Shivratri, literally the night of Shiva, is one of the most important occasions of the Hindu calendar, typically falling each year on the fourteenth day/night of the dark half of the month of the Phalguna (February–March).
However, the festival, considered by Kashmiri Pandits to be the most auspicious of their festivals celebrate the festival a day earlier than the rest of their compatriots around the country, that is, on the 13th day of the Hindu month.
The reason for this difference is that the celebratory rituals of Lord Shiva’s festival begin a full fortnight before, and culminated on the day (and night) of Herath.
In the Kashmiri Pandit community, every young girl is considered a Parvati, to be married to Shiva, and for them the occasion of Shivratri symbolizes the marriage between Shiva and Parvati, and on this occasion, it is believed that Shiva visits each home to bless his wife, and so offerings of foods and sweets are prepared for his arrival, to satiate the legendary appetites of the Bhairavas and other Ganas accompanying their Lord.
Herath, itself is a phonetic derivation of Har-ratri, or the night of Hara (Shiva), and the festival marks an important is a socio-religious event in the life of Kashmiri Pandits.
The main day of celebration incorporates many Tantric rituals, and involves the observance of a fast during the day followed by a yaga or fire sacrifice at night. Special dishes, mainly of meat and fish along with a few vegetarian options, are cooked as sacrificial food. They are then consumed by the celebrating families, after being symbolically offered to the host of deities associated with the festival.
Ahead of the culmination of the festival, both Hindus and Muslims from Kashmir as well as people from beyond the state took to Twitter to wish people a Herath Mubarak, and calling for peace and harmony between the two largest communities of J&K.
Herath Mubarak to all my Kashmiri friends! Since I was born on Maha Shivratri day in 1956, my mother goes to the temple to celebrate my birthday every year on this day. (I am NOT hinting: no wishes nor curses solicited -- just an information point!) pic.twitter.com/TrNfpm0tqV— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 3, 2019
Herath Mubarak ...the festival denotes historical bond of love and amity bt Hindus and Muslims. May it continue for all times— Jahangir Iqbal Ganai (@JahangirGanai) March 4, 2019
Herath Mubarak to all Pandit friends their families and all others.— Beg Suhail (@BegSuhail1) March 3, 2019