Mahashivratri (meaning “Great Night of Shiva”) is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Shiva (who, along with Brahma and Vishnu, forms the trinity of Hinduism).

Unlike the majority of Hindu festivals, it is a night-time festival, observed on the evening and day before a new moon, which in 2012 is 20 February.

Every night of the new moon is dedicated to Shiva but this one is particularly important. It is the night which Shiva is said to perform the cosmic dance from creation to destruction.

Many Hindus fast and the devout say all-night prayers.