Mahashivaratri 2021 will be celebrated from 8.00p.m MYT on March 11 in front of the Adiyogi, at the Isha Yoga Center. Festivities will continue till 8:30 a.m MYT on the 12th March. Sadhguru will be present throughout the night, conducting guided meditations including a powerful midnight meditation and Satsang. Mahashivaratri 2020 was watched by millions of people worldwide.

The event will be streamed through LIVE satellite feeds in English and 11 Indian languages.

Varnam Malaysia in collaboration with Isha Foundation brings you a series of publication in celebration of Mahashivarathri 2021.


Sadhguru: Someone asked me a few days ago if I am a fan of Shiva – the Adiyogi. A fan club starts when people’s emotions get tangled up with somebody. I am definitely not his fan. Then what is it? The real thing is something else, but let me reason this through with you.

Ultimately, in any generation, an individual human being is valued for the contribution he has made to that generation or generations to come. There have been many wonderful people on this planet who have contributed to other people’s lives in many ways.

Someone brought a wave of love, someone brought a wave of meditativeness, someone else brought a wave of economic wellbeing – depending upon the need of the times.

For example, Mahatma Gandhi – with all respect to him – this is not to belittle him – because it was pre-independence, his methods, his mode, and the way he operated elevated him to a certain level. He was the right man and did incredible things for the time – but he would not always be relevant.

Or Martin Luther King, for those times, since there was discrimination, he was very significant, but if there had been no such problems in the society, he would have been just another guy. If you go back in history, there have been many great men, but they were significant largely because of the upheavals of the time, the need of the time, or a certain depravity of the time.

If you look at Gautama the Buddha, because the society got so wrapped up in ritualistic processes, when he came with a spiritual process without a ritual, it was an instant hit. If this had been a society without much ritual, it would not have been new in any way and it would not have been so significant.

In many ways, Krishna was of great significance. But still, if there had been no strife in that society, if there had been no fight between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, he would have been only a very local influence. He would not have become so big.

Or a Rama, if his wife had not been kidnapped, he would have been just another king, maybe remembered as a very good king, or forgotten by people after some time. If the whole war and the burning of Lanka had not happened, his life would not have been of much relevance.

The Significance of Adiyogi 

The significance of Adiyogi or Shiva is just this – no such event happened. There was no war, there was no strife. He did not cater to the needs of the day. He provided tools and methods to evolve human consciousness in such a way that they are relevant for all times.

When people are deprived of food, love, or peace and you provide them what they lack, you could become the phenomenon of the day. But when there is no such deprivation, what is relevant for a human being is ultimately how to enhance himself.

We gave the title Mahadeva only to him, because the intelligence, the vision, and the knowing behind it are unsurpassable. It does not matter where you were born, what religion, caste, or creed you are, whether you are a man or woman – these methods can be made use of forever.

Even if people forget him, they will still have to employ the same methods because he did not leave anything within the human mechanism unexplored. He did not give a teaching. He did not give a solution for that time. When people came to him with those kinds of issues, he just closed his eyes and showed absolute disinterest.

In terms of perceiving the nature of the human being, in terms of figuring out a way for every type of human being, it is literally an eternal contribution; it is not a contribution of the time or for the time. Creation means, what was nothing got knotted up into something. He figured out a way to unknot this creation into a non-creation state.

Why Adiyogi was Called Shiva?

This is why we gave him the name Shi-va – that means “that which is not.” When “that which is not” became something or “that which is,” we have called that dimension Brahma. Shiva was called so because he provided a method, a mode – not just one but every possible way as to how to attain to ultimate liberation, which means moving from something to nothing.

Shiva is not a name, it is a description. Like saying that someone is a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, we say he is Shiva, the un-doer of life. This got slightly misinterpreted as destroyer of life. But in a way it is right. It is just that when you use the word “destroyer,” people perceive it as something negative. If somebody had said “liberator,” it would have been perceived as positive.

Slowly, “un-doer” became “destroyer” and people started thinking he is negative. Call him whatever, he does not care – this is the nature of intelligence. If your intelligence rises to a certain height, you will not need any morality. Only when intelligence is lacking, you must tell people what not to do.

If someone’s intelligence has risen, they need not be told what to do and what not to do. He did not utter one word as to what to do and what not to do. The yama and niyama of the Yogic system are Patanjali’s making, not that of Adiyogi. Patanjali came much later.

Patanjali is relevant to us only because Yoga had diversified into too many branches, to a point of ridiculousness. Like 25, 30 years ago, if you wanted a medical check-up, only one doctor was needed. Today you need 12 to 15 – one for your bones, one for your flesh, one for your blood, one for your heart, one for your eye – this will go further. 

Let’s say in another hundred years, we get into so much specialization that if you need a medical check-up, you need 150 doctors. Then you will not want to go, because by the time you get 150 appointments, complete them, and compute 150 opinions, it will not be worth it. Then somebody will talk about assimilating all this and making a family physician out of him.

This is what Patanjali did. They say, close to 1800 branches of Yoga were there at that time. If you had to go through the whole process, you would have had to attend 1800 schools and do 1800 different types of Yogas.

It became impractical and ridiculous. So Patanjali came and put it all into 200 sutras to practice only eight limbs of Yoga. If such a situation had not been there, Patanjali would not be relevant. That is not the case with Adiyogi or Shiva because no matter what life situation, he is always relevant.

