MahaShivaratri is the night the practitioners of Sanatana Dharma celebrate Shiva. Shivaratri comes every month; the 14th phase of waning moon also called as Krishna paksha Chaturdashi is Shivaratri. The Krishna Chaturdashi (Krishna literally means dark) in the month of Phalgun (North India) or Magha (South India) is called MahaShivaratri, the great night of Shiva.
It is said that Shiva as a being reached nirvana several thousand years ago on this night, making him the Adi Yogi, the first Yogi. Tremendous cosmic energy becomes available on this night. Hence, many stay up all night in devotion to Shiva. Humans are the only vertebrates that have their spine erect which allowed the spine to act as an antenna to the universal energies. This erect spine also allowed evolution of consciousness compelling humans to seek a meaning of life beyond food and survival. Mahashivratri is followed by new moon in the constellation of Purva Bhadrapada in Aquarius, ruled by one of the Rudras, Aja Ekapada. Aja Ekapada is like the lightening rod from the heavens who strikes the mind to awaken it. Staying up all night on MahaShivaratri helps to keep the spine erect so the individual can connect to the Universal consciousness as we move into the new moon. Purva Bhadrapada is also symbolized with the death bed, indicating transcendence from worldly life itself that is full of maya or illusions.
Which brings me to my next point. Shiva is not just a being but a principle. Shava means a dead body. Shiva is the one who has transcended death. Shiva is the consciousness that penetrates or witness the creation, Shakti. The term Deva is used for the one who has conquered the demons. Shiva is called MahaDeva, the one who has conquered the indriyas or sensory organs
The delicate crescent moon that is ready to disappear gives us a hint about the energy of MahaShivarati. The moon represents the mind. There are two stories that help us understand the association of moon with Shiva, especially on MahaShivarati. Chandra, the overlord of moon was married to 27 sisters – the 27 nakshatras. He had vowed to love them all equally but couldn’t help himself from being biased towards Rohini, his favorite wife. The other sisters complained to Daksha, their father. Daksha curses Chandra to fade away. As Chandra is on his last waning phase, he approaches Shiva in agony. Bholenath, the childlike innocent one, then adorns the delicate crescent moon as an ornament on his head for it to wax to its full brightness. That’s why the moon waxes and wanes
The second story is of the churning of the milky ocean which can be equated to churning of the milky way galaxy to get Amrutha or the elixir of immortality. First came out a lethal poison, Halahala, that potentially could destroy the Universe. Shiva consumes the poison, however, Parvati worried for her husband’s life, holds Shiva’s throat to prevent him from swallowing the poison. As a result, the poison collects in Shiva’s throat and ‘Neelakantha’, one with the blue (neela) throat (kantha). Shiva becomes feverish with the poison in his throat. Hence, devotees pour water, milk, ghee and yogurt as offerings to the Shiva lingum to cool Shiva’s fever. Next MahaLaxmi emerges from the milky ocean. She is actually Earth or Bhoodevi that supports conscious life. At the center of milky way galaxy resides Vishnu, hence, Mahalaxmi is depicted at Vishnu’s feet, as Earth is situated slightly below the center of milky way galaxy. Next the moon emerges from the milky ocean. Shiva adorns this moon on his head. On MahaShivatri, if you look in the direction of the crescent moon in the wee hours of morning, through the starclouds of the milky way, it points to the center of Andromeda galaxy – Shiva’s abode
The moon is the metaphor for the mind. On Mahashivaratri just because of the sheer increase in spiritual energies, the mind can be wavering. The way to steady the mind is to focus on Shiva in your meditation. The moment you begin to meditate, that is, the moment you churn your mind, it spues out poison. This poison may be your attachments, distractions, pain, desires, lust, sufferings etc – anything that prevents you from self-realization. When we hand our poison over to Shiva, he helps us transcend the world of Soma (another name for Chandra) and realize the divine within. That’s why Shiva is also called Someshvar, the one who has conquered / transcended Soma
This MahaShivaratri, if you decide to stay up all night, listen to Shri Rudram, chant a shiva mantra or just silently hear the reverberation in the sound Har Har Mahadeva. Feel Shiva’s essence, who is in deep meditation in one moment and in ecstatic dance in the next
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