiva, who—in Hindu tradition—is believed to generate, sustain and dispel the universe in infinite cycles. On such holy days, Hindus practice yoga and meditation in hopes of connecting with the divine essence within each person. (Learn more at Hinduism Today.)

On Maha Shivaratri, many of the faithful remain awake through the night, visiting temples and performing rituals. This year, the renowned Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal expects approximately 700,000 devotees for Maha Shivaratri. Read more here. Bilva, or bael, leaves are offered to the supreme deity, and holy ash from sacred fires is worn on the foreheads of Shiva devotees.

Did you know? A Shiva linga—a token or sign of the Divine, commonly made of stone, metal or wood—is a common sight in homes and temples adoring Lord Shiva, and on this special night, the Sivalingas are bathed in water, honey, ghee and other special substances.

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