Maha Shivaratri is an auspicious period observed once a year for uniting oneself with the Shiva Tattva, the principle of Shiva in the cosmos.
A detailed understanding of why this festival of Maha Shivaratri is observed, is discussed in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, which is part of the Bharath Gyan Series.
In today’s times, Maha Sivaratri festival is celebrated between mid February and mid March every year.
There is a text called Kaushitaki Brahmana, an accompanying text to the Veda, which has been authored by Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki.
Here, he mentions that he lived about 4 generations after the time of the Mahabharata characters. Assuming an average of 25 years for a new generation to be born, we can thus take his time period to be about 100 years after the Mahabharata times.
Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki should have then lived around 3000 BCE. In his text, the Kaushitaki Brahmana, he mentions that the Maha Shivarathri festival day occurred on a winter solstice day.
In present times, the winter solstice occurs on December 21st. On a winter solstice day, the sun is at the southernmost point in its journey between the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Maha Shivaratri is observed in the lunar month of Magha, on the night preceeding the New Mooon night, Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi.
From the text of Kaushitaki Brahmana we can understand that Maha Shivaratri, Magha Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi and winter solstice occurred on the same day, that year, around 3000 BCE.
The month of Magha occurred around December – January in 3066 BCE as we have seen when we dated Bheeshma’s Nirvana.
In 2018 CE, this month Magha falls around February – March, indicating a gap of close to 70 days.
Can we account for this gap?
Both, the ancient Indian texts and modern astronomy, mention about the precession of equinox. This precession occurs at the rate of approximately one day over 72 years. Because of this precession of equinox, seasons keep slipping by one day in every 72 years. Over a large span of time, what was summer once would probably become autumn or even winter.
Using this precession of equinox giving rise to the slippage of one day in every 72 years and multiplying it by 70 days, which is the difference between the Maha Shivaratri day celebrated now or Magha month now and the Magha month or Maha Shivaratri day celebrated during the time of Mahabharata.