Celebrated by Hindus all over the world, and other religious groups as well, Maha-Shivaratri or simply Shivratri is the biggest festival of Nepal. It means the Great Night of Shiva, celebrated on the 14th day of Magha month, as per the Hindu lunar calendar.
In Nepal, it's celebrated in the UNESCO's World Heritage Site in Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu Valley, visited by devotees and sadhus from around the world. It is popular amongst the younger generation and is looked upon as the day of smoking Cannabis or Ganja, and is also called the Nepali version of 420.
What is Maha-Shivaratri?
Pashupatinath Sacred Sanctuary, Divine Ambiance
Shivaratri means the Night of Shiva and represents the marriage of Lord Shiva or Mahadeva. It is one of the major festivals in Hinduism and celebrated by followers of Hindu religion all over the world.
Although being an ancient festival there are no records of the date of its origin. There are many Biblical stories related to this day.
One of the famous legends says a hunter once could not find anything to prey on and he waited atop a Wood apple tree. To get the attention of deer in the forest, he threw leaves off the tree, unaware of the fact that there was a Shiva Lingam just beneath him.
Gratified with the hunter's patience and the falling Wood apple leaves, Mahadeva appeared before him and bestowed him with knowledge and wisdom. In the hunter's encounter with the Destroyer himself, he stopped eating meat and became a vegan.
Significance of the Night of Darkness
Another tale tells us that Earth was facing an imminent threat, and Goddess Parvati pleaded Lord Shiva to save it from destruction. Gratified with Parvati's prayers, Mahadev agreed to save the world in return that people on Earth worship him with passion and dedication.
Henceforth, the day came to be known as Maha Shivaratri, and people started worshipping the Lord with great devotion and dedication.
Some mythology also states this event to be the day when Lord Shiva answered the question about his favourite to his wife, Goddess Parvati.
How is Shivaratri celebrated in Nepal?
Pashupati Baba: Spiritual Presence Captured
The day marks the overcoming of darkness and ignorance and is glorified by chanting prayers (Mahamritunjaya) and hymns all night long, fasting in the name of Shankar Mahadev. Some devotees meditate on virtues and ethics like self-restraint, non-violence, forgiveness, honesty and the discovery of Shiva.
Hindu temples in Nepal, India, and other places are decorated with lights and flowery decorations. Wood apple leaves, milk, and cold water are drained over Shiva Lingam, as they are the Lord's favourite.
In Nepal, the major attractions to look for are the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pashupatinath Temple, where thousands of Hindus gather to offer their prayers to Pashupatinath.
On this year of Visit Nepal 2020, the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is expecting a massive crowd of 1.3 million from visitors all over the globe.
As per the Chairman of Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), Mr Govinda Tandan,
A huge crowd is expected and we are working to manage a fine parking facility and a good place for devotees to sit. Also, as many devotees show eagerness to distribute food to the people present there, we are trying to manage a proper place for the devotees to enjoy their meal.
Maha-Shivaratri popular amongst Youngsters and Cannabis-Smokers
Besides its religious significance and myth, Shivaratri is also famous as pop culture in Nepal. It’s a National Holiday in Nepal and is looked upon as the day when people of every religion (even atheists and antagonists) come together to smoke marijuana or ganja.
Sadhus from India come over to visit Pashupatinath and smoke cannabis, which is a delightful sight for the tourists and are seen observing with awe and curiosity.
Shivaratri in Nepal is turning into pop culture among youngsters and is similar to the European and American version of 420, which marks the day of smoking pot.