Raised vibrations, prayer in mind and a heightened sense of consciousness.
Hindus around the world observed the ‘Great night of Lord Shiva’ or Maha Shivaratri on March 11, 2021. The auspicious religious festival venerates and honours Lord Shiva, the Destroyer (of evil). Lord Shiva goes by many names, 108 to be exact, some of which are Natraja (the Lord of dance), Shankar, Mahadev, Maheshwar, Bholenath and others. The names signify each of Lord Shiva’s glorious qualities.
Shiva has a serpent around his neck, an adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair and the third eye on his forehead. He holds a Trishul (trident) as his weapon, and the damaru (a small two-headed drum) where the first sounds of the universe emanated from.
We celebrate Maha Shivaratri to help ourselves attain salvation in this lifetime and in the next, to rid ourselves of any evil, to increase our vibrations and reach a higher sense of the Self. Hindus around the world observe the festival differently, but the reason is universal.
For me and my family, we have a small tradition. On the day of Maha Shivratri I usually observe a fruit fast – meaning that I eat only fruit, water and milk in the day. We observe fasts to purify our bodies, but for me, it’s a preservation of pure spiritual energy. I believe we all fast for different reasons on different occasions and sometimes in different ways. Through fasting, one also becomes more self-aware, disciplined and determined. Fasting for me, especially on an auspicious night, brings with it a sense of spiritual heightening and a lighter energy in my body.
Shivratri said to be the darkest night where Shiva performs his Tandav dance and where His energy is ever pervading. We as mere mortals should bask in His glory to become better versions of ourselves.
There is already a heightened sense of exhilaration on the day of Shivratri, with people sending each other good wishes and preparing for prayers. Usually, Shivratri is observed from 6pm in the evening until 6am in the morning. We sing Shiva’s glories, rejuvenating ourselves with His cosmic energy through the night. The Ashram where we observe Shivratri commences with a Puja (prayer offering) to the Shivling. The Shivling is a sacred stone structure, another symbol of Shiva’s presence. We offer milk, honey, ghee and water. We adorn the Shivling with a flower garland and prayers are performed. Once the Pooja is complete, devotees are welcome to make their own offerings of milk, water and Bilva Patra or Bael (three leafs attached to a single stem from the Bael tree). The Bael tree is sacred in Hinduism and the leafs are said to be a symbol of the Holy Trinity: Lord Brahma (the Creator), Lord Vishnu (the Protector) and Lord Shiva (the Destroyer). Scripture also says that the Bilva patra is dear to Lord Shiva and that’s why we offer it to Him.
The twelve hour long prayer is also observed through spiritual talks and lectures where we, as devotees, would learn more about Shivji’s powers and force, continuing to sing His praises. In some temples, Bhaang is served. Bhaang is a cold milk beverage containing cannabis. It was also consumed by Shiva, the Vedic texts explain that Lord Shiva used it “to turn inwards and gain the ultimate mastery of his senses”.
The beauty of Shivaratri, for me, is that through the Bhajans and praise, you feel a sense of heightened energy and vibrations, something that makes you feel closer to the Lord Himself. Offerings are made with Love, always.
In 2020, Maha Shivaratri was celebrated weeks before lockdown, it was the last Hindu festival we would celebrate ‘normally’ and it was a very powerful one indeed. I observed my day long fast, and this year, unlike the many years before, I had decided to stay through the night. Our Swami taught us, the devotees, about Lord Shiva’s magnificence and the evils He destroyed to save humanity. It is not just a night of prayer, but also a night of reflection, of wander of the powerful force that is Shiva. We learn to burn our egos, raise our consciousness and renew and rejuvenate our souls, through Him.
As I sat through the night, passing through waves of both restlessness and exhilaration, I began to recognise myself as a mere mortal, realising there IS more in this cosmic universe. That there is something beyond this earth and it’s somewhat magical, that in that state of prayer and meditation, the Higher Cosmic energy and being is all that I want to be with; to liberate myself from the material world and attain peace, knowledge and Moksha.
As we were heading towards morning, we sat in meditation, collectively reciting the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times. The mantra is addressed to the “The Three-eyed One”, or Lord Shiva in Shaivism.
It goes as follows with translation:
Aum Tryambakam yajaamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam |
Urvaarukamiva bandhanaan-mrityormuksheeya maamritaat ||
We worship the three-eyed One, who is fragrant and who nourishes all.
Like the fruit falls off from the bondage of the stem, may we be liberated from death, from mortality.
– Source: isha.sadhguru.org
As the sun quietly rose and skies lit up, a cool morning dewey breeze brisked us. We continued our praise to the Divine Lord, in stillness and calm. The Great Night of Shiva concluded in the morning, and we would go about a new year, that proved needy of Shiva’s magnificence to destroy all that would harm us and to help us renew ourselves to attain true liberation.
Aum Namah Shivay