A portrayal of faith and devotion
Photographer : Niraj Karki
For those who go beyond the ‘ultimate stoner’ image, there is an aura associated with Lord Shiva, something mysterious, unknown but nevertheless acknowledged. In the month of Falgun, the fourteenth day of the waning moon marks a day that throughout time has remained unchanged in its spirit. The day -Shivaratri, or MahaShivaratri, which simply means ‘the night of Shiva’ is one of Nepal’s most celebrated and unique festivals.
It happens in the temple of Pashupati. The queues start from around midnight the night before with tens of thousands of devotees who wait for hours to enter the most sacred temple in Nepal. Many people fast the whole day and wash themselves in the river. Women following ‘Paravati’, pray for the well being of their husbands and sons while unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, considered the ideal husband.
The time of Shivaratri also sees the much-anticipated arrival of ‘sadhus’ that are easily spotted with stashes of marijuana (known also as ‘Shiva’s prasad which means religious gift), rolling joints and smoking openly, and sometimes, very often with the thousands of people who become intense devotees of Shiva for a day.
Away from the vicinity of Pashupati the infectious spirit of Shivaratri is seen in the countless bonfires scattered across town. During the day children put up temporary roadblocks collecting tolls to buy firewood and other goodies saying ‘Shiva Parvati lai jado bhayo’ (Shiva and Parvati feel cold).
Regardless of reasons, Pashupati at Shivaratri is magical. Crowd counts cross a hundred thousand. It is a powerful event to witness, an intense portrayal of faith and devotion at the same time coupled with untold ‘trippy’ quirks that make the festival unique, special and anticipated in a country where many traditions are slowly being lost.