What is Maha Shivaratri? The Festivals of Nepal

  • Admin
  • Updated on May 6, 2024

Mahashivaratri is one of the most auspicious festivals of Hindus which is celebrated by devotees with lots of fervor and aplomb.It is the most sacred festival of Shiva that falls on the fourteenth (Chaturdashi) day of the dark half (waning phase of the moon -Krishna Paksha) of the Hindu.

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Shivaratri, or Maha Shivratri, is a great festival of Hindus living in Nepal , India and all over the world. Every year, thousands of believers make pilgrimage to Pashupatinath Temple in order to celebrate this festival. Other temples of lord shiva such as Doleshwor Mahadev , Santaneshwor Mahadev, Halesi Mahadev, Bhaleshwor Mahadev also receive lot of pilgrims on this day. The tallest statue of lord shiva at Sanga, Kailashnath Mahadev is also very famous. The major site of attraction of course remains Pashupatinath on the bank  of river Bagmati.

For travelers, Shivaratri might be one interesting festival to observe in Nepal. The temple of Pashupatinath is crowded by volunteers, organizers and followers on the day of Shivaratri. 

Who is Lord Shiva, and why do we Celebrate Shivaratri?

The Hindus have a trinity – Brahma, Bishu – the preserver, and Lord Shiva – the destroyer. These three gods remain at the core of Hinduism and sprout out to the millions of gods in one or the other form. 

Lord Shiva is a birthless energy in the Universe, known for his power to destroy the Universe when the time comes. In Hinduism, everything that is created is preserved until the time comes for its destruction. 

This nature of Lord Shiva explains the cremation of dead bodies in Hinduism. Lord Shiva lives with the spirits, rules the animal kingdom and goes on meditational vacation in his home, the Kailash Parbat of Tibet. 

Because of his appearance, he comes off as an intimidating figure. He speaks the truth and is essentially the truth. Even the darkest of the demons fear his power and capability. He balances the Universe. 

Shiva is known for his sacrifice, patience as well as anger. When he’s angry, his third eye opens up, bringing range into the whole universe. 

Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife, is a powerful feminine Hindu figure. Their son, Ganesh (the elephant headed) is the first one to be named in every Hindu ritual. 

The saints and various pilgrims of India reach Pashupatinath one or two days before the festival. Hence, the various committees prepare to accommodate and feed these believers. Sight of camps, tents and stalls is common. After sunset, the temple lights up with colorful decorations. 

Pashupatinath is crowded on Shivaratri

And may be it might be one reaon to avoid it. However, some of us still want to visit the temple on this day, swimming through the with schools of people rushing everywhere. For tourists, paying the entry fees of NRS 1000 is still mandatory. However, after the entry ticket is acquired, you can directly enter the temple’s inner section. 

Serving Others -Shivaratri is more than just another Festival of Nepal

The Hindus believe that volunteer work brings back good Karma. That’s why you will find a lot of stalls providing food, medical checkup, water and juices for free. This is set up so that the followers that traveled miles for the pilgrimage don’t have to worry about anything while at the temple.

The people who put up cost for these charities are simply giving back to the community. There are several individuals and organizations that work tirelessly to feed and take care of the never ending line. For instance, the Pashupati Development Trust is a non-profit body taking care of the the temple management.

Take blessing from the Aghoris

There is a special cult of Aghori Babas (Saints) that visit Pashupatinath every year. Many of them don’t wear any clothes but ashes.

You will see these saints sitting in various areas of Pashupatinath. Taking blessings from them is regarded as highly fruitful in the Hindu Culture. They don’t wear any clothes and are basically naked except for stones and sticks.

The Difference Between Shivaratri and Maha Shivaratri

Shivaratri is celebrated on the fourteenth day of every month. So, in a year, there are exactly twelve Shivaratris. However, the one on the end of February or start of March is celebrated as the Maha Shivaratri. Maha Shivaratri is a major holiday festival in Nepal.

Visiting local Temples during Shivaratri

As Pashupatinath Temple is crowded, many people might like to visit other temples of Lord Shiva, and other Gods. Some of the popular ones are Koteshwor and Kuleshwor Mahadev Temples, Budhanilkantha Temple and several other shrines.

In fact, visiting any Mahadeva Temple is regarded as being equal to visiting Pashupatinath. So, if there’s a local temple around where you live, the spectacle would be similar if not as grandeur.

Lord Shiva is the God of Animals

That’s one reason that Pashupatinath and other Shiva Temples don’t accept any animal sacrifice. On the contrary, these temples have shelters for animals, elderly and the handicapped – all of whom need physical and emotional support. Such charities in Nepal go all around the year and not just during the festivals.

Smoking and Drinking Weed is Common around the Festival

Saints as well as believers (not all) consume weed and its products without fearing the authority during Shivaratri. This is strange knowing that consumption of Marijuana is illegal in Nepal. The culture of allowing such consumption dates back centuries and is a common sight around festivals like the Shivaratri and Holi. Besides smoking, a blend of weed and butter is used to make a drink “Bhang” which is also consumed by the locals.

Safety Measures

Some Locals Spend Shivaratri burning fire for Lord Shiva

As the name “Shivaratri” refers to “The night of Shiva”, it’s obvious that people stay overnight singing the hymns, prayers and burning fire. This is supposed to be a traditional ritual of celebrating Lord Shiva’s marriage. Fire plays a huge role in Hindu culture, so this overnight fire, known as “Dhuni” in local language, is also a significant observance during the festival.

Lord Shiva’s lifestyle influences youth and old alike

Lord Shiva’s somewhat unexplainable lifestyles – like staying at the cemetries, using human remain’s as body powder, opium love and rather masculine personality influences a lot of young people, as they boast to be carefree like Shiva. You can expect to see a lot of young people in Pashupatinath Temple, unlike any other festivals.

Apart from the locals, the army and police division also keep strong faith and celebrate this festival along with the local people. So yes, it will be crazy but it will be hell of a show. Jay Shambhu.




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