Mahashivaratri or Shivaratri is one of the major festival of Hindus which is widely celebrated yearly in Nepal and India. In this festival Lord Shiva is worshipped as a remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world.
This festival falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Falgun (Feb/Mar) in late winter and before the arrival of spring.
It is celebrated by remembering Lord Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing yoga, meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva.
Sadhus can be seen smoking hashish/Ganja/Cannabis/Weed openly around the temple of Lord Shiva on this day, as it is considered boon (blessing) from lord Shiva. Though it is illegal in Nepal.
Maha Shivaratri means “the Great Night of Shiva”
Who is Lord Shiva?
The meaning of Shiva is “Auspicious One” and he is one among Trimurti Gods: Brahma, Bishnu and Maheswor. Shiva is Maheshwor.
Lord Shiva is considered as creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer and reliever.
He lives in the Himalayas, Northern part of Nepal at Mount Kailash and lives as a sadhu (saint). Lord Shiva wears skin of Deer, sits on Tigers skin and has a snake (Cobra) around his neck.
Damaru is his favorite musical instrument, Nandi (OX) is his Bahan (Vehicle) and Trishul is his weapon.
Lord Shiva wears Rudrakshya on his neck and his hair is the home of Holy Ganga. He is a great meditator, and is very kind to his devotees and notices everything that happens in the world.
Satidevi was his first wife and again married Parvati as his second wife. Ganesh and Kumar are his sons.
Legends of Maha Shivaratri
There are many legends behind the celebration of Mahashivaratri. Some of the famous ones are
1. Wedding of Shiva and Parvati
According to one of the most famous legends, this day is marked as the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. On this day, temples of Shiva are decorated with flowers and devotee take out a procession in the name of Shiva-Parvati marriage.
2. Shiva’s Birthday – The Emergence of Shivalinga
According to another myth, Lingobhav Moorti was self-immerged at midnight of Shiva Ratri. Thus, the night is celebrated as the Birth-Night of Lord Shiva.
3. The Legend of Neelkantha
During Samundra Manthan, the poison Halahal came out of ocean which started creating destruction all over the world. In order to protect the universe from the poison, Lord Shiva drank all the poison and hold it in his throat, which turned his throat in blue color. Since then he is also known as Neelkantha (Blue Throat in Sanskrit).
Thus, the day is celebrated thanking Lord Shiva for protecting world from the dangerous poison.
4. Hunter Who Discovered Shivalinga
Based on another popular legend, one day a hunter did not find anything to kill for food. So, he decided to spend the night in the forest on a Bel Tree to keep himself safe from other wild animals. Since, he had nothing to do, he started to pluck the leave and throw them, unaware of Shivalinga under the tree. Pleased with the patience of hunter, Lord Shiva appeared before him and blessed him with wisdom on this day.
5. When Earth worshipped Lord Shiva
Another belief is that, once goddess Parvati pleaded Lord Shiva to save the earth from a destruction. On a condition that the people should worship him with dedication and passion, Lord Shiva agreed and saved the world. Thus, the night came to be known as Maha Shivaratri.
And It is also believed that, flowers bloom exactly the day after Maha Shivaratri.
6. Shiva’s Dance
According to another myth, it is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction.
Natraja (the supreme god of dances), is another form of Lord Shiva and his dances like Tandava and Lasya are performed in different forms by classical dancers with respect for Shiva.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri, devotees take a holy bath, early in the morning and wear new, clean clothes. Then they visit temple of Lord Shiva to worship him.
Most of the Hindu women keep fasting on this day. Most of them even don’t drink a single drop of water. Married women keep fasting for the long and healthy life of their husband whereas unmarried girls keep fasting to get good and wise husband like Lord Shiva.
According to the Shiva Puran, there are six items regarