Mahashivratri- The Night of Awakening
The day before the Amavasya (new moon) of each lunar month is called Shivarathri. Among all the Shivarathris of the year, the one that falls in the lunar month of Magha in February-March each year is considered to be most auspicious, and is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
At the Isha Yoga Center, at the Velliangiri Foothills near Coimbatore, yogi and mystic, Sadhguru conducts a nightlong Sathsang. Over 6 lakh people from all parts of the world gather at the ashram to participate in the celebrations, which include Sadhguru's discourses and powerful meditations, interspersed with musical performances by eminent musicians such as Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Usha Utup, Sivamani, Dr.Bala Murali Krishna, Unni Krishnan, Sudha Raghunathan, Bombay Jaishree and Pandit Shivakumar Sharma.
The celebrations begin at 5.40 pm at the Dhyanalinga, a powerful meditative space consecrated by Sadhguru. Sadhguru conducts the Pancha Bhuta Aradhana – a unique opportunity to cleanse the five elements of the body which leads to health and wellbeing. At the celebration grounds, the festivities begin with chanting followed by Sadhguru leading the audience through several preparatory spiritual processes. At the stroke of midnight, Sadhguru initiates the huge gathering into a very powerful meditation which is the most looked forward to event of the night.
Cultural and musical performances are held in between meditations and discourses. Annadanam (a free offering of food) is served to lakhs of people on this auspicious night. The celebrations culminate at 6 am with a meditation by Sadhguru.
To offer this possibility to as many people as possible, the celebrations are also telecast live on major television channels such as Aastha Channel, Shankara TV and TV5 reaching 30 million people. Isha Foundation also hosts a live webcast of the event, and celebrations are also held at 150 centers in India and across the world.
The Significance of Mahashivratri
The planetary positions on the night of Mahashivratri are such that, in the northern hemisphere of the planet, a powerful upsurge of energy can be experienced by those who stay awake with their spines erect throughout the night. This is why, traditionally, one is advised to stay awake all night. Any spiritual sadhana performed on this night has a deeper impact on the system. Thus, people on the spiritual path make use of this extra assistance from nature to intensify their sadhana.
Mahashivratri has many symbolisms and stories attached to it. Among householders, it is considered the night when Shiva married Parvati. Among the ambitious, Shiva is said to have defeated all his enemies on this day. For spiritual seekers, this is the day when Shiva merged with Mount Kailash. These stories reflect the auspicious nature of this most significant of nights.
In yoga, Shiva is not considered to be a god. He is seen as the Adi Guru or first Guru and the Adiyogi or first Yogi. He is seen as the spine from which all spiritual knowledge on the planet originated. His first seven disciples were the Saptarishis, the celebrated seven sages, to whom he transmitted the yogic sciences. The Saptarishis took this knowing to all corners of the planet, sowing the seeds of spirituality.
Mahashivratri at the Isha Yoga Center is also an opportunity to participate in the Shivanga sadhana. This powerful 42-day vrata involves a pilgrimage to the Velliangiri peak, known as Dakshin Kailash or Kailash of the South. The peak was the abode of Shiva for a while, when he was in a very intense state of despondence.
Preparing for Mahashivratri
It is best to stay awake and aware while remaining in a posture that keeps the spine in a vertical position throughout the night.
Your room can be prepared by lighting a lamp, and in case you have a Dhyanalinga Yantra or Sadhguru’s picture, that can be kept as well.
If you are alone, consider taking a walk or being with nature. If you are in a group, it is best to stay silent as far as possible.
The sadhana at midnight can be a powerful possibility on Mahashivratri. The sadhana can be practiced as follows: 11:10pm to 11:30 pm – Sukha kriya; 11:30 to 11:50 pm – AUM chanting; 11:50 pm – 12:10 Aum – Chanting of the Mahamantra, “AUM Namah Shivaya.” You can chant along with the free audio of the Mahamantra. If one has not been initiated into Sukha kriya, it can be skipped.
If you are following the celebrations at the Isha Yoga Center through television or the webcast, instructions for the meditation will be given by Sadhguru.