Maha Shivaratri is celebrated throughout the country. It is also a big festival in Kerala. Maha Shivratri is the grand night to worship Lord Shiva. The devotees of Shiva fast during this day and pray to the lord throughout the night. Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi married and this reunion is celebrated on Maha Shivratri. It is also believed that Shiva drank the poison came from the Ocean at the time of Palazhi Madhanam on that day to save the entire world.
The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc. Everyone prays to the Lord with the Mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya'. Offerings of Bael leaves are made to the Lingam. In addition to the observance of Shivratri rites, most of the pilgrims offer Bali (sacrifice) to their ancestors in the morning succeeding the holy night in Kerala. Sivarathri celebrations in the Siva temple at Aluva on the sand bank of River Periyar is very famous. many people from all over Kerala reaches there on Shivaratri. This used to come in the month of Kumbam (February-March).
Most famous story related to Shivaratri was that of King Chitrabhanu. He had a gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth. He was a veda (Hunter) in his previous life and his name was Suswara. He used to kill animals and birds and he and his family eats the meat and sell it. One day after roaming so much time in the forest he has not found any animal to hunt and it became night. He climbed to a tree for shelter and it was a Bael tree. Since he was just sitting free on the trip, he was taking the leaves and dropping down. Below there was a Shivalinga and the leaves were falling on Shivalinga. As time goes his mind was changing and filling with kindness.
After some time he had seen a deer and before he aimed his arrow, deer requested him not to kill him now. He has to go to his family as they are waiting for him to back. He will go there and come back. Suswara agreed for his request and waiting for him. Suswara was very much worried about his wife and children who were waiting for him to come with some food. He was waiting during whole night and was putting the Bael leaves down on Shivalinga. As time goes his mind was fully filled with kindness because of his offering of Bael leaves on Shivalinga. After long time deer returned and told Suswara he can kill him. But till that time his mind was totally changed and he became a new person. He left the deer without killing it. Morning he returned home with food. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then had his own. Suswara was reborn as king with the blessings of Lord Shiva.
He had seen a deer that day but let it live, after seeing the deer's sad family. As hunger and thirst tormented him, he was kept awake throughout the night. His canteen leaked water as he thought of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his return. To pass away the time that night he engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground. The next day he returned home and bought some food for himself and his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food.