Mahashivarathri at the Isha Yoga Center is a one of its kind event on the planet. It is not a religious event and is devoid of ritualism. There’s no temple, there are no priests, there are no Bhajans. This is a night devoted to accelerating one’s spiritual ambitions by leveraging a celestial phenomenon that happens naturally and impacts everyone. The all-night event commences at 6 p.m. on the night of Mahashivarathri and ends at 6 a.m. the following morning.
“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,” says Sadhguru. “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.”
There are several aspects to Isha’s Mahashivarathri celebrations at that lend it a distinct quality that makes it one of the most unique and eclectic mixes of art, culture, spirituality and an uninhibited celebration of life.
An offering of Spiritual possibility for Humanity
Isha’s nightlong event is held in the majestic presence of the iconic Adiyogi, the Source of Yoga, a mesmerizing 112-foot bust, the largest on the planet. In Yogic lore, Adiyogi is considered the First Yogi who also became the Adi Guru or the First Guru. Not given to teaching morals, virtues or belief systems, Adiyogi chose to transmit the tools and technologies that can enable human beings to experience their ultimate nature – an experience that transcends the limited physical dimension that is the only experience available to most human beings. This egalitarian offering is available to every seeker and its promise of transcending physical limitations is assured for all who commit themselves to using the tools with competence and diligence. It is this all-encompassing, non-partisan offering of spiritual possibility that Isha celebrates on the night of Mahashivarathri.
Mahashivarathri – the celebration of a Spiritual Science
“Why this day and night are held with such importance in the Yogic traditions is because of the possibilities it presents to a spiritual seeker,” says Sadhguru. “Modern science has arrived at a point today where they are out to prove to you that everything that you know as life, everything that you know as matter and existence, everything that you know as the cosmos and galaxies, is just one energy which manifests itself in millions of ways. This scientific fact is an experiential reality in every yogi. The word “yogi” means one who has realized the oneness of the existence. When I say “Yoga,” I am not referring to any one particular practice or system. All longing to know the unbounded, all longing to know the oneness in the existence is Yoga. The night of Mahashivarathri offers a person an opportunity to experience this.”
Isha’s Mahashivarathri is the grandest event on the Isha calendar and is celebrated in a super-charged, high-voltage nightlong extravaganza. Because it has nothing to do with faith or belief, it usually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
Yaksha – the Cultural precursor to Mahashivarathri
At Isha, Mahashivarathri celebrations are preceded by Yaksha. Named after celestial beings in Indian mythology, the 3-day Yaksha festival, the annual precursor to Mahashivarathri at Isha promotes the rich cultural heritage of Indian music and dance. Classical music and dance forms have been long used as a gateway to experience Yoga or oneness with existence in this culture. Some of the most well known classical and folk artists perform at Yaksha each year. The festival is held 3 days before the night of Mahashivarathri. It attracts audiences from all over the world for its vibrant depiction of music, dance and art.
Maha Yoga Yagna – the Fire signifying the spread of One Drop of Spirituality for all
On the night of Mahashivarathri, the Maha Yoga Yagna is usually lit by the Chief Guest at the celebrations. It signifies Sadhguru’s wish and Isha’s mission to spread one drop of spirituality to everyone on the planet. The first Maha Yoga Yagna was lit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017 when Adiyogi was unveiled to the world. President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu have also lit the symbolic fire when they participated as Chief Guests at the 2019 and 2020 celebrations respectively. With the lighting of the Yagna, millions of Isha volunteers (Yoga Veeras) worldwide commit to teaching a simple but powerful 5-minute Yogic practice to as many people as possible to facilitate a spiritual experience for even the completely uninitiated. When integrated into their lifestyle, these simple practices have the power to enhance the intensity of one’s experience of Life in all aspects – health, profession, personal, mental and emotional, and energy aspects.
Explosive midnight meditation with Sadhguru
One of the highlights of Isha’s Mahashivarathri celebrations is the Midnight Meditation with Sadhguru. Millions of people – in person and virtually – have experienced the energy of this powerful process led by Sadhguru. There are tools and technologies that one can internalize and prepare oneself physically and mentally to experience the explosive power and impact of the Midnight Meditation. This is usually done in the run-up to Mahashivarathri. One such simple but intense process is the Shivanga Sadhana.
Shivanga literally means “a limb of Shiva”. Shivanga Sadhana is an opportunity to bring our connection with the Source of Creation into our awareness. The Sadhana provides a strong physical and psychological basis for inner exploration. It is done for a pre-determined number of days (42 for men and 21 for women) and culminates on the night of Mahashivarathri. Those who have undertaken the Sadhana and participated in the Midnight Meditation have testified to indescribable inner experiences and an acute awareness of the energy upsurge within the system.
Prasadam – more than a takeaway
Volunteers from around the world come together to offer prasadam to every visitor who participates in person at the celebrations. The Maha Annadanam is a mini-event by itself. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are offered food that is supportive for their experience on this auspicious night. People from around the world contribute every year for the Maha Annadanam.
Rudraksha Diksha is one of the most sought after prasadams of Mahashivarathri at Isha. Rudraksha literally means the ‘Tears of Shiva’. Every year, on Mahashivarathri, visitors receive one Rudraksha bead as prasadam. The Rudraksha mala that adorns Adiyogi through the year is taken down and the beads are consecrated by Sadhguru and offered as Rudraksha Diksha.
“Rudraksha Diksha is a powerful instrument to become accessible to the grace of Adiyogi,” says Sadhguru. Rudraksha is said to be a reminder to its holder that one can lead their life consciously and break away from compulsive patterns which keep them trapped within their limitations. It symbolizes the possibility of charting one’s own destiny with the Grace of Adiyogi. This year, the Rudraksha Diksha is available to people around the world through a pre-registration process. Isha will ship the Rudraksha to all those who ask for it.
All night Satsangh with Sadhguru
With his infectious energy, Sadhguru engages the audience effortlessly in discourses and meditation sessions, wit and wisdom flowing with panache through the night. His involvement with the proceedings is complete. A soulful melody can move him to tears as much as a peppy beat can move him to shake a leg. Guided meditation sessions interspersed with his talks manage to keep tens of thousands of people riveted through the night.
An all-night cultural extravagance
Livewire energy seems to encase the Isha Yoga Center on the night of Mahashivarathri where men, women and children dance the night away in unbridled exuberance. Several famous artists have performed at the celebrations including Mohit Chouhan, Daler Mehndi, Parthiv Goel, Karthik, Ananya Bhat and many more. Performers from around the world have featured in the all-night event. A music group from Azerbaijan and drummers from Lebanon who participated in previous Mahashivarathri events were stunned by the super-charged energy of the audience that never dampens till 6 a.m. They confess that they have never performed on a similar stage anywhere in the world.
Connecting to the Source of Creation within oneself
The Mahashivarathri event at Isha is structured carefully to heighten one’s senses and make people receptive to become available to the naturally occurring phenomenon of energy upsurge. This rise in energy is a universal phenomenon and will happen to all regardless of whether one is aware of its occurrence or not.
“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,” says Sadhguru. “It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you.”