One night of each year in the Vedic or Indian calendar is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. This sacred holiday is known as Maha Shivaratri – the great night of Shiva. This is a lunar holiday, as are all festivals in the Hindu calendar. Thus, they depend on the phase of the Moon at night in various regions. According to mypanchang.com, Maha Shivaratri 2022 falls on February 28th in North America, South America, Africa, and Europe. For India and the rest of Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Maha Shivaratri 2022 is on March 1st.
In the Vedic tradition, there is a trinity of the major GODs: Brahma (the Governor), Vishnu (the Operator), and Shiva (the Destroyer). Shiva translates as “the auspicious one”.
Shiva’s worshipers revere his compassion and mercy. He protects his disciples from vices and bestows them with his grace. Shiva removes that which has outlived its usefulness and then allows us to start anew. He can remove our limitations, negativity, and false beliefs. He brings about radical transformation.
Lord Shiva has many names, each of which describes a different and unique attribute of his. Some names are: Nataraj, Mahesh, Ugra, Maheshwara, Shambho, Shankara, Rudra, Bholenath, etc. Shiva is “Mahadeva” – the great lord.
Each name describes a specific quality of the lord’s multi-faceted being. They are recited in the Shiva Mahiman Stotram. Shiva also means “that which underlies.”
WHY WE CELEBRATE MAHA SHIVARATRI 2022:
- Brahma created the universe was created. Then, he incarnated Rudra at midnight. The Rudram is a sacred chant to Lord Rudra.
- Shivaratri also celebrates the anniversary of Shiva and Parvati’s wedding.
- During the samudra manthan, or the churning of the ocean, Shiva drank the poison (hala hala ) which arose from it. By doing so, he saved the world. The poison caused his throat to turn blue. Accordingly, Shiva is called “neela kantha” – the blue throated one. Shivaratri honors Lord Shiva’s heroic deed.
- Shivaratri is the anniversary of the day when Shiva danced the cosmic dance the Tandava. This is his dance when he destroys creation using his third eye. The Shiva Tandava Stotram honors this dance. You can also read the text. The dancing Shiva is known as Shiva Natraraj.
Shiva has a crescent Moon on his head. It represents the cycles of time and that Shiva himself is the master of time. Shiva has a snake around his neck. The snake is a symbol of the kundalini shakti, or spiritual power inside all of us. Shiva’s trident represents the three spheres or wisdom, desire, and implementation. The sacred river Ganga flows from the top of his head.
On this auspicious and sacred night, one repetition of a Shiva mantra is magnified 1,000 times. Due to the great merit of this mantra repetition (or japa), it is customary for people to stay up all night chanting their sacred mantra. People typically fast on this day or refrain from eating grains. They eat sabudana (tapioca) khichadi, root vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Indians prepare steamed milk with aromatic spices, such as cardamom pods, as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron, and then serve it or leave it outside in the moonlight. Indians will wear pure and simple white clothing on Shivaratri. (An alternate spelling is Shivratri).
THE MOON ON MAHA SHIVARATRI 2022
On Maha Shivaratri 2022, the Moon in Vedic astrology falls in Capricorn. There are 5 planets in Capricorn that day, (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and Mars), all of these create heightened dynamics in our inner state as well as with wordly events. It’s an ideal time to focus our practices on finding our center and chanting for the benefit of humanity. On the morning on February 28th, the Moon is in the nakshatra or constellation of Shravana in Capricorn. Shravana is symbolized by an ear and means “to listen” or “to hear”. It’s the constellation of silence, where we can focus on the inner sound. Mercury, the planet associated with communication, is also in Shravana that day.
The Moon later moves into Dhanishta at 4 PM Pacific time. Dhanishta translates as “complete wealth”. It can grant one a wealth of knowledges and resources. One symbol associated with Dhanishta is Shiva’s mridanga (a type of drum). It’s customary to chant bhajans to Shiva on his holy night. You can immerse yourself in the bliss of devotion as you listen to the rhythmic drum beats. Saturn is also currently in Dhanishta, and the Moon’s proximity heightens our sensitivities and reactions.
There are current and upcoming planetary configurations which require us to be cautious, mindful and compassionate.
While we may still not be able to gather in large groups (or choose not to do so yet), as we typically do this year, we can cultivate our own inner and outer space and have a very deep and meaningful celebration this night.
PRACTICES FOR MAHA SHIVARATRI 2022
The rudraksha mala and bracelet are traditionally associated with Lord Shiva. Shiva cried tears when he saw the suffering of humanity. These tears fell to the ground and formed seeds which grew into the rudraksha tree. Thus, this mala is a symbol of purity. Rudra is another name for the fierce form of Shiva. Aksha translates as “eyes”. When doing mantra japa to Shiva, you may benefit from the use of a rudraksha mala.
While chanting is common in groups and at ashrams, spiritual retreat sites, etc., the focus in entirely inward. As we chant a Shiva mantra, 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.
Immerse yourself in the bliss of Shiva on Shivaratri. You can also perform a traditional abhishek or a ritual bath to a Shiva lingam on Maha Shivaratri 2022. People bathe the lingam with a mixture of milk, ghee, yogurt, raw honey and natural sugar.
Given current world events you may want to offer the fruits of your practices and your prayers to the benefit of all those who are suffering or whose lives are in danger. You can pay for peace, wisdom, and for the upliftment of humanity.
Shubh Maha Shivaratri 2022!