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Maja Shivaratri – February 18, 2023

A significant cultural holiday, Maha Shivaratri is observed annually in the last month of the Hindu calendar. This year, it takes place on February 18. This day honors Lord Shiva, the god of death, destruction, and regeneration. Maha Shivaratri directly translates to ‘the Great Night of Shiva,’ as it is presumably the night Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya, a dance of preservation, creation, and destruction. It is also believed to be the night Shiva drank the poison of negativity, holding it in his throat to save the world, which in turn turned his throat blue. Another belief is that this was the day Shiva reunited with his love Parvati.

History of Maja Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important festivals observed by the people of India, and by all Hindus. This is because it honors Lord Shiva, the god of death, time, and destruction, and one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Shiva is held in esteem as the god that creates and transforms the universe as well as offers it protection. The figurines of Shiva depict him seated in a meditation pose as he is considered a patron of yoga, meditation, and arts.

This is why the Maha Shivaratri is so important in Hinduism; it symbolizes the overcoming of darkness and ignorance. It is a solemn festival celebrated all over India, its subcontinents such as Nepal and Sri Lanka, and across Southeast Asia (Bali, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia). It is a public holiday in most of the aforementioned countries and is observed through vigils, meditation, yoga, and sometimes, fasting.

The people of India celebrate Shivaratri (or ‘festival’) on the 13th or 14th day of every lunar month, but the Maha Shivaratri is a peculiar observance. Unlike the usual celebrations, this festival is observed at night and with more solemnity. It is also observed in the last month of the Hindu calendar, which often falls within the last winter months, to welcome the spring season.

Maja Shivaratri timeline

Before 10,000 B.C.
Paintings and Carvings

Scholars find depictions of Shiva at rock shelters that can be traced back to this time.

2300 B.C.
Pashupati the Yogi

Carvings dating back to this era are found that depict Shiva seated in a lotus yoga position.

500 A.D.
Let the Festivities Begin

The Maha Shivaratri festival is celebrated for the first time.

6th Century
Elephanta Caves

A collection of cave temples is built on Elephanta Island in honor of the god, Shiva.

Maja Shivaratri FAQs

Do people go to work on Maha Shivaratri?

Maha Shivaratri is a national public holiday in the countries of India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as in other Southeast Asian countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. This means that the citizens of these places do not go to work on this day. However, Hindus in other parts of the world, although allowed to observe the holiday, may still be required to go to work.

Why does Shiva wear a snake?

Different beliefs have been tied to the snake around Lord Shiva’s neck and its meaning. A snake usually represents fearlessness and power, and its being around Shiva’s neck symbolizes his dedication to and protection of his devotees. The snake may also represent the ego, and rather than have it within him, the depiction of Shiva shows that the ego is powerless to him and that he is also above mere mortals. It can also represent his compassionate side and love for animals or the cycle of life and death.

What is the river that flows in Shiva’s hair?

Ganga is one of the major rivers in India and is depicted as flowing out of Shiva’s hair. The Ganga River is believed to have been released from Shiva’s hair to meet the needs of the country.

How to Observe Maja Shivaratri

  1. Meditate

    As we mentioned earlier, Maha Shivaratri is a solemn event, unlike other festivals. Hindus take time out to meditate in remembrance of overcoming darkness, overcoming sins, and getting back on the righteous path. Shiva was a patron of yoga and meditation, so spend some time today practicing meditation.

  2. Practice yoga

    Yoga is amazing for many things. Getting centered and calm is one of them. If you’re already a yogi, make sure to practice more than usual, and if you aren’t one, today is the perfect opportunity to pick up the skill. There is plenty of yoga content available online to learn from if you aren’t sure where to start.

  3. Visit a temple

    If you find yourself in India or any Southeast Asian country today, you are lucky to be right at the heart of the festivities. Find a temple closest to you and celebrate with the locals. The Mahakaleshwar Temple is a great place to start, home to most devotees of our time and one of the shrines most consecrated to Shiva. There are temples in most other parts of the world where there’s a large Indian community, so find one and visit to experience the culture.

5 Interesting Facts About Shiva

  1. He’s also feminine

    Despite being a male god, depictions of Shiva are often androgynous, meaning he has both gender features.

  2. Sometimes, he has extra hands

    In some images of Shiva, he’s illustrated with up to four hands, believed to represent each of the cardinal directions.

  3. He has a sacred number

    Hindus believe Shiva’s sacred number is the number five.

  4. A separate religion dedicated to him

    Devotees of Shiva often see him as the supreme god and worship only him, and this is known as Shaivism.

  5. He has a third eye

    Shiva is usually illustrated with a third eye, believed to turn everything in its presence to ash when it opens.

Why Maja Shivaratri is Important

  1. It symbolizes second chances

    Hindus see the observance of Maha Shivaratri as a second chance for redemption and righteousness. This offers hope for many through the opportunity for atonement and right-making.

  2. It represents victory

    The major cause for celebration on this day is the overcoming of darkness and ignorance in the world. This is a victorious feat and should be duly observed.

  3. It encourages meditation

    This holiday is generally solemn, encouraging prayers, vigils, and meditations. Meditation has several benefits that are non-religious, and this day gives room for people to tap into them.

Maja Shivaratri dates

YearDateDay
2022March 1Tuesday
2023February 18Saturday
2024March 8Friday
2025February 26Wednesday
2026February 15Sunday

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