As per one, during the period of churning the ocean (sagar manthan) by the gods and the demons, a pot of poison (Kaal koot) emerged from the ocean.
This sudden incident terrified the dev ganas and asura ganas as the poison was capable of creating mahapralaya (deluge), which can destroy the entire universe. To save themselves and the universe they went to Lord Shiva for help. For the world’s safer existence and the survival of living beings, Shiva drank the ‘Kaal koot visha (terrible poison). But, instead of swallowing he kept it in his throat (it is also said that Devi stopped the poison in His throat and did not allow it to be actually swallowed). Keeping the deadly poison in his throat made Shivas’ throat turn blue. Because of this great miracle Shiva is also called Neelakanta, the one who has blue throat.
Lord Shiva appeared as a pillar of fire before Brahma and Vishnu when they fought each other as “who is the greatest”. This day is Thirukarthikai. Brahma and Vishu realized their mistake and prayed to Lord Shiva for forgiving their sin. In the night of Shivarathri lord Shiva appeared before them and blessed them.
Long long ago, it is believed that world came to an end and during that dark day, goddess Parvathy Devi did Pooja’s and prayed to Lord Shiva to seek his blessings. In remembrance of that day, Maha Shivarathiri is celebrated every year. So the devotees who pray to god like Parvathi Devi on this day will get all happiness when they live and after their life, they will reach lord Shiva and there is no re-birth for them. This is a belief.
Fasting on MahaShivratri
Most people fast for the entire day. But if you are unable to keep fast for 24-hours, then you can always opt for a single vegetarian diet or fruit or juice diet.
Worshiping Lord Shiva on this day, will help us get the blessing of Trimoorthy – Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva. We need to worship lord Shiva by visiting the temple and also chant Shiva Puranam on this holy day to get the blessings of lord. There are many slokas for lord shiva, Lingashtagam is the most divine.
Time of Prayer during MahaShivratri
The entire day is dedicated to Lord Shiva. So you can start the prayers from the morning by visiting a Shiva temple. Most Shiva devotees start the prayers in the evening after 20:00 hrs and
continue till 04:00 hrs in the morning. The reason is that Lord Shiva is believed to have appeared during this period in a form that the human eye can accommodate.
First, before starting puja, chant Sankalpam for Shiva puja. In Sankalpam, the place, gothra, nama, tithi, vara, nakshatra, and some other details are chanted in mantra form. You can also just say your name and gothra if you not much aware of Sankalpa mantra.
Start puja with Ganesh Puja. Chant some simple mantras of Lord Ganesh and pray for destruction of obstacles during Shiva Puja.
The third step is Gauri Puja. Take approximately 5 gms of turmeric (haldi) powder and make it like a cone shaped structure and consider it as Goddess Gauri and chant simple prayer to Gauri or Parvati. (Some devotees skip Gauri Puja). Nandishwara Puja, Veerabhadra Puja, Kartikeya Pooja, Kubera Pooja, Keerthimukha puja, and Sarpa Puja are optional.
On this auspicious day, devotees should chant the following holy names of Lord Shiva to get his blessings
Om Bavaya Namaha
Om Sarvaya Namaha
Om Rudhraya Namaha
Om Paupathaye Namaha
Om Ukraya Namaha
Om Mahadevaya Namaha
Om Bheemaya Namaha
Om Isanaya Namaha
Throughout the night of Shivarathri the Poojas are performed in the Shiva temple. Devotees should fast for the whole day and take part in poojas and pray the god throughout the night by performing abhisheka, chanting and other holy deeds through out the night without sleep. In the early morning they should take a bath and perform an “Annadhanam” and pray Shiva to get gods blessing. Devotees who cannot do a full fasting, can cook Sakkaravelli kizhangu and mix it with sugar and eat once during the day.