Mahashivratri is an annual Hindu festival celebrated to honour Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction on this occasion, termed as Shiv Tandav. It is observed by chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating. Ardent devotees keep awake all night and people in large number visit Shiva temples or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams.
Spirituality may have constituted the core of common men’s life in India, however it still intrigues many minds, forcing us to finally think of it being beyond our physical and intellectual control. Nonetheless, it has a deep scientific and psychological side which profoundly influences our physical being also. Hence, delineating the science of Mahashivratri becomes all the more exciting on this occasion.
Mahashivratri is considered to be of much significance. On this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being and nature is pushing one towards spiritual peak. It is celebrated according to the planetary system due to the wobble performed by the Earth around the Sun. The gravitational pull of the Moon is maximum on the new Moon and full moon day, resulting in the rise of full body fluid in an upward direction towards the brain. And it is a proven fact that when the brain receives good amount of oxygenated blood, it performs exceedingly well. The planetary positions also affect the human circulatory system.
Mahashivratri is celebrated at night and it is recommended by Yogis to observe fast and remain awake during the night to keep the body erect so that body fluids reach the brain. If we perform yoga and meditation during the night of Mahashivratri, it further improves the functioning of the brain. Fasting is also an act of observing digestive system, which combines us with devotion. Fasting does help us is attaining a meditative state of mind. We feel laziness and sleepiness due to the kinds of food we eat.
Our conventional wisdom coming for thousands of years says puja and fasting also help us in liberating from evil thoughts as they help free our mind from cycle of unending material thoughts for at least the moment we are in that state of mind. This makes us more sensitive towards our own body and the changes taking place in nature.
On Mahashivratri, dances are performed for time immemorial, which are termed as cosmic dance. In modern times, scientists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of cosmic dance. In this way, the metaphor of cosmic dance brings together the mythology, religious art and modern physics. It is considered that Lord Shiva performs Tandava, which is a way to create the kind of ambience and energy level needed.
Fritjof Capra is one of the foremost proponents of the link between Eastern Philosophy and science, explaining the dance of Shiva symbolizes the basis of all existence in his book – ‘The Tao of Physics’. He further says – ‘Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifested in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter. According to quantum field theory, the dance of creation and destruction is the basis of the very existence of matter. Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also performs a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicists then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter, the basis of all existence and of all-natural phenomena.’
Another scientist Aidan Randle-Conde from Belgium noted in a blog during his stay at CERN- “The Dancing Shiva represents the changes in the universe around us, as matter and energy constantly bump into each other, create and destroy systems and keep renewing the world. This cosmic dance is the interaction of matter and antimatter.”
Popular scientist Carl Sagan was another exponent and has said in his show Cosmos- ‘Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, no doubt, by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma 8.64 billion years long- longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half of the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.’
Biologists have pointed out that one of the biggest steps in the evolutionary process of an animal was the movement from a horizontal to a vertical spine. It was only after this step that the flowering of the intelligence happens. So, by making use of this natural upsurge of energies on the nightlong festival of Mahashivratri, with right kind of mantras and meditations, we can move one step closer to the Divine. The raising of energies takes place even if there is no sadhana in a person’s life. But especially for those who are into some kind of yogic sadhana, keeping the body in a vertical position- or in other words, not sleeping on this night- is very important.
Mahashivratri is also a New Year for spiritual seekers and considered as an auspicious day for spiritual growth. On this night, when the constellations are in a favourable position, it is very auspicious for meditation. And this is reason why meditation is considered to be the most important aspect to experience the Shiva Tattva. Earlier, people used to say if you cannot meditate regularly, even then do it at least once in a year on Mahashivratri by staying awake.
In Indian culture, all the ancient prayers were not about saving yourself, protecting yourself or doing better in life, rather they say- “Oh lord, destroy me so that I can become like yourself.” So when we say Shivratri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve one’s limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of creation which is the seed in every human being.
Mahashivratri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation. On the one hand, Shiva is known as the destroyer. On the other, he is known as the most compassionate. He is also known to be the greatest giver. The yogic lore is rife with many stories about Shiva’s compassion. The ways of expression of his compassion have been incredible and astonishing at the same time. So, Mahashivratri is a special night for receiving too.
On this occasion, festivity is galore all across the country. Devotees dance at Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadokal, Modhera, Chidambaram Temples and many more places to continue rejoicing the occasion by being awakened and enlightened.