Think of an event with lakhs of people – music, dance, celebrities, sound & light show, cattle fair, tribal stalls, saree & dhoti draping events. It probably doesn’t sound like any typical event you have been to. Even less does it sound like a night-long Mahashivratri celebration? And yet, that is what Isha Mahashivratri is all about, coupled with meditation sessions, Sadhguru discourses, Shiva stories, and chanting. Behind the scenes, the volunteers who have been working for long hours day and night, call it a big “party”.
A lot of traditional folks wonder why Isha’s Mahashivratri is so entertaining. Isn’t it supposed to be about worshipping Shiva? A time where we dedicate the night to chanting, Vedas, temple offerings and other obvious forms of worship? The conclusion that many make is that this event is superfluous and the people are there only for entertainment. Is this really “spirituality”? Every year on Twitter, we see at least a few people raising this point. Why is the Isha Mahashivratri event so entertaining?
I think the answer lies in this Sadhguru quote,
“I always found people coming out of restaurants seemed to have more happiness on their faces than people coming out of temples and churches. Somebody went and met the Divine and came out without any joy on their face. Somebody ingested a dosa or idly and came out more joyful! Doesn’t make sense, does it?
This is because there is no experience of the Divine, there is only belief; and what you believe is just social and cultural.”
A Mahashivratri for EVERYONE
The Isha Mahashivratri is an event where everyone can experience some joy for sure and hopefully the divine too. Visitors can celebrate the night in a balanced way with entertainment but also meditations and other powerful traditional sadhana tools. Due to this balanced approach, the event is not only enjoyable and interesting for a large, diverse mass of people. But a lot of people who have come only for entertainment often leave with a deep experience of the divine.
And there is something fascinating about seeing people dance away in joy in the wee hours. Without any alcohol, substances or stimulations. The annadanam food that is offered is wholesome but simple. The toilets are crowded. Seating arrangements are only adequate. And yet, the visitors are dancing away in joy. What gives?
Most people will truly sustain a night-long event with such wakefulness and joy only with such a balance.
Very few would be able to simply meditate through the night or chant or read the Vedas and yet maintain the joy and vibrancy in their hearts. But if you are one of those people who don’t require the entertainment, then Isha does offer many intense sadhana options.
Going beyond the ONE NIGHT
Beyond the night-long event that is webcast around the world, there are thousands of Isha meditators who rock the festival in their own dedicated ways. Hundreds of men are walking from Chennai to the Isha ashram for the past few weeks. This year they are bringing 63 Nayanmar idols with them. This is part of their Shivanga Sadhana, that culminates on Mahashivratri. The women shivanga sadhana culminated a week prior to the Tamil festival of Thaipoosam, also with a shorter walk to the ashram.
A few thousand volunteers at the ashram are working day and night to make this event grand for the lakhs of visitors that will arrive. Many of them have been observing austerities of the Mahashivratri sadhana for 40 days prior. And some will even stay aware for a couple of nights prior to the celebration.
Over time, for a lot of us, irrespective of our religion, this event becomes an annual ritual of sorts.
The Isha Mahashivratri night long event is for everyone. Enjoy the music. Mingle in the indigenous weaves and cattle stalls. Participate in various activities like saree draping. Meditate with Sadhguru. And listen to some Shiva stories. And, hopefully, experience the divine. For people who want to notch things up, Isha offers many ways – shivanga sadhana, volunteering (karma yoga), mahashivratri sadhana and a lot more.
Author: Priyanka Dalal is an avid solo traveler and blogs @ www.maproute.in. She is also a digital nomad, growth marketer, and Isha volunteer.