In Jammu and Kashmir. Mahashivratri popularly known as "Herath" is being celebrated throughout the Kashmir valley and in some parts of Jammu region. While people in Kashmir believe 'Herath' as the wedding day of Lord Shiva with Parvati, others consider as the day when Lord Shiva manifested in his human form on the earth to bless his devotees and redeem them. In Kerala, thousands of devotees took holy dip in Periyar River near Aluva and perform religious rites named ' pithru tharpan' for salvation of their ancestors. The rituals began with the Shivarathri vilakku (Lamp) procession at the Aluva Mahadeve Temple on the banks of the river.
The State Government has taken measures for the smooth conduct of the festivities.
Lord Shiva forms part of the trinity of Gods, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, in the Hindu mythology.
Devotees of Shiva fast during the day and maintain a long vigil during the night.
There is a legend behind Shiva's phallic form. It is believed that once Brahma and Vishnu were having an argument as to who was supreme. Brahma declared himself to be the Creator of all and thus more revered.
Vishnu claimed that since he was the Creator and the Destroyer, he commanded more respect. At that moment a huge lingam ablaze with flames appeared from nowhere. Both the Gods were so overwhelmed by its constantly increasing size, that they forgot their quarrel and decided to determine its size. Vishnu took the form of a boar and went to the netherworld while Brahma in the form of a swan ascended to the skies.
Neither could ascertain the size. Just then, Shiva appeared out of the lingam and proclaimed that he was the progenitor of both of them. He was the Creator, Preserver and the Destroyer. He demanded that thereafter he be worshipped in his phallic form, the lingam.
On the day of Shivratri, the lingam is bathed with the five sacred offerings of a cow, called panchagavya. Thereafter, the five foods of immortality - milk, clarified butter, curd, honey and sugar - are placed before the lingam. Dhatura and jati, though poisonous fruits, are believed to be sacred to Shiva and thus offered at His temples. Eleven is considered to be the sacred number of the Lord.