Source: Chennai Online
Just like Ganesh Chaturti celebrates the birthday of Lord Ganesha, and Navaratri celebrates the magnificence of the Devis, Mahashivaratri commemorates the lord of yoga and dhyana, Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva is known as Maheswar, Kailashpati, Shankar, Bholenath, Neelakanth and many others. Lord Shiva is also renowned for his forgiveness, and magnanimous heart being the generous God to his most sincere devotees. Shivaratri is in honour of the god of dance (the ultimate Bharatanatyam guru - Nataraj). Shiva is also the “destroyer,” as he is called when children learn the Holy Hindu trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).
While some see Shivaratri as the night the Lord danced “the tandav,” still others believe this is the night that Lord Shiva married his wife, the Goddess Shakti or Parvati.
Shivaratri falls on the 13th or 14th day of the month of Phalgun, or Masi. While Shivaratri is being observed by those all over India, the Indians in America are not keeping still. Mahashivaratri in New Jersey was observed by several Indians in different parts of the town.
In Parsippany, New Jersey, the local temple - Shri Sanatan Mandir – set up a flowing display of the Kailashpati. Beginning with an invocation to Lord Ganesha, prayers started in the name of Shiva and were followed with abhishekham of the Sivalingam. Devotees watched as chandanam, milk, honey, vibuthi, curd (yogurt), and water were poured on to the tune of religious hymns and chants of “Om Nama Shivaya”!