OM NAMA SHIVAYA!
In yoga, Lord Shiva represents the Supreme Self.
And Friday is Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Lord Shiva.
It is said to take place on the day He performed the Tandava or sacred dance, and married the goddess Parvati. It is His favorite day.
Starting Friday morning, devotees of Lord Shiva fast until the following sunrise.
They stay up all night, keeping vigil and chanting His name at the temple. It is said that each "Om Nama Shivaya" chanted with devotion on this sacred night is akin to saying it 1,000 times.
(In Mysore, the AYRI would close on Shivaratri so that Pattahbi Jois - a devotee of Lord Shiva - could stay up all night and chant).
Per scriptural and discipleship traditions, the penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach the goal more swiftly and avoid rebirth...
All the rituals on the night of Shivratri are meant to cleanse the ignorance and realize the Brahman manifest in you and open the door to bliss. The fasting, rituals and chanting are meant to kill desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger.
Here's how it's done in India, according to this website:
* Devotees wake up before sunrise and take bath and wear clean clothes.
* Applying of sacred ash, or vibhuthi, is an important aspect on the day. People also wear a Rudraksha Mala.
* The idols of Ganesh, Shiva and Parvati are cleaned and a lamp is lit.
* Most people then visit a nearby Shiva temple. In most places, Shivratri is largely observed in temples.
* Some people observing fast consume a mid-day meal consisting of non-cereal food such as boiled potatoes which is made into a curry without onion, garlic, adarak or haldi. Another food eaten on the day is pakori or Kutt Singahri ki puri.
* Most devotees go for a fruit diet and drink lots of water.
* No meal is eaten after sunset.
* Next meal is taken on the morning of Amavasi after doing puja and giving alms.
* The entire night is spend in a nearby Shiva temple or by chanting Mantras or listening to stories related to Shiva.
* Some of the important mantras that are chanted on the day include:
* Shiva Panchakshari Mantra – Om Namah Shivaya or chanting the sacred names of Lord Shiva.
* People who have a Shivling at home can bathe the Shivling with water intermittently throughout the night.
Locally, there's an all-night vigil with chanting and kirtan at the Sivananda Vedanta Center, starting at 9:30 on Friday night. Click here for more. It is traditional to bring an offering of fruit and/or flowers. It is also traditional to stay away from the temple while on Ladies Holiday.
You may wish to stay in on Saturday (although that is the night of the Chicago Yoga Center's potluck and informal 60th birthday party for director Suddha Weixler):The day after Shivratri is Amavasi – the dark night or the no moon night. It symbolizes the evil forces – desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger – which dominate the Kaliyuga.