The festival of Mahashivratri (literally means the 'Grand Night dedicated for the worship of Lord Shiva'). is looked upon with greatest reverence & respect by the devotees of Lord Shiva. This festival is celebrated every year on the 13/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon fortnight, just before the new moon) of the month of Phalgun. As per the English calendar this is somewhere around Feb or March.
This day and more so the night is dedicated by the devotees of Lord Shiva for his worship, practice of various austerities & meditation. All the Shiva Temples are fully decorated and there are hordes of devotees queuing up to get darshan of Lord & offer their obeisance's at the feet of Lord Shiva on this special day.
Maha Shivratri is the day to rejoice…to pray to the almighty for wellness. Almost all Hindus throughout the world offer prayers in the morning/evening and some observe fasting ( vrata) throughout the day. Most people visit the nearby temples of Shiva and offer prayers in large crowds.
The prayers and worship continue throughout the night and the devotees offer coconut, Bilva leaves, fruits and specially prepared sacred food to Shiva and his divine consort Parvati.
As this is a dark fortnight, devotees light candles and diyas (a lamp made usually of clay, with wick made of cotton and dipped in ghee) throughout the night – this is a symbol of spiritual manifestation.