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:
#MahaShivratri Nepal,Millions of Hindus attend Shivaratri together from all over the world at Pashupatinath Temple pic.twitter.com/RFolN8g6az
— Sri (@srithh) February 16, 2015
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:
Today at #Pashupatinath, sadhus were getting ready for #Shivaratri! #Nepal #Kathmandu pic.twitter.com/5Zn1pCAY09
— Thomas Dutour (@dutourdumonde) February 16, 2015
Anup Kaphle, digital foreign editor at The Washington Post, tweeted:
Even a hermit wants to make sure he is looking pretty. Happy Shivaratri, and ॐ नमः शिवाय, to all Hindus! pic.twitter.com/cGwGFe3rMg
— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) February 16, 2015
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:
Clean Bagmati Campaign: Gaurighat, Pashupati areas cleaned ahead of Shivaratri http://t.co/93EilC6fBX pic.twitter.com/qutRwCHqWa
— The Kathmandu Post (@kathmandupost) February 15, 2015
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:
#ShivaRatri festival at #Pashupatinath. #Sadhu holy men, #Dada blessings and #cremations along the river. #Nepal pic.twitter.com/bQEfGR8XtI
— Kelsey Koontz (@kelskoontz) February 16, 2015
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:
One more #Shivaratri celebration from the archives. #Pashupati circa 1986 Photo: Bikas Rauniar pic.twitter.com/ogNOSvjyJ0
— NepalPictureLibrary (@nepalpiclibrary) February 17, 2015
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:
Happy Maha ShivaRatri to all. Kids in the streets are blocking the road saying Maha ShivaRatri ki Jay. #GhumGham #Pashupatinath
— Ashok Bhattarai (@ashokbhattarai) February 17, 2015
Stephane Huet, a cultural reporter at Nepali Times, tweeted:
“You have to give money, or else we won't let you pass” #Shivaratri #Kathmandu pic.twitter.com/Bqmu9Wb8Wg
— Stéphane Huët (@fanuet) February 17, 2015
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:
शिवरात्री को नाममा टन्न गाजा तान्ने हरुले सरस्वती पुजाको दिन चाही टन्न पढे कि पढेनन होला नि ?
— Eyes never lies (@smiluarchana) February 17, 2015
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]?