Hindus Flock to Nepal's Ancient Pashupatinath Temple for Shivaratri Celebrations

Priests performing aarati (burning lights) to worship Lord Shiva at Pashupatinath Temple on the eve of Maha Shivaratri in Kathmandu. Image by Sunil Sharma. Copyright Demotix (11/2/2010)

Priests performing aarati (burning lights) to worship Lord Shiva at Pashupatinath Temple on the eve of Maha Shivaratri in Kathmandu. Image by Sunil Sharma. Copyright Demotix (11/2/2010)

Shivaratri (also known as Maha Shivaratri), the birthday of Lord Shiva, was celebrated with a huge fanfare by Hindus at Pashupatinath shrine in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.

The temple, dating back to 400 AD, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most significant Shiva temples in the world.

On February 17, over a million visitors visited the temple to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva, according to the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT).

As per the officials, 150,000 Indian pilgrims visited the temple along with devotees from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

Sri from Vijayawada, India tweeted:

During the festival, the temple sees a surge of sadhus, or Hindu holy people, from India and other parts of Nepal. This year around 6,000 sadhus of different sects arrived at the temple.

The sadhus are a special attraction at the temple. People not only come to worship at the temple but also visit the sadhus.

Thomas Dutour, a stock photographer based in Kathmandu, tweeted a picture of sadhu:

Anup Kaphle, digital foreign editor at The Washington Post, tweeted:

The festival, a national pride, sees a lot of advance preparation from the PADT and the Government of Nepal.

The Clean Bagmati Campaign supporters removed 26 metric tonnes of waste from the Pashupati-Gaurighat section of the holy Bagmati River, which flows by the temple, on the Saturday preceding the festival.

The Kathmandu Post tweeted:

Likewise, the authorities deployed 6,000 security personnel and 3,500 volunteers in and around the temple to manage and assist the crowd.

The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division was kept busy diverting vehicular movement on all major roads around the temple so as to make it easy for the devotees to get to the temple.

Following the custom, President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala offered Pooja (worship) at the temple. And the authorities had to manage the visit and the crowd at the same time.

While the authorities were busy managing the crowd, people from all walks of life enjoyed the aura of the festival at the Pashupati.

Kelsey Koontz, a feminist and activist, tweeted:

Due to the increasing population and modernization, the celebrations are completely different from the past.

Nepal Picture Library, a Nepali digital photo archive, tweeted a photo by Bikas Rauniar:

In Shivaratri, devotees also organize bonfires to warm Lord Shiva. It is a common belief that the God might be feeling cold as the festival is observed at the end of winter season.

In Kathmandu, children collect money by stopping the passers-by. The collected money is used to buy fuelwood to organize bonfires.

Ashok Bhattarai, a developer and traveller, tweeted:

Stephane Huet, a cultural reporter at Nepali Times, tweeted:

Shivaratri is not only famous for its religious significance, but also for the sadhus and devotees smoking marijuana at the temple premises. However, to discourage young people from engaging in trading and consuming marijuana, hashish and other drugs, the PADT stepped up vigilance and issued warnings.

The PADT allows only the visiting sadhus to smoke marijuana and other hallucinogens.

Quipping at the bad practice, Archana, a social worker, tweeted:

Did the young people smoking loads of marijuana in the name of Shivaratri study lot on the day of Saraswati Pooja [day for worshiping the goddess of learning]?

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