The festival of 'Maha Shivratri' which literally translates to 'the greatest night of Shiva' is one of the most splendidly celebrated festivals across the country.
The festival celebrates the grand marriage of the lord of destruction, Shiva -- with the goddess of fertility, love, and beauty -- Parvati, who is also known as Shakti (power).
According to Hindu mythology, on the night of the marriage, Lord Shiva had a very diverse group of acquaintances including Hindu gods, goddesses, mals and demons escorting him to the house of the goddess.
The duo of Shiv and Shakti is considered to be the epitome of love, power and togetherness. The festival marking the initiation of their bond - 'Maha Shivratri' - is celebrated with great fervour across India.
On the occasion, devotees across the country are seen flocking to temples, that often witness long queues from as early as the break of the dawn and chants of 'Om Namah Shivaya' and 'Har Har Mahadev' reverberate.
Special prayers are offered in all Shiva temples throughout the holy night.
Following the traditional rituals, devotees observe fasts and are also seen worshipping the 'Shivling,' an iconic representation of Shiva.
Speaking to , Arun Bhardwaj, a priest from Uttarakhand said, "On the occasion of Maha Shivratri, devotees offer 'Rudra-Abhishek' or special ordination to the Shivling where they bathe the 'Shivling' with different substances and each of them has a specific significance."
"Devotees use water, curd, sugarcane syrup, milk, honey and other things for 'Rudra-Abhishek'", he added.
Other important offerings that are mandatorily used for the 'Abhishek' are Datura flower and fruit.
Besides the celebration of the marriage of Shiv and Shakti, unmarried women pray and observe fasts on the day to wish for a partner as compassionate as Lord Shiva.
Throwing light on the time of the year when the festival is celebrated, the priest said, "The festival of Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the Chaturdashi of the Krishna Paksha of Phalgun month according to Panchang (Hindu calendar)."
This year, the festival will be celebrated across the country on February 21.
( With inputs from ANI )