Hindus celebrate Maha Shivaratri festival
Kathmandu: Hindus in Nepal celebrated their biggest festival Maha Shivaratri on Monday by offering prayers to Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the God of immense power and destruction. Shivaratri is celebrated annually in the devotion of Lord Shiva on a new moon day in the Nepali lunar month of Falgun. Devotees from across Nepal and other countries such as India, Malaysia and Singapore gathered in the holy shrine Pashupatinath Temple, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in Kathmandu for the special prayers. On this day, devotees offer milk and flowers, especially “Dhaturo” (an intoxicating plant) and green leaves named “Belpatra” to Lord Shiva and light the oil lamps. People also observe fast and meditation on this day, while light woods and bonfires during the night and perform special prayers. There are various myths behind marking of Maha Shivaratri, among which the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati is one of the major reasons for celebration. One of the major attractions of Shivaratri festival in holy shrine Pashupatinath is the visiting sadhus (sages) from within the country and neighboring India. According to Pashupati Area Development Trust, this year around 7,000 sages of various clans have thronged the temple. Beside prayers and devotion, the visiting sages with unique appearances are mostly seen getting intoxicated with local drugs. They engage in smoking weed, locally known as “Ganja” referring it to sacred Prasad of Lord Shiva. Though the use of drugs is illegal in Nepal, the sages are often found mixing up some tobacco, marijuana and other cannabis-derived compounds and inhaling. The holy men believe that consuming marijuana enables them to overcome all the miseries and complexities of life. Another aspect of Shivaratri festival is the visiting Naga Babas who avoid all the clothes and cover the body only with ashes. These naked sages remain inside the main corridor of the temple for three days in the devotion of Lord Shiva. This year, over 1 million devotees are expected to visit Pashupatinath Temple on the occasion. The Nepali government provides a public holiday every year to mark the festival.