Oooh it’s a special time this week, specifically the evening of March 11th, which is the date that Maha Shivratri lands on this year.
*Now I want to premise by saying that I am not Hindu, and Hinduism is not part of my culture, and I am not from India or anything like that. I am also in no way trying to adopt or appropriate a religion or a culture that is not my own*
Ok then, well I’ve personally been enamored with Indian culture for a few years now, and have grown to have a deep respect for the country and its people. I mean I love Bollywood films and music, Indian food is so good, their history and religion is intricate and fascinating, all of the Indian languages are awesome… and so I just really love it all it seems. I’ve even told some of my Indian friends at times that their culture, in my opinion, is very similar to Mexican culture in many ways. I don’t want to get into it, but I’m just saying that - we’re bros
Well anyway, Maha Shivratri, is a yearly holiday in India celebrated during the evening to honor the Hindu god Shiva. Now, again - I’m Not Hindu - BUT I’m gonna try to explain the gist of the festival as I understand it.
Now, a lot of Indian holidays or ‘festivals’ as my friends from India call them, tend to last a few days, but Maha Shivratri lasts just one day/night. It takes place during the month of Phalguna, which is part of the Hindu calendar that follows the cycles of the sun and the moon, and would translate to sometime between February and March in our regular calendar. So Maha Shivratri dates will vary from year to year. This year Maha Shivratri will fall on March 11th
During the evening of Maha Shivratri, Hindus, specially followers of Shaivism will fast, do yoga, have group or self-study, meditate, and of course do puja - worship and prayer for Shiva. Now I only know this because I’ve studied it, not because of first-hand experience.
But who is Shiva, right? Well in Hinduism, Shiva is part of Trimūrti (the triple deity) which consists of - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Although they are three distinct gods, they are sort of like parts of one, a whole. And of course there are many other gods in Hindu religion, but we’re not going there.
Shiva, in essence, is all that is good and virtuous in the universe. In theory, we would want to strive to be like Shiva - more virtuous and less ignorant, which is what Maha Shivratri represents - a time to pray and meditate in an effort to overcome darkness, ignorance, and evil, and to try to become more virtuous and good within ourselves, and to honor Shiva of course. Actually there is Shivratri every month, but that’s another story.
Shiva is a deity that is known by many names, which include - Mahadeva, Rudra (I love this one), Nataraja, Nilakantha… and it goes on forever almost. He’s also taken many forms, or avatars - Lord Hanuman being the most notable one, in my opinion.
Although I’ve never taken part in Maha Shivratri celebrations, or any of the other Hindu or Indian festivals actually, I always look forward to learning something new about Shiva, and I enjoy seeing other people celebrate and honor him from videos that are posted online, such as those from sadhguru. He has a yearly Maha Shivratri celebration in which hundreds of people go take part of, and it is streamed on Youtube through his channel. I personally think he’s kind of a quack, and at times makes outrageous remarks and claims about, not only Maha Shivratri, but Hinduism as well. Like he’ll say that it’s not a religious festival, but, in my opinion, he’s just saying that to try to market Maha Shivratri and to sell tickets to the festival and his books and stuff. So, a quack in my opinion… but an entertaining quack at least.
This is a video from Mahashivratri celebrations at the Isha Yoga Center in India from 2020, hosted by sadhguru-
This video explains the meaning behind Mahashivratri a little better-
Now, I know there are other more "popular" festivals that are celebrated in India every year, but Maha Shivratri is kinda special for me because I've developed a great admiration and appreciation for Shiva, and his stories are my most favorite of all... and I'm a total fangirl now. So of course, I am happy to see that many people in India celebrate Shiva on this day of Maha Shivratri.
Also, if anyone is curious, there are a lot of books that summarize Shiva (and all of his awesomeness) such as - 7 secrets of Shiva by Devdutt Pattanaik. I personally love that book, I have read others, but the translations are all whack so it's hard for me to understand. Also the Puranas are the best source for Hindu and Indian culture and history, but again, I've found that the translations are often a little off.