Spring is in the air and Easter and Passover are on the horizon, but as many western beliefs prepare to usher in the season with well-known holidays, more than a handful of Nevada County residents will take time in early March to celebrate the Night of Lord Shiva, or Maha Shivaratri, an ancient Hindu holiday.
Usually celebrated in February, the gathering to honor Lord Shiva varies according to the Hindu calendar, taking place on the dark night of a new moon. This year the celebration occurs March 10.
Wild Mountain Yoga will mark the holiday with an evening of chanting, reading, meditation, fasting and devotional song.
Shivaratri essentially honors and glorifies the Hindu god Shiva, the lord of destruction, and while Robert Kelaghan notes that a myriad of myths and symbolic stories surround the holiday’s history, as with any ancient holidays, he stresses people come primarily to take part in a heart-opening experience.
“It’s something that appeals to people who are drawn to meditation, yoga, and eastern philosophies,” Kelaghan, who will co-host the evening and lead chants with Bhakti Bliss, said. “This is a major holiday in India – they don’t do anything halfway. Their celebrations go all night. I’ve done a few of them and they’re incredibly powerful. You may get tired but you get boosted by readings or music. They’re incredibly energizing.”
The Wild Mountain Yoga gathering goes from 6 p.m. to midnight and includes puja (a ritual opening the space to the energy) and a meditation at the end of the evening.
According to Kelaghan, the crowd thins out as the evening goes on and the fasting is optional. He is also a strong believer in the power and importance of chanting, an integral part of the celebration.
“I feel like chanting is just about to come into the mainstream, just like yoga did in the ’60s and ’ 70s,” he said. “There are festivals in America, three- and four-day festivals, that are just chanting, and the musicians that lead these chants sell millions of records.
“It’s stacked against us, we’re a pretty fast-paced society. The whole idea of chanting is like meditation, but it adds music. Good music, good chanting, opens the heart. You have a phrase you repeat over and over, deeper and deeper, and the mind slows and lets go of stressful thoughts, and your mind finds peace.”
Amanda Dozal, owner of Wild Mountain Yoga, points out that while Shiva was known as a destroyer, the prominent theme of the gathering is recognizing that everything occurs in phases.
“No matter what, everything finishes its cycle. The only reason we have Shiva is to finish these cycles, so we can start new again. It’s the recognition of the cycle of life,” she added.
Dozal also notes that people of all faiths take part in the celebration and that about half are familiar with Shivaratri. Some attendees are shiva or yoga devotees, but many aren’t familiar with the holiday and simply want to be part of the evening by getting together and praying through mantra, chanting and song.
The Night of Lord Shiva is open to the public at no charge, however donations are welcome. For more information, go to http://www.wildmtyoga.com or call 530-265-4072.
Katrina Paz is a freelance writer in Grass Valley.