Maha Shivaratri (widely known as Shivaratri) is a Hindu festival night of Falgun Krishna Chaturdasi under Hindu Lunar Calendar, in reverence of God Shiva. Celebrated as the anniversary of birth of Lord Shiva, this festival also marks the union of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Observed at the night, this is one of the four popular nights of Hindu devotees: Kaalratri, Moharatri, Sukharatri and Shivaratri, and is regarded as one of the greatest festivals in the holy scriptures of the Hindus-the Puranas.
Stories behind the celebration of Shivaratri Festival
#1 Parvati (Shiva’s wife) prayed and meditated on the 13th night of the new moon to ward off any evil that might befall her husband. With the world facing destruction Parvati asked her husband Shiva to save it by dedicating a night where living souls would become active again and upon worshiping Shiva would have his blessings. Hence, it became known as the night of Shiva.
#2 During Samundra Manthan, the poison Halahal came out of the ocean. It started creating destruction all over. To protect the universe from the devastation Lord Shiva drank the poison and managed to keep it in his throat. His throat turned blue. Since then he is known as Nilkantha. Nila Kantha in Sanskrit is one with blue throat.
In the ‘Shivaratri’, God Shiva is believed to perform ‘Tandava’, a cosmic dance. The day starts by bathing the ‘Shiva Linga’ with water, milk and honey, along with Pancha Kavya (five products of cow, which are dung, urine, milk curd and ghee) and adding the woodapple or bel leaves to it. After bathing the Shiva Linga, the devotees apply the vermillion paste to it, and offer fruits and other foods, which is followed by burning the incense sticks and lighting the lamp. There are six items listed, which are considered to be precious and good to offer to Lord Shiva in this festival, which are Marmelos (Bel) leaves, Vermillion paste (Chandan), Food items (rice, fruits and nuts), Incense sticks, Lamp and Betel (Paan) leaves.
During the day time, people visit different Shiva temples (the Pashuatinath temple of Kathmandu is the greatest among them), and worship and celebrate in the name of God Shiva. The intoxicating items (Hashish, marijuana and other products of cannabis) which are illegal all over the year are common this day. It’s free to trade and consume them, and we can see a lot of devotees smoking and taking hashish freely, especially around the temple.
Shivaratri in Pashupatinath Temple
Since the Pashupatinath Temple is one of the largest, oldest and most important temples of God Shiva, millions of people gather in this temple to worship the God and celebrate Shivaratri in this day. Most of the devotees come from several parts of Nepal and India, making it a very crowded place. Along with the normal devotees, most of the Sadhus (saints) of Lord Shiva also come here to worship. Thousands of Sadhus can be seen here, and since hashish is legal and free in this day, most of them can be seen smoking and being high all the time. Another wonderful and eye-catchy aspect of the Pashupatinath Temple in the Shivaratri are the Naga Babas, who are simply the Sadhus and devotees of God Shiva, but are naked all the time. They don’t wear anything, have long hair, apply wood ashes to their whole body, and sit singing and smoking hashish. The main part of the temple will be opened at 12’o clock in the night in this festival, whereas at other days of the year the opening time is normally 5 or 6 am. The devotees line up in the queue since the previous evening, to worship the God.