"Verily, He is the inner self of all beings.”
- The Upanishads
Celebrating Maha Shivaratri : The Great Night of Shiva
Last week, we celebrated Mahashivaratri or "the Great Night of Lord Shiva" in Kerala. On this day, women (and some men) were fasting and staying up all night to pray for a husband with the qualities of Shiva.
In the Vedas, Shiva is known as the absolute husband, despite the fact that he lives in the mountains, is constantly engaged in meditation, has no possessions and is covered in snake and ashes. (I love that Hinduism is so steeped in poetic contradiction...)
In exploring the Vedas, my teacher has encouraged us to see the deities not as gods to be prayed to, but as universal energies which reside within each of us, and which are heightened in certain cycles.
Just as Ayurveda teaches us to align with seasons, Hindu festivals have their roots in sophisticated astrological calendars (not unlike the Mayans or the Egyptians) which help us align spiritual practices with planetary movements.
"Being a seeker means no matter what the Vedas said,
what Krishna or Shiva said,
you have to know the truth in your own experience.
- Jaggi Vasudev
Maha Shivaratri and Vedic Astrology
Mahashivaratri is celebrated one day before the new moon of Feb-March, aligning with a powerful transit of Saturn between Capricorn to Aquarius (both planets ruled by Saturn).
Saturn is considered to be Shiva planet, emphasizing lessons that we learn through limitation, discipline, detachment, hardship and long term commitment. Energetically, this cycle to stay grounded, get real, to detach from the illusory, and take care of practical matters.
The Union of Shiva and Parvati
There are many stories which surround Mahashivaratri. One of my favourites is of Shiva's union with Parvati, where he is won not by Parvati's beauty (or by how she cleaned & decorated his meditation cave, in some stories), but by the intensity of her austerities or "tapasya", a period of serious intense concentration and a burning of all that is unreal within.
Before the consummation of their union, Shiva gave Parvati 84 asanas (the yogic postures we know today), born from his deep love for her and his deep introspection.
It is said that Shiva never wanted to share the yogic secrets with any other, but that the Goddess convinced him to do so out of love and compassion for humanity.
For me, the story of their marriage is a powerful reminder of the unity between spirit and form, and the intensity of devotion needed at times and to allow what is unreal within ourselves to dissolve, and then, bear fruit.
Om Namah Shivayah!
Written by Briya Freeman
February 2020 in Kerala, India
About the Author
Briya (Rachel) Freeman is a facilitator specialized in meditation, ayurveda and modern spirituality. She is passionate about exploring the potentials of human consciousness in a way that respects, unites and transcends global culture and tradition.
Briya is a long-term student of Berdhanya Swami Tierra, a female mystic and shaman of South American origin. She also holds studies in ayurveda at Anjali School of Ayurveda (Kerala, India) and a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Ottawa. She is the creator of Ayurveda for Vibrant Living, a practical exploration of the fundamentals of the science of self-healing.