Millions of Hindus around the world will be holding vigil tonight, fasting, chanting, and holding the thoughts of Lord Shiva in their minds and practice.
Each year, this festival is celebrated on the 13th night / 14th lunar day of the month Phalguna / Phalguni as per the sidereal, Vedic calendar which falls on the day before Phalguna / Phalguni Amavasya (New Moon in Aquarius).
Naturally this is different from the Western (read: influenced by Bablylonian and Hellenistic traditions) tropical system which sees it as the New Moon in Pisces. And truthfully, both have resonance in different ways.
My preference and what brings me greatest resonance with observation is the Western system and so I stick with that. I make this note as what qualifies as ‘ Western ‘ these days has nothing to do with the term’s origins. Please note that any allegations of superiority of one system over another will be promptly deleted.
As I understand him, Lord Shiva is ultimately uninterested in your/my/anyone’s intellectual opinion, and more so in the veracity of one’s spiritual fire, peace, dance, truth and practice.
In terms of the astrology, we see the following exact alignments :
- Mars (3 Capricorn) trined Uranus (3 Taurus) – February 21 (Universal Time)
- Mars (3 Capricorn) squared Chiron (2 Aries) – February 21
- Sun (3 Pisces) sextile Uranus (3 Taurus) – February 22 – Watch your experience if you have something near 3 Libra. Profound breakthroughs available.
We also see other alignments present within a 1 degree orb with asteroid Siva (1170):
- Siva (23 Cancer) opposes Pluto (24 Capricorn)
- Siva (23 Cancer) squares Eris (23 Aries)
- Siva (23 Cancer) conjunct Magdalena (24 Cancer, asteroid 318)
To me, this Mahashivaratri gives us the opportunity to break through entrenched forces at the physical and energetic level.
It is wise for you to watch the health of the body, bones and head in particular.
Voice or sound based exercises can facilitate major breakthroughs and healing – so chanting is highly recommended. As listed below, the Maha Mrutnjaya Mantra would be my suggested Mantra of choice.
In terms of Asteroid Siva, I see this as the dance of the Destroyer breaking through old structures that have denied the archetype of Feminine expression and experience.
What bothers me is the way Shiva is shown in a hypermasculine form in many mainstream depictions in these days, which ties into a larger political narrative. It ignores the dancer, the lover, the dreamer entirely.
He is all of those things and is integrated into with experience of Shakti (The Goddess). Remember that They are Ardhanariswara / Ardhariswari:
The Merger and Union of both forces. Remember the narratives of the saints and Alvars who surrendered to the infinite, formless Compassion that Shiva represents.
I highly recommend doing research on Karaikal Ammaiyar, possible the most famous female Shaivite worshipper.
This Dance of Destruction is intimately wedded to a resurrection of the both Masculine, Feminine, Intersexed and other experiences of Spirit. Let us not lose right of that interconnectedness.
In India, Mahashivaratri falls on February 21st, 2020 – where the fast and prayers head into the early hours of February 22nd. The New Moon itself occurs on February 23rd.
There are multiple myths associated with the Great Night of Lord Shiva: that this was the day of his wedding to Goddess Parvati, that this was the night of his Cosmic Dance, that this was the day he swallowed the poison of the Serpent to save the Universe (turning the colour of his neck blue).
There are many stories and narratives surrounding this event and different facets of Hinduism worship them different: as there is no homogenous tradition. Hinduism thrives through diversity and tolerance, as opposed to monolithic reinterpretations.
The figure of Lord Shiva (especially as seen as a composite being with Goddess Parvathi) hemaphroditic, gender-genre-boundary-transgressing, the ascetic yogi of strict discipline and cannabinoid consumption.
He is deeply compassionate, detached, passive – and yet the Mahakala – who is able to destroy the Universe. Putting him, or his worship into a linear narrative or box does not exactly work.
At least not if you stay true to the source material.
We can see the union of marriage, dance, the transmutation of poison as very much the consumption and integration of different ‘ opposites’ – or the binary read in different ways.
There is more to be unpacked on that front but it certainly opens up the mythology and experience of Shiva worship in ways that de-center the masculine form and return it to its more nuanced origins.
In my many pilgrimages to the great worship centers of Lord Shiva in India, be it Benares / Varanasi in the North, Rameswaram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Thiruvannamalai, in the South and sacred sites in Nepal / Himalayan foothills – this multiplicity, boundary-binary-transgressing nature is what stands true with the test of time.
If in doubt, follow the many live streams and mass chants and vigils taking place tonight. Remember to look up times with respect to your own timezone.
Visit your local Shiva temple.
Adopt the practice that is in integrity with your sacred connection to this being.
I recommend chanting the Maha Mrutynjaya Mantra. Here is an AMAZING rendition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDuhp5o8Ybw
Remember that tone of chanting is key in anchoring the energy.
Do your best in pronounciation, but ultimately remember that your intent and openheartedness is the most important thing.
And if you see that ego along the way, dissolve it.
And open yourself to the True Blessings of the Cosmos.
Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD
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Text © Bairavee Balasubramaniam, 2020. All rights reserved.
Image: Government Museum Chennai.