My Story: Isha Mahashivratri Manages To Preserve Sanctity Of This Occasion While Allowing The Human Possibility To Flower

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My Story: 'Isha Mahashivratri Manages To Preserve Sanctity Of This Occasion While Allowing The Human Possibility To Flower'

Dagmar Eckert is associated with Isha Foundation and has undergone a spiritual journey after experiencing Mahashivrati celebrations organised at Isha. Dagmar realised the divinity of Lord Shiva, as the Adiyogi (the first yogi) and the related festivities.

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Mahashivratri is the Great Night of Shiva - The Destroyer, The Dancer, The Transformer. For Indians, it's undoubtedly a new moon night filled with dancing, chanting, meditations, music, and rituals. The festival is important for many reasons, and as the word spreads beyond, many become intrigued and inevitably drawn to it. There are many mysterious aspects to the story of Shiva, and that left me with no choice but to wonder: What is this festival all about?

Some legends consider this night to be when Shiva performed his famous cosmic dance, and some people celebrate it as the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. For the yogic culture, it is Shiva as a yogi that became entirely still and one with all on this night. There isn't just one way to look at Mahashivratri!

A Night for All

The night represents an excellent opportunity for people from various backgrounds to come together and explore India's richness. As I probed further, I realised that whatever Mahashivratri means for you, whatever meaning you choose, there is no doubt that Shiva is one of the most prominent figures in yogic culture truly deserves a great night of his own.

My experience of Mahashivratri is moulded with the celebrations organised at Isha, and to my amazement, I was not the only one.

A Chance Encounter

If one is looking for grand Mahashivratri celebrations, paying a visit to the Velliangiri Foothills in Southern India is necessary. In 2018, Patricia from Bolivia travelled through Southern India around Mahashivratri. A local yoga teacher insisted she travels to the Isha Yoga Centre to join Mahashivratri celebrations.

As a South American, she was not aware of the magnitude of the festivities and was initially reluctant, "I didn't know anything about Mahashivratri, Isha, or anything at that time. All he (the yoga teacher) said to me was: You have to be awake the whole night, and I was a bit worried about that."

However, her initial concerns dropped immediately after seeing thousands of people soaked in the culture and the energy of the night. "The whole night was just so impressive and auspicious," she says, being in awe of the atmosphere.

The celebration here though unique in itself is something of a reflection of the vitality witnessed all around the country. You would hardly find a place in India with no music, dance, or rituals being performed during this time.

Jaden from Canada reveals that Mahashivratri is not limited only to the Indian subcontinent. He first celebrated Mahashivratri in faraway Toronto before coming to India and experiencing it live at the Isha Yoga Centre. The cultural differences were there for sure, and however, he gave in to the night's energy.

"At first, I was like I don't even know how to dance to that kind of music, but then, just being in a crowd full of Indians dancing like crazy, I learnt how to let go. Indian classical music is amazing. Whether you're listening to it or dancing to it, I vibe with it even more than with western music," he shares with an apparent excitement on his face. "For me, that's the night when I just go crazy. I dance. All night. Even if my legs are gone, I'll still be dancing."

A Deep Dive Into Indian Culture

Isha Mahashivratri offers an opportunity to explore the Indian culture more deeply. How often do you get to listen to Indian classical and folk music in Europe? As a European, I confess, it takes some time to adjust to it, and even then, not everything in the program, I found, was my cup of tea. "Some music I like. Some I don't. There are Sounds of Isha or Kabir Cafe. I like that kind of music - joyful music, and the folk Indian music I don't like too much." - words of Radek from the Czech Republic were similar to my initial experience.

Attempting to express what folk music initially sounded to him, he jests, "especially the little trumpets- that sound is too much. But Tamil people love it, so it is great." Acceptance and coming up with an open mind are the ingredients to enjoy the event to the fullest, and I also see these two qualities as essential for spiritual growth in hindsight.

A Night Of Awakening

The spectacle on Mahashivratri is in no way just a superficial opportunity but a possibility for spiritual growth. It is an ideal opportunity to look inward and reflect upon our lives. On this night, human beings can enhance their perception and taste new possibilities - beyond the physical.

Sadhguru, Founder of Isha Foundation, explains: "This is a day when nature is pushing one towards one's spiritual peak. It is to make use of this, that in this tradition, we established a certain festival which is nightlong. To allow this natural upsurge of energies to find their way, one of the fundamentals of this nightlong festival is to ensure that you remain awake with your spine vertical throughout the night."

As the night progressed, the experience of Mahashivratri started blossoming for Radek. "Midnight meditation is probably the most powerful thing out there for the people who are in the audience. There was definitely some energy, something out there in that space," he shares.

The event at Isha is designed for one's spiritual growth with group chanting and meditations guided by Sadhguru himself. "When I first did midnight meditation, it just blew me away. I have never experienced anything that powerful before. I was crying, but I didn't know why. It just felt like I released a lot of stuff that I was holding in," Jaden reminisced about his first Mahashivratri experience.

As Sadhguru emphasises, Mahashivratri night can be a new beginning for individuals. Who would like to miss such a possibility? "Every time Mahashivratri comes around, it feels like the months leading up to that point the intensity is building up, and Mahashivratri is the climax," says Jaden. "The meditation and the whole event, it is a very intense experience. It feels like everything goes on fast-forward. I am very aware of my limitations and subtle things on that night. After that, slowly, everything settles down."

It is indeed a night of great possibilities if one is aware. After all, raising human consciousness is the primary goal of Sadhguru and Isha Foundation. "Mahashivratri is a cosmic phenomenon with a universal impact, and experience this consciously." Breaking the stereotypes that spiritual events are strictly solemn, the celebration is designed so it is easy for people to stay up all night while keeping their energy levels up.

Adiyogi Shiva

Above all, one gets to experience all this right in front of the 112 feet tall face, Shiva, as the Adiyogi (the first yogi). As I was unfamiliar with Indian culture, I do not necessarily imagine Shiva as something specific or the God of destruction. That space leaves me with an impression and an energetic imprint.

For Radek, Adiyogi raises a lot of questions. "Is it just a statue? Is it just a piece of metal, or is there more to it? I don't know. The statue is meant to evoke something in our mind like: Could I be like him? What is he like? What does he represent? What can I do to be like him? It is an image of somebody or something that we could aspire for."

Isha Mahashivratri manages to preserve the sanctity of this occasion while allowing the human possibility to flower. It is no wonder it is on the bucket list of spiritual seekers from all around the world. As time rolls, it is becoming more and more difficult to remain untouched by this magnificent night no matter where I am- either through my physical presence in Isha Yoga Center or watching it through TV broadcasts and live streams.

Isha Mahasivratri draws viewership from 170 countries, reaching over a hundred million worldwide. Isha Mahashivratri 2021 even beats the Grammys. It seems like there is still hope for humankind as more people are interested in turning inwards and becoming inclusive. Regardless of your background or location, Mahashivratri is an opportunity to connect with the whole universe. "May this night be not just a night of wakefulness for you, but a night of awakening," sums up Sadhguru.

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Editor : Shiva Chaudhary
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