While studying in India, you will have the opportunity to experience many fun holidays and celebrations. One of these, which I would highly encourage you to check out, is Mahashivratri.
I first learned about this spring holiday in a Hindi class, where I also learned about the Yogi known as Sadhguru and his amazing spiritual and philanthropic efforts with the Isha Foundation. Mahashivratri is a day when Hindus worship the god Shiva and celebrate the end of winter by staying up all night. According to Sadhguru, the Northern Hemisphere is specially positioned on this night to create a natural increase in energy, so it is beneficial for people to stay upright from dusk 'til dawn, absorbing the energy through dancing, meditating, and spending time with family and friends. Every year, a huge gathering of people meet at Sadguru's Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore, India and celebrate Mahashivratri together, a video for which can be found below:
After seeing a similar video last year, I decided that I should go to the event if I was ever in India at the same time, and sure enough, Coimbatore is just a short plane ride away from Hyderabad! The event itself is free, though you can, if you want, pay for seating that is closer to the stage. Devon (my friend and CIEE roommate) and I went together and ended up sitting in the cheapest non-free seats available, which were ₹500 ($6.90) each. Personally, I had never stayed up all night before, so while I was excited for the night to begin, I was worried if I could actually go through with the tradition.
But what a night it was!
The event was very crowded and our seats were far from the main stage, but the Isha Yoga Center’s festival grounds were beautiful and outfitted with good-quality utilities such as restroom blocks, drinking water stations, first-aid tents, and free food stalls. There were also some purchasable souvenir and food stands, which I used to buy a nice ice cream sundae when I was dozing off at 2 am.
Speaking of not sleeping, the ambience of the festival was absolutely incredible. There were large screens and speakers evenly scattered around so that everyone could see what was happening no matter where they were sitting. All night long, there were musical performances by incredible artists that I later had to find on Spotify, followed by powerful meditation sessions that filled me with energy even as time went on. Miraculously, I did manage to stay up all night (and Devon only took an hour nap), with the help of the music, the meditations, and the communal happiness of everyone around me. Everyone, young and old, kept dancing all night and were so kind and welcoming. Even though I was surrounded by what I would later learn to be 700 THOUSAND people, I never ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe, and I came back to my hostel that morning knowing that I would remember this night forever.
All in all, I would recommend that anyone coming to Hyderabad in the spring should come to this event, especially if they want to have a genuine and immersive Indian cultural experience. Even if you may be concerned about participating in a Hindu religious celebration, Sadhguru says that this holiday "is not about worship [or] a particular belief system. This is about enhancing the human beings that we are." Whatever your beliefs are, participating in Mahashivratri can help you awaken new energies within yourself, and teach you to love the world just a little bit more.