If you know Nepal, you might already know that there are lots of festivals every month. Today, we have one of those festivals and it is called Maha Shivaratri. It is believed that Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva was created by his own divine grace so this day is celebrated by Hindus with enthusiasm. Shivaratri literally means ‘ the night consecrated to Shiva’.
Maha Shivaratri is a national holiday in Nepal.
According to a legend, Parvati performed tapas, prayed and meditated on this day to ward off any evil that might befall her husband on the moonless night. Since then, Maha Shivaratri is believed to be an auspicious occasion for women to pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons. An unmarried woman prays for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. Another legend is that Shiva and Shakti married each other on this day.
There is one more legend of Shivaratri associated with Samudra Manthan, a battle between devas and asuras during which a pot of poison came out of the ocean and on the request of gods, Lord Shiva drank the poison. The poison was so potent that it changed the colour of His neck to blue. For this reason, Lord Shiva is also called Neelkanth (one whose throat is blue).
So basically this festival is in honour of the Hindu God Shiva. Today all the Shiva temples will be very busy. One of the best places to see the celebration will be Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu located on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. There will be thousands of people from all over the world (it is regarded as one of the most sacred temples for Hindus) coming to worship Shiva during the festival.
There will be a mela the days before and after Shivaratri where people fill the roads around the temples of Lord Shiva especially Pashupatinath temple . There will be holy men, beggars, pilgrims, children and tourists.
The night before Shivaratri, all the devotees from all over the country spend the night lightning sacred fires, singing praises of the deity, and keeping a constant vigil to greet his descent to earth, on the grassy hills around the temple to enjoy the warmth of good companionship and chatting around.
At midnight, the celebration begins officially with priests inside the temple making special offerings. Then devotees will take a dip in holy Bagamati river and start their fasting. They offer Bael leaves to Lord Shiva. They will spend the whole day singing sacred songs around the temple. As all the Sadhus are treated as guest , they will be offered free food and accommodation during Shivaratri.
Shivaratri is the only day in the year where marijuana and bhang is legal in Nepal so on this day devotees indulge in smoking them. It is believed that Lord Shiva is fond of these substances and marijuana is taken as a Prasad.
There are lost of tourists around the Pashupatinath temple on this day as there are lots of Sadhus with ash all over the body and devotees with colourful draping chanting hymns of Lord Shiva.
It is believed that if you worship Lord Shiva this day and fast by eating only vegetarian food, all your sins are forgiven. So there will be queues kilometres long in the Pashupathnath temple whole day.
Also this day, kids and youth block the road for vehicles to collect money which they use to buy bhoj in the evening. Mostly vehicles owners are happy to give a rupee or two. When I was a kid I do remember the block in our area made some of the vehicle owners angry with the kids blocking the roads.
Today I worshipped Shiva’s idol at home in the morning and took his blessings. Hope all my sins will be forgiven and we will be blessed with an awesome 2012.
Happy Shivaratri everyone!!!