How to Celebrate Maha Shivaratri – A Hindu Festival

On behalf of everyone here at Remitly, Happy Maha Shivaratri to our customers all over the world!

As we approach this important time of reflection for Hindus, it’s a great time to delve into what  Maha Shivaratri is and how it’s celebrated in India and around the world.

Read on for the full story on this important holiday and to get ideas on how you can observe it no matter where you are in the world.

What is Maha Shivaratri?

Called “The Great Night,” Maha Shivaratri is an important annual festival in the Hindu faith. The holiday celebrates Shiva, the god of time, destruction, yoga, and meditation.

As with many Hindu festivals, no single Maha Shivaratri story explains why the holiday is celebrated. Rather, several Puranas share legends about the holiday.

One describes Maha Shivaratri as the night when Shiva dances in the heavens, driving the cycle of creation, destruction, and preservation. Another identifies the night as the date when Shiva married Parvati.

In yet another tale, Maha Shivaratri is the occasion when Shiva drank a poison that turned his neck blue and bruised. Afterward, he took on the name Nilakanta.

To some Hindus, Maha Shivaratri is a time to make offerings to Shiva in hopes of clearing away old sins and starting fresh. Others link the holiday with fertility and creation.

When is Maha Shivaratri in 2024?

Maha Shivaratri takes place on the 14th day of the lunar month of Phalunga, or Magha. Due to the differences between the Hindu and Gregorian calendars, the date of the festival varies from year to year.

In 2024, Maha Shivaratri falls on March 8. The 2023 Maha Shivaratri date was February 18, and in 2025, the festival will occur on February 26.

How is Maha Shivaratri celebrated?

Many Hindu holidays are times of great celebration, with people throwing large parties and enjoying the company of friends and family.

Maha Shivaratri is a much different sort of festival. For many Hindus, the holiday is one of reflection and introspection, and the most common rituals that mark the day tend to be personal and private.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that people celebrate Maha Shivaratri.


Some Hindus will fast for a full day to mark the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. They may go entirely without food or avoid eating certain foods, such as rice, wheat, pulses, meat, garlic, and onion.


In North India, families may celebrate Maha Shivaratri by holding an all-night vigil called a jagarana.

During the vigil, people may sing songs and offer prayers to Shiva. Performing meditative yoga is another common activity. Some families may read stories about Shiva aloud throughout the night.

Chanting often occurs during the vigil, with people repeating the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya,” which means “Salutations to the auspicious one.” People may also perform this chant during the daylight hours of Maha Shivaratri.

Vigils may take place at home or the local temple in some areas.

Ritual bathing

To symbolize the washing away of sins, many Hindus will bathe as soon as they awaken on Maha Shivaratri. In some cases, they may take a second bath before the start of the all-night vigil.


Some Hindus prepare for Maha Shivaratri by cleaning their home for six days before the start of the festival.

The practice is most common among the Kashmiri Pandits, for whom Shiva is the ultimate godhead of the Hindu faith. Kashmiri Pandits actually extend the celebration of Maha Shiravatri to 14 full days due to the significance of Shiva.


Many Hindus will visit their local temple sometime during the day of Maha Shivaratri. At the temple, it is customary to present Shiva with offerings of milk, fruit, sweets, and leaves.

Married Kashmiri Pandit women visit their parents’ homes during the 10th and 11th days of Maha Shivaratri. It’s customary for parents to present their daughters with gifts of new clothing and fire-pots for cooking that come with silver spatulas.

The items presented as gifts are then used to prepare a feast for family and friends on the 14th and final day of Maha Shivaratri.

How to celebrate Maha Shivaratri from abroad

Maha Shivaratri is widely celebrated in India, Nepal, and parts of Pakistan. Hindus who have moved abroad often look for ways to continue to observe the festival in their new countries.

These ideas can inspire you if you want to celebrate Maha Shivaratri as an immigrant living abroad.

Find a celebration near you

Hindu temples around the world often host vigils and celebrations in honor of Maha Shivaratri. In the U.S., some of the largest gatherings occur in New York City, New York, Atlanta, Georgia, and Dallas, Texas.

Outside of the U.S., there are Maha Shivaratri gatherings in cities like London, UK, and Kitchener, Canada.

To find a celebration near you, search the Internet with the term “Maha Shivaratri + YOUR CITY.” You can also check with your local temple to see if there will be events for Maha Shivaratri 2024.

Observe as a family

Observing Maha Shivaratri as a family can make for a meaningful holiday celebration. Plan to stay up all night, singing songs, chanting, and spending time together.

If you have young children in your family, you can read picture books about Shiva together. Some great titles to consider include:

  • “Shiva Tales” by Maple Press
  • “Shiva: The Three-Eyed God” by Wonder House Books
  • “My Little Book of Shiva” by the Penguin India Editorial Team
  • “The Stories of Lord Shiva” by Lakhi Cholan

More Hindu festivals

Maha Shivaratri is just one of the many festivals that Hindus worldwide celebrate each year. Some additional important Hindu holidays include all of the following.


Diwali is a five-day celebration and festival of lights in both the Sikh and Hindu religions. The illumination of oil lamps, known as diyas, marks the holiday, typically in October or November.

Many believe that the light of the lamps brightens the path of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, inviting good fortune. To welcome the goddess to their homes, many Hindus create elaborate patterns called rangolis in the entryways of their homes.


Holi is the festival of colors in India when people welcome spring arrival in February or March. Unlike many other holidays in India, Holi is not a religious occasion.

To celebrate the festival, people light bonfires believed to chase away evil spirits and share delicious foods. Throwing colorful dye and powder called gulal is also part of the fun.


Celebrated in several Indian states, Ugadi is the Hindu New Year. To mark the start of the new cycle, people decorate their homes with colorful patterns placed on floors and hang mango leaves on their doors.

Gift-giving is a popular custom during the celebration. Hindus may give their loved ones new clothes or precious oils or spend a day doing charity work for people in need.

Makar Sankranti

The first Hindu holiday that takes place every year, according to the Western calendar, is Makar Sankranti. This festival goes by many names, including Uttarayana and Sankranti, and its traditions vary from region to region.

Some people spend the day flying kites. Others build large bonfires and throw rice in celebration. Other regional customs linked with Makar Sankranti include bathing in sacred rivers and presenting gifts to the god of rain.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Held in late August or September, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the god Ganesha, the god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles.

Many Hindus welcome the festival by placing clay figurines of the god in their homes, and large displays called pandals are erected in the god’s honor in public places.

Legend has it that Ganesha has a sweet tooth, so eating sweet treats and leaving them as offerings to the god is a common Ganesh Chaturthi tradition.

Happy Maha Shivaratri

No matter where you are in the world, you can keep the traditions of Maha Shivaratri alive by joining local celebrations or continuing them in your own home.

If you want to connect with friends and family during the festival by sending money home, Remitly can help make things simple with our easy, affordable, and transparent money transfer service. Download the app to learn more and get started.

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