Great Night Of Shiva

festivals shiva tantra Mar 07, 2024

Maha Shivaratri is "The Great Night of Shiva." What does it mean? What should one do on this night? Who, or what, is Shiva? The auspicious time begins the evening of March 08 and continues until March 09 sunrise. There's more information below on fasting time, if that's a component you wish to add.


First, Shiva is a name for Ultimate Reality. For instance, we might use the word "God" to refer to this Ultimate Reality as the source of the universe. God, as a word, generally refers to the personal sense of this Ultimate Reality but is often anthropomorphic, described in human terms with human projections, which, for some, if not many, can be a turnoff.

In Shaivism, Shiva is both a personal God and the Ultimate Reality, which, in Hinduism, has a tremendous cosmic existential aspect, spread out throughout the entire universe, present behind the light of stars and the movement of galaxies. We seek to engage and encounter this extensive experience of consciousness on this Great Night of Shiva.


The actual day fluctuates between February and March yearly to coincide with lunar events. It is celebrated on the 13th night of the waning moon and the 14th day of the auspicious month of the Hindu calendar's Phalguna month. Phalguni is a star: the moon is located in this star in Hindu astrology charting at this time. In sharp contrast to many Hindu festivals celebrated during the day, this festival is celebrated at night, as one of the goals is to overcome the darkness of the mind.

The festival is believed to have originated in the 5th century BCE. Maha Shivaratri references are mentioned in various ancient texts known as the Puranas, most notably the Skanda Purana and the Linga Purana that pertain to Shaivism. These medieval texts differ from the classic Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads. Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktiism all have Purunas, meaning "ancient stories" associated with them.


The wedding of Shiva and Shakti
Shiva's cosmic dance: the Tandava
Symbolizes overcoming ignorance
Celebrates our "living in the world."


Remembering Shiva through prayers
chanting mantras to Shiva (Rudram)
Fasting: one meal is eaten that day
engaging in deep meditation practices
practicing ahimsa—non-injury to others,
practicing charitable acts and forgiveness,
Making pilgrimages to revered Shiva temples.


Devotees stay awake throughout this night
because it is the Great Night Of Shiva.
Shiva is discovered as an experience,
a presence, a palpable energy field.

In India, fasting begins March 08 as soon as the day starts
(at 12:01 AM) and concludes March 9 at sunrise.


Nirjala Vrata: No food or water is consumed

Phalahara Vrata: allows tea, water, coffee, coconut water,
lassi (yogurt smoothies), fruit juices, and dried fruits that do not contain any salt.

Samapta Vrata: one meal consisting entirely of desserts, sweet things,
beverages (listed in the Phalahara Vrata), and dried fruits (no salt added).

Please note that we (Asha and Russill) would not consume sugar,
and so, we are not recommending any of the above.
We are simply stating what is traditional.

How to break Maha Shiva Ratri Vrata?

Begin with bathing the body
clean house and altar space
light a ghee lamp or other
offer fruit, sweets, food

Avoid the following:
eating meat products
cutting hair or nails
consume no salt

Chant mantras
Meditate on Shiva
Read the scriptures

Classic Mantras:
Om Namah Shivaya
Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
Rudra Namakam Camakam

Devotional and Ecstatic Singing:
Kirtans, Bhajans, Kritis, Geetams

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