Exciting legends of Mahashivaratri

Trinity Hindu God Shiva. www.pinterest.com
In the Hindu religion, there are many festivals to honor the gods and goddesses, but not that many have gained as much religious significance as festivals like Maha Shivaratri (meaning "the Great Night of Shiva"). It is an important annual  festival celebrated to honor  God Shiva, one of the Trinity gods who is a protector and also destroyer. It is observed across India in all Shiva temples.
Mahashivaratri. Happy Fun Enjoy
Every Lunar month has a Shivaratri, but the one that gains greater  religious importance is Maha Shivaratri that falls on 13th night (waning moon) and 14th day but once a year in late winter of the month Phalguna (Magha/ Gregorian Calendar February or March. The festival heralds the arrival of Spring. Though fasting is done  during Shivaratri, the festival may be celebrated for a few days up to ten days as per Calendar based on lunar and solar calculations.

This is a major Hindu festival that symbolizes the removal of darkness and ignorance and the emergence of  a new ray of  light and renewed hope in our lives. The night is spent by chanting mantras, attending prayers, fasting, meditation , etc. Devotees keep awake all through night doing japa or listen to stories from Puranas. People in thousands across India   never fail to visit  the Shiva temples in the neighborhood and participate in the temple prayer there. Countless people  go on a pilgrimage to Jyotirlinga shrines. 
In  Tamil Nadu, devotees visit any one of the Pancha Boothsthalas - Sri. Jambukeswarer temple,Thiruvanaikkaval ( representing jalam/water),  Sri Nataraja temple, Chidambaram (Aakash/ space), Sri Arunachaleswarer temple, Tiruvannamalai (Agni/fire), Sri Kalahastiswara temple, Kalahasthi  in Andhra (vaayu/air) and Sri. Ekambareswarer temple, Kanchipuram (prithvi/earth). The origin of this festival is not clearly known.

"During the Vigil Night of Shiva, Mahashivaratri,
we are brought to the moment of interval
between destruction and regeneration;
it symbolizes the night
when we must contemplate on that which
watches the growth out of the decay.
During Mahashivaratri we have to be alone
with our sword, the Shiva in us.
We have to look behind and before,
to see what evil needs eradicating from our heart,
what growth of virtue we need to encourage.
Shiva is not only outside of us but within us.
To unite ourselves with the One Self
is to recognize the Shiva in us."

—The Theosophical Movement, Vol. 72[7] .... from  Wikipedia

Legend 01:
According to a widely-prevailing  legend, aeons  ago as a result of a big deluge and  cataclysmic  activities, the Earth faced total destruction, leading to loss of life on the earth. Not even a blade of grass one could see on earth; Every thing created by God Brahma disappeared across the face of the earth. Grief-stricken, God Shiva's consort Parvati decided to get the life back on Earth and embarked on a long prayer, meditating on God Parameswaran (God Shiva). Her intense and dedicated prayer lasted four jaamams - four Kaalas, including the whole night.

At the end of this prayer, she requested God Shiva to declare that  this night (ratri) is  an auspicious one  and be called Maha Shivaratri and the people should celebrate this night by chanting Shiva's Thirunamam (mystic name Om Namachivaya or Shivaya Namaho)). She also further requested him to bless those devotees with good health,  prosperity and salvation when they spend the whole night (from sunset till sunrise following morning) - Shivaratri by way of  engaging in prayer and  chanting with dedication and faith. Pleased as he was, Lord Shiva agreed to her request. 
Parvati doing puja to Parameswaran. hindi.panditbooking.com
Legend 02:

Another  interesting legend has it that once a hunter went into a forest to hunt animals. As ill luck would have it, he could not get anything, not even a rabbit. It was almost dark and  hardly had he decided to go home when he spotted a tiger. To avoid being attacked by the hungry tiger, he climbed the Bilva tree and went up to the top branch. The  tiger stayed under the tree and never wanted to leave the place. The hunter to avoid sleep, kept awake by plucking the Bilva leaves and dropping them. There was a Sivalinga under the tree which he did not know.  He spent the entire night by plucking the bilva leaves that kept falling on the Shivalinga below. That night happened to be Mahashivaratri and without his knowledge he got the benefits of Mahashivaratri puja by keeping himself awake whole night.

If devotees engage themselves in prayer and meditation during this auspicious night, they are not only blessed by the god but also they get atonement for their sins committed knowingly or unknowingly.

Legend 03:
Shivaratri - the Night of Lord Shiva is  associated with yet another legend  and it is a story of Shiva-Parvathi remarriage. The story tells us how Lord Shiva had  married Parvati (Sakthi) for the second time and how the lord got back his divine consort. The day Lord Shiva got married to Parvati is  considered auspicious  and is celebrated as Shivaratri by the Hindus.

Once Sati, (lord Shiva's consort) mistook Rama (of the Ramayana) for a mortal and got angry when she saw God Shiva paying obeisance  to Rama (Vishnu incarnate). Shiva told her  that it was Lord Vishnu who was born on Earth as Rama. Not satisfied with his answer, she took the form of Rama's wife Sita and stood before Rama. Rama immediately knew who she was and asked her why she did not bring Shiva. Shiva, upon knowing what had transpired between Lord Rama and Sati,  was infuriated and began to lead a detached life. 

Once Daksha, Sati's father organized a Yagna on a grand scale and did not invite Shiva and Sati. Courtesy had it, he was supposed to invite his son-in-law. Despite Shiva's objection, Sati wanted to attend the Yagna in her capacity as Daksha's daughter. To add insult to injury, Daksha had not only hated Sati's presence there, but also purposely refused to do innovation in Lord's Shiva's name.before the ritual.  Sati could not brook this blatant humiliation caused by her father and jumped into  the Agni  (fire) in the yagakundam.   

When Lord Shiva heard about Sati's self-immolation, his anger knew no bounds. He could not bear the pangs of separation from his consort. Carrying the body of Sati, Shiva began to perform Rudra Tandava or the dance of destruction and annihilated  the kingdom of Daksha. Shiva’s Tandava  was so terrifying it could  destroy the entire universe  and the lord was not in a mood to slow down. 
Dead body of Sati and Shiva. Sri Gauranga Ashram
Having found no other recourse, Lord Vishnu, in order to pacify lord Shiva,  severed Sati′s body into 12 pieces and threw them on earth. It is believed that wherever the pieces of Shakti’s body fell, there emerged a Shakti Peedam - abode of Sakthi such as the one at Kamaroopa Kamakhya in Assam and the Vindhyavasini in UP.

Sati took the rebirth and wanted to marry Shiva who had been  doing penance for some time. Parvati made a vein attempt and could not break's Shiva's meditation. She sought the help of Kamadeva (Cupid) who shot an arrow of lust at Shiva. His sustained meditation having been broken, Shiva got wild, opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva into ashes. At last the lord  restored Kamadeva's life, responding to his wife Rati's pleading.
Siva punishing Kamadeva(cupid) with 3rd eye. Temple Purohit
Now, Parvati undertook a severe penance  with unmistakable faith to win over Shiva. Parvati, also called Uma, through her sincere devotion, dedication and commitments, finally succeeded in persuading Lord Shiva to marry her instead of letting him lead a life of  an ascetic .
 It was in the month of Phalgun, a day before Amavasya, their marriage was solemnized. This joyous day of wedding between  Shiva and Parvati is celebrated as Mahashivratri every year.
In the Hindu temples at Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram, Mahashivaratri is a major festival and the devotees participate in various temple related rituals  with religious fervor.