That is why he is Mahadeva.

Who is Shiva: Man, Myth or Divine?

Shiva refers to both “that which is not,” and Adiyogi because in many ways they are synonymous. Explore the stories and legends that surround this most prominent figure of Indian spiritual traditions.

Meaning of Shiva

When we say “Shiva,” there are two fundamental aspects that we are referring to. The word “Shiva” means literally, “that which is not.”

Shiva is Nothingness

Today, modern science is proving to us that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. The basis of existence and the fundamental quality of the cosmos is vast nothingness. The galaxies are just a small happening – a sprinkling. The rest is all vast empty space, which is referred to as Shiva. That is the womb from which everything is born, and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva.

Shiva is Darkness

So Shiva is described as a non-being, not as a being. Shiva is not described as light, but as darkness. Humanity has gone about eulogizing light only because of the nature of the visual apparatus that they carry. Otherwise, the only thing that is always, is darkness. Light is a limited happening in the sense that any source of light – whether a light bulb or the sun – will eventually lose its ability to give out light. Light is not eternal. It is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. Darkness is a much bigger possibility than light. Nothing needs to burn, it is always – it is eternal. Darkness is everywhere. It is the only thing that is all pervading.

But if I say “divine darkness,” people think I am a devil worshiper or something. In fact, in some places in the West it is being propagated that Shiva is a demon! But if you look at it as a concept, there isn’t a more intelligent concept on the planet about the whole process of creation and how it has happened. I have been talking about this in scientific terms without using the word “Shiva” to scientists around the world, and they are amazed, “Is this so? This was known? When?” We have known this for thousands of years. Almost every peasant in India knows about it unconsciously. He talks about it without even knowing the science behind it.

Meaning of Adiyogi – The First Yogi

On another level, when we say “Shiva,” we are referring to a certain yogi, the Adiyogi or the first yogi, and also the Adi Guru, the first Guru, who is the basis of what we know as the yogic science today. Yoga does not mean standing on your head or holding your breath. Yoga is the science and technology to know the essential nature of how this life is created and how it can be taken to its ultimate possibility.

Shiva transmitted the yogic sciences to the Saptarishis at the banks of Kantisarovar.

This first transmission of yogic sciences happened on the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a glacial lake a few miles beyond Kedarnath in the Himalayas, where Adiyogi began a systematic exposition of this inner technology to his first seven disciples, celebrated today as the Sapta Rishis. This predates all religion. Before people devised divisive ways of fracturing humanity to a point where it seems almost impossible to fix, the most powerful tools necessary to raise human consciousness were realized and propagated.

One and the Same 

What is the meaning of Shiva? Shiva is “that which is not” and because Adiyogi perceived that dimension which is the source of creation, he came to be known as Shiva.

So “Shiva” refers to both “that which is not,” and Adiyogi, because in many ways, they are synonymous. This being, who is a yogi, and that non-being, which is the basis of the existence, are the same, because to call someone a yogi means he has experienced the existence as himself. If you have to contain the existence within you even for a moment as an experience, you have to be that nothingness. Only nothingness can hold everything. Something can never hold everything. A vessel cannot hold an ocean.

This planet can hold an ocean, but it cannot hold the solar system. The solar system can hold these few planets and the sun, but it cannot hold the rest of the galaxy. If you go progressively like this, ultimately you will see it is only nothingness that can hold everything. The word “yoga” means “union.” A yogi is one who has experienced the union. That means, at least for one moment, he has been absolute nothingness.

When we talk about Shiva as “that which is not,” and Shiva as a yogi, in a way they are synonymous, yet they are two different aspects. Because India is a dialectical culture, we shift from this to that and that to this effortlessly. One moment we talk about Shiva as the ultimate, the next moment we talk about Shiva as the man who gave us this whole process of yoga.

Who Shiva is not!

Unfortunately, most people today have been introduced to Shiva only through Indian calendar art. They have made him a chubby-cheeked, blue-colored man because the calendar artist has only one face. If you ask for Krishna, he will put a flute in his hand. If you ask for Rama, he will put a bow in his hand. If you ask for Shiva, he will put a moon on his head, and that’s it!

Every time I see these calendars, I always decide to never ever sit in front of a painter. Photographs are all right – they capture you whichever way you are. If you look like a devil, you look like a devil. Why would a yogi like Shiva look chubby-cheeked? If you showed him skinny it would be okay, but a chubby-cheek Shiva – how is that?

In the yogic culture, Shiva is not seen as a God. He was a being who walked this land and lived in the Himalayan region. As the very source of the yogic traditions, his contribution in the making of human consciousness is too phenomenal to be ignored. Every possible way in which you could approach and transform the human mechanism into an ultimate possibility was explored thousands years ago.

The sophistication of it is unbelievable. The question of whether people were so sophisticated at that time is irrelevant because this did not come from a certain civilization or thought process. This came from an inner realization. This had nothing to do with what was happening around him. It was just an outpouring of himself. In great detail, he gave a meaning and a possibility of what you could do with every point in the human mechanism. You cannot change a single thing even today because he said everything that could be said in such beautiful and intelligent ways. You can only spend your lifetime trying to decipher it.

-This article is a contribution by Isha Foundation in collaboration with Varnam Malaysia-