The Maha Shivaratri Festival: Contributions of the OHM Shri Shiv Sankalp Seva Trust

Self-ImprovementSpirituality

  • Author Charlie Taylor
  • Published March 7, 2022
  • Word count 729

One of the most famous festivals in India each year is the Maha Shivaratri (the “Great Night of Shiva''), which honors the Hindu god of the universe, Shiva. The celebration takes place during the darkest nights of the year which occur just before the new moon of February and March. Festivities include vigils, offerings of milk as well as cultural events such as performances of the traditional Tandava dance, which pays homage to the universe and symbolizes the balance and cyclic relationship between creation, perseverance and destruction. In this sense, Maha Shivaratri is a time for prayer and reflection on self-improvement through hard work and determination and its events are often curated on behalf of Hindu religious organizations and charities. One particular initiative, the Gujarati OHM Shri Shiv Sankalp Seva Trust and ashram are doing their part to organize events open to the local community.

Made possible through international donations, the ashram provides educational, spiritual and social services to girls in the region through their student home project, a collaboration with the spiritual organization "All India Movement for Seva.” One major advocate, Nikesh Patel, has played a fundamental role in helping the ashram achieve its mission to better the lives of more than 1,500 girls from remote, rural and urban areas in Gujarat through education, healthcare, female empowerment and vocational training for women through cultural activities.

Over the years, Patel’s encouragement has helped establish a student home, a concept that facilitates an educational and homely environment for girls to live, learn and grow. Patel was first introduced to the ashram and trust while visiting family in the Gujarat region, the home of his paternal grandmother. Because of his grandmother’s role in his upbringing and spiritual education, Patel was particularly drawn to the idea of giving back and contributing to the empowerment of women in the region to make a difference in the lives of others, as his grandmother had on his own life and religious journey.

Patel has not only helped finance the ashram’s activities through generous donations, he has also helped raise international awareness and spread the mission of the ashram. Working closely alongside Swamini Omkaranand, Patel considers her as a major inspiration and commends her for her amazing, outstanding work in their impact on the local community. Through social outreach participation, such as that during Maha Shivaratri, the trust and ashram can increase their impact through giving back to the local community.

In the act of honoring Shiva, those participating in Maha Shivaratri fast and take part in yoga, meditation and prayer throughout the five day celebration. During the day, worshippers bathe statuettes of Lord Shiva in milk mixed with various ingredients such as seeds, honey and rice that pay respects to the god and symbolize spiritual cleansing. Additionally, it is common for Hindus to wear three horizontal lines of ash on their forehead (the “tripundra”) as a public symbol of their spiritual journey and penance during the Maha Shivaratri. Hindus from around the world come together to embrace their spirituality through these religious activities.

While Maha Shivaratri is observed by Hindus all over the world, each year hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims make the journey to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal to leave offerings for Shiva. For those that cannot make the pilgrimage, Gujarati OHM Shri Shiv Sankalp Seva Trust and ashram are stepping up and gearing their efforts to enrich the festivities in Western India by organizing events throughout the five day celebration.

This ashram in particular is doing its part in organizing Maha Shivaratri events, which aligns with its overall mission to give back to the local community in the Gujarat region. According to Swamini Omkaranand, the president and managing trustee of the OHM Trust and ashram, participating in the celebration is an extension of its commitment to help underprivileged girls from rural villages in the Gujarat region. The ashram’s participation in the Maha Shivaratri is motivated by the significance of the festival to Hindu women, which is thought to provide a renovated dedication to spiritual devotion and pathway to prosperity.

This year, the Maha Shivaratri begins on Monday, February 28 and officially observed on Tuesday, March 1, which marks the beginning of the all-night vigil and fasting. Cultural and spiritual festivities facilitated by groups such as the OHM Shri Shiv Sankalp Seva Trust and ashram will continue throughout the week.

I am a constant writer who loves to read and find new and wonderful resources. Recently, I have been finding spirituality in meditation. The Indian way of peace and harmony has been fascinating to me.

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