One night of each year in the Indian calendar is dedicated to worship of Lord Shiva. It is celebrated in the Indian month of Magha.
Vedic astrologers and astronomers look at the phase of the Moon at sunrise to mark auspicious holidays. Given that the phase of the Moon can change during the day, we traditionally focus on where the Moon is that evening. For Shivaratri, we celebrate on the 14th night of the dark Moon, or chaturdashi. The day after Shivaratri is the new Moon.
Shiva has many names: Nataraj, Mahadeva, Mahesh, Rudra, Ugra, Ardra, Maheshwara, Shambho, Shankara, and the list goes on. Each name describes a specific quality of the lord’s multi-faceted being. Shiva is “Mahadeva” – the great lord.
On this auspicious and sacred night, it is said that one repetition of the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” is magnified 1,000 times. It is customary for people to gather and stay up all night chanting the sacred mantra. People typically fast on this day or refrain from eating grains. White clothing is customarily worn on Shivaratri.
As we chant “Om Namah Shivaya” (I honor Shiva – the supreme being who resides in each of us), we can connect once again to our own innate divinity and acknowledge that there are multiple facets to our own great being. We can also recognize the divinity that exists in each of us and honor that time and again.