Maha Shivaratri which means "the Great Night of Shiva" is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of Lord Shiva. This festival is solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by the reading of Shiva scriptures, chanting prayers, fasting, practicing Yoga, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and remembering Shiva. The passionate devotees keep awake all night.
Nataraj the cosmic dancer is an asana practiced in many yoga classes. It is representative of Shiva as the cosmic ecstatic dancer. The term 'Nataraj' means 'King of Dancers' (Sanskrit nata = dance; raja = king). His dance is called Tandava. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation, preservation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena." The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the body and worldly attachment.
The Nataraj statue is familiar to many. Inside the cosmic circle of fire, the King of dance has four arms. The upper right hand holds the Damaru drum of creation. The lower right hand is in the abhaya mudra of “No Fear”. The upper left hand holds the fire of destruction. The right leg stands on Apasmarapurusha, a soul bound by ignorance and attachment to the physical world. The left leg is raised and releases the enlightened soul from the physical plane. The lower left hand gestures that grace and liberation is available for everyone. The circle of fire represents the cosmos and especially consciousness.
Lord Shiva is considered the Adi Yogi and Adi Guru. The first Yogi and first teacher of the science of Yoga. Every student of yoga can look to Shiva for guidance and inspiration in asana, meditation and spiritual wisdom. Tuesday evening is a special opportunity to cultivate a relationship with Shiva.
MahaShivaratri is believed to be the day of convergence of divine powers of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. On this night, there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being. This is a day when nature is pushing one towards one’s spiritual peak. A great time to do sadhana, meditate and worship. "Om Namah Shivaya”