The most important and significant festival of Khajuraho is ‘the night of Lord Shiva’ or Shivratri. The festival is also known as Maha Shivratri. The festival of Shivratri marks the marriage of Lord Shiva with Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas. Khajuraho observes this puja and the festival followed by a grand celebration.
The Maha Shivratri Festival held in Khajuraho is an elaborate one. The 2.5 meters high Lingam of the Kandariya Mahadeo Temple is dressed up as a bridegroom, with white and saffron dhotis, and surmounted by an enormous conical, silver paper crown. The ceremony is carried on throughout the night and it is performed by the chief priest’s son who embrocates the lingam with water collected from the holy rivers of India.
The chanting of anthems continues throughout the night, until the Brahmins stand up to throw ‘bel’ leaves and flower petals over the lingam. This indicates that the wedding is complete. The floodlighted temples of Khajuraho provide the ideal setting to the festival. A startling 7 days Khajuraho Dance Festival is held during this occasion of Shivratri on an open-air auditorium. The best classical dancers are seen performing in the festival.
The festival of Maha Shivratri is held on the 13th or 14th day of the month of Phalguna, that is, February-March of the Indian Calendar. During this time of the year the weather throughout India remains pleasant. The duration of the Maha Shivratri puja is 1 day and 1 night.