As Carnival celebrations get into full gear, Hindus across Trinidad and Tobago took time to observe a night of prayer and fast on Thursday.
Maha Shivaratri (Shivratri) was observed from sunset Thursday to sunrise today at temples across the country.
This festival glorifies the Hindu god Shiva, believed to be the lord of cosmic destruction and dance. The festival is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon during the Hindu lunar month of Phalguna.
The celebration of Maha Shivratri begins with a night vigil leading up to the day of the festival during which many Shiva devotees fast and offer special prayers. Hindu temples across the country were packed with devotees paying tribute to the God. They sang bhajans (religious songs) and made offerings throughout the night. They offered water and milk on the Shiva lingam (representation of the Hindu deity).
Pundit Vishnudath Maharaj said the night dedicated to Lord Shiva was sacred to Hindus. "Maha Shivratri is a night of vigil where we offer prayers to Lord Shiva to remove negativity and obstacles," he said.
Maharaj said the auspicious night was a time for special prayers and a time to seek blessings from the Lord.
The celebration of Maha Shivaratri is attributed to several tales in Hindu mythology. One of the most popular tales traces its origins to samudra manthan, or churning of the ocean of milk. According to this belief, when the gods and demons were churning the ocean of milk to obtain amrita (drink of immortality), they came across many unusual substances including a deadly poison. Terrified, the gods approached Shiva for help, and out of compassion for all living beings, Shiva swallowed the poison. The poison was so potent that it turned his neck to blue.