The Moon falls in conjunction with the Sun on March 11 creating its darkest state. The moon is symbolically draining itself into an empty vessel that can be filled again with the Sun’s energy. This new moon falls in Aquarius occurs in the lunar mansion of Purvabhadra.
Aquarius encourages us to align our individual selves with a higher purpose. This new moon is aligned with Mercury and Venus in retrograde. These planets facilitate the Aquarian theme and increase adaptability, creativity and tact.
Purvabhadra is ruled by the diety Aja Ekapada, the one footed serpent. The energy produced from this lunar mansion is Yajamana Udyamana Shakti which spiritually empowers beings to reach a higher level of consciousness. This energy is fierce. It brings a lightening bolt of divine inspiration. Take time to tap into your eccentric creative genius. It is a time to set intentions and await spiritual transformation as the lunar cycle builds again.
This particular new moon is the time of the one of the greatest Hindu celebrations, Maha Shivayatri. It falls on the 14th day of Phalgum (Vedic calender month that falls in February or March) on eve of the new moon. Ratri literally means night in Sanskrit. It is believed on this night that Shiva performed his tandava dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction called Tandava Nritya.
This festival dates back to the Puranas, ancient narratives that describe the creation of the universe, Hindu cosmology and philosophy, gods, sages, heroes and geography. In the Puranas there is an epic narrative in which the primordial ocean is being churned into Amrita (the immortal nectar of the gods). From this churning, called Samudra Manthan, a poison emerged from the sea and threatened the existence if the universe itself. All of the Gods and demons panicked. They called upon the only God capable of destroying the poison, Shiva. Shiva heroically drank the poison and held it in his throat. Parvati, his consort, strangled his muscular neck to prevent the poison from escaping. This is why Shiva is often depicted as blue and is called Nilkantha, the blue throated one. His blue hue is a constant reminder of how he saved the universe from destruction.
This evening worshippers pay homage to Shiva, the destroyer in the Indic trilogy of gods, so he will absolve them of all of their sins. It is said that anyone who says his name with pure devotion is freed from negative karma and liberated from the cycle of life and death (samsara).
Myths also mention this day as the supposed day of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage. This day is of special significance to unmarried women who pray for a husband with similar qualities to the God Shiva. Married women pray for Shiva to shower them with blessings for a peaceful and happy marriage.
Traditionally a three tiered platform is placed around a sacrificial fire (Shiva’s divine element). The three tiers represent the three worlds or lokas: earth, space and heaven. On the highest platform 11 urns are placed representing 11 forms of Rudra, Shiva’s most destructive personalities. The formless depiction of Shiva, Shiva Lingam, is bathed with the five sacred elements of the cow, called panchagavya (milk, sour milk, ghee, urine and dung) and the 5 foods of immortality (milk, ghee, sugar, honey and curd). After the Lingam is bathed, people offer milk, bael leaves, and cold water. Holy men or sadhus, offer cannibus to Shiva, his patron plant, to gain his blessings.
People fast strictly throughout the day and night. They give datura fruit and flower (supposedly Shiva loves this poisonous fruit and flower) offerings and chant vigils throughout the evening to connect and praise The Destroyer of Ignorance.
This holiday is celebrated throughout India and Nepal. In Kashmir it lasts 15 days. Many sadhus or holy men pilgrimage to Mount Amarnath, the holiest Hindu mountain, where they seek a deeper relationship with Shiva by offering and smoking vast amounts of cannibus, the sacred plant of Shiva.
So chant “Om Namah Shivayah” in honor of the Dispeller of Ignorance on Sunday evening. He will help you clear your negative karmic past and catalyze you into deeper spiritual awareness.
Happy New Moon! Bom Shiva!