What is Mahashivratri: Decoding the logic behind it

On 8 February 2024, it marks the auspicious day of a much revered festival called as “Mahashivratri” throughout the surface of India. It is celebrated much like diwali holi or modern day Haunakkah. We see various aghoris, saints and pundits hovering about and performing certain rituals to the deity shiva and various religious adherents who pray to sada-shiva for prosperity, positivity and penance- who is this god and what does this day signifies for the world, people and universe? Through this article, I endeavor to trace the roots, logical mechanism, and reasons associated with this practice which makes it the “great night of maha shiva”.

A day which is marked with various religious austerities and traditional accolades in the praise of shiva for celebrating him, this day is observed with fasting for many people (males and females alike) but what does this day mean to you and how will not sleeping one night will benefit you physiologically? Religion has been in the constant grip of controversy and surrounded by questions. To explore the actual potential in this particular day, we will have to understand the great saying: “Yatha Pinde, tatha Brahmande” eloquently put forward by the Indian sages that means whatever happens with the universe, so happens within the body a single individual- what changes the world undergoes, so occurs with the soul of the person.

This connective relationship sowed between universe and the body is of tremendous importance, this is precisely what American Astrophysicists and astronomer, Dr. Carl Segan said: “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” The whole cosmic calculations, universe and world is constituted by us, and we are constituted from them, i.e. we are one single-entity. Similar to this, Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said: “The whole view of life is the confession of our inner state of being” the world is within us and we are the world- this complex interplay of unity and maintenance of individuality is what is special about this teaching. Kierkegaard contends that: “all of our understanding of a situation depends on how we are disposed to a certain situation” it means that what are we feeling from within, our emotions, thinking and subjective ideas are in direct consonance to the situations and the reactions we emit towards them.

Isn’t it what our science and psychology have started to profess in the recent decades of scientific developments? We have already had those propositions well engraved within our ancient scriptures since ages. According to IIT Kharagpur and Archeological survey of India’s recent joint venture where they have unearthed substantial evidence to form the assumption that the Indus valley civilization is supposed to be 7,000 to 8,000 years old civilizational patch, even older than the Mesopotamian civilization– these are the ideals which have been extensively researched, brainstormed and reflected by ancient seers- the similar historical significance rooted in reasoned arguments and not just theoretical abstractions is associated with Mahashiv ratri.

It is believed that “the northern hemisphere experiences a significant decrease in temperature”. “The northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way on this night that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being, and nature is pushing one towards a spiritual peak. The wobble performed by the Earth around the Sun is celebrated according to the planetary system. The Moon’s gravitational pull is greatest on new and full moon days, causing full body fluid to rise upward towards the brain” And this is the reason why we should not sleep and let the kundalini changes charge our bodily mechanism in right manner without causing us any harm that could be detrimental towards our psyche, equilibrium or body. It is to help us recover from the pre-existing inadequacies, negativity and toxicants naturally by observing fasting on this day.

Fasting is deemed to be as the most solid medium to regulate the sensory gratification, monitor the greedy taste of the tongue for delicious crisps and maintain a state of equilibrium by abstaining from eating, more appropriately, from the constant chirping and churning of teeth by some or the other food or in the case of excessive eating. It has the fundamental philosophy rooted within its core that we have to give upon the tendency of our sensations, emotions, and not move in the direction of immediate gratification of our slavish needs which are nothing but a way of ruining the human bodily mechanism and causing health related problems and is solely responsible for the destruction of the human. 
There can be no exaggeration in asserting that if the whole of the human race will be swayed by their sensations, then it will lead to ultimate decimation of the humanity and the whole universe will eventually come to an end simply because as Kierkegaard has famously put that, during social stage of a man’s life, he is guided by the feelings, subjective ideas and he loses the sight by considering fellow men to be used as mere subjects and playthings to achieve his own personal motive- he loses the consciousness to judge the difference between dharma and adharma and ends up on the self destruction path of life.

Mahashivratri is the precise focal point to recuperate ourselves from this moronic and debilitating state of selfishly thinking only about our desires, neither moved by likes, dislikes- aversion or favoring something because subjectively we approve of it, more appropriately, have become addicted to the taste of it’s nectar, because as Shankaracharya: a renowned saint of vedantic tradition once wrote while describing the true nature of shiva: “Na Me Dwesha-Raagau, Na Me Lobha-Mohau Mado Naiva Me Naiva, Maatsarya-Bhaavah Na Dharmo Na Cha-Artho, Na Kaamo Na Mokshah Chid-Aananda-Roopah, Shivoham Shivoham” this roughly means that I am neither carried by my ego, likes, dislikes neither by the distortions created by my selfish mind nor by the material riches accumulated by me- I am just a manifestation of “pure bliss” i.e. I am just the consciousness.
This occasion is precisely the opportunity to rejuvenate, reconcile and retrospect over our mindless actions, deeds and thoughts- it is an occasion to go beyond the dichotomies of our senses, mind and world, a time where we introspect about who are we really becoming in reality- a moment to penance, meditate, and to remember that: “Na Cha-Sanggatam Naiva, Mukti-na Meyah Chid-aananda-roopah, Shivoham Shivoham” just an element of pure blissfulness- we are shiva.
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B.A Philosophy (Hons.) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi


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