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Maha Shivaratri is a day of celebration for the devotees of Lord Shiva. It is a festival to show gratitude to our dear Lord for the increase in the energy levels that the earth witnesses owing to a unique planetary constellation marking this special day.
There are legends galore spun around this great celebration. One of them runs: on this day Lord Shiva swallowed poison so as to enable the universe to exist. According to another one, Shiva married the goddess, Parvati on this special day. Many believe that Shiva danced the famed Tandava on the day of Maha Shivaratri — the divine dance which signifies destroying forms into the formless and then new-creating forms to usher in a new age for the spiritual consummation the human beings are meant for.
This is a day on which we are expected to remove ignorance and become aware of the Self and also of the mystery of the universe-the One behind and immanent in All. Lord Shiva personifies infinite compassion for all. He is known as the destroyer, but he is a giver of rare boon, helping all to ascend the steep steps towards the self-realization, to the blessed state when All becomes the One, when the all-encompassing Divine Love for all in the universe sweeps away all differences, all distinctions and all separateness.
The 14th day of every lunar month… a day ahead of the new moon day… is referred to as Shivaratri. The day is believed to set into motion a natural upsurge in the human energy system. And the Shivaratri which falls in the month of Magha in the Indian calendar (February or March) is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. This is because Nature particularly assists us on this momentous day to raise the energies within the system, pushing us in proportion to our aspiration to the realization of the Ananda Brahma, the One without a second, pervading All and living in All, blissful of its eternity, infinity and the Oneness working equally in all the multitudinous forms.
The Shiva devotees spend this auspicious day, chanting mantras and offer prayers in the brightly illuminated temples. This aside, they spend the whole day on fast until the morning of the next day breaks. Many of them chose to stay awake all through the night, singing paeans of thanksgiving to the Lord. They also make sure that their spines stand erect throughout the night, imitating the meditative posture of Shiva who is the Mahayogi, so as to enable the upward surge of energy running through the channels of the body around the spine.
Maha Shivaratri holds different significance for different people. For those living family lives, Maha Shivaratri is a celebration of Shiva’s wedding anniversary. For the ambitious in the world, it is a day when Shiva conquered all his enemies, to become invincible in his temporal might. And, for the ascetics, it is the day on which He becomes Achaleshwara, the Supreme Static, one with the sublime and lofty Kailash. The ascetics thus view Maha Shivaratri as a deified day of stillness.
However, the true significance of the day is the upward movement of the energy moving in the human body. The devotees do not sleep this night. They strive hard to keep the consciousness at its zenith, the spines erect to help the descent to help them take some giant steps ahead in the evolution of the soul from the entanglement to emancipation. For, all evolution in a human being involves an upward movement of the energy. Sadhana that a spiritual sadhaka undertakes is only to push his energies upward.
The yoga is a spiritual process of making a human being to transcend his limitations to reach his limitless self, from the trammels of the flesh into a state unimaginably and indescribably blissful. The most fundamental process of this monumental transformation is the opening of the physical-vital-mental channels to the upward movement of energy. It assists the ascent with a descent of the Divine Grace.