Maha Shivaratri is one of the big festivals of Nepal and literally means “Night of Lord Shiva”. It is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Magh month, as per the Hindu lunar calendar.
According to the Hindu religion, It is believed that on this day, the stars in the Northern Hemisphere are at most optimum positions to help raise a person’s spiritual energy. It is also believed that the Shiva principle is most active on this day of the year.
Hundreds of thousands of devotees visit Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus. Pashupatinath is considered the Guardian and Protector of the Hindus. Not only in Nepal but Pashupatinath is worshipped by Hindus from the entire world. During Shivaratri, many devotees visit Pashupatinath not only from Nepal but from India and other countries.
Devotees chant “Om Namah Shivay” and “Mahamritunjaya” all night praying for light over darkness. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva. Tourists are seen enjoying the ambiance with curiosity, as colorful and naked sadhus are seen meditating, posing for photographs and interacting with disciples.
Special attendance camps are set in the courtyards of the temples. Children are seen collecting donations from passersby on this day preparing for holy meal and bonfire in celebration of the special night.
Importance of Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is known as one of the most celebrated religious festivals for Hindus. Every year Hindus from all over the world are seen thronging many Shiva temples during this festival. Pashupatinath Temple is the place with the biggest crowd on this day. Besides Pashupatinath Temple, there is a big crowd of devotees in other Shiva Temple all over Nepal.
Apart from Puja and Darshan other attractions for visitors to the temple vicinity at the time will be the colorful crowd including gorgeous Sadhu Babas from different parts of Nepal and India. People come to Pashupatinath to observe and see the different kinds of Sadhu Babas and their activities. But one thing to be considered is some Sadhus are completely naked.
History and significance
Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva’s presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married. A different legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation.
The significance of dance tradition to this festival has historical roots. The Maha Shivaratri has served as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples such as at Pashupatinath Temple, Bageshwori Temple, etc.
It is believed that on this particular day Lord Shiva gulped the Halahala produced during Samundra Manthan and beheld it in his neck which bruised and turned blue, after which he was named as Neel Kanth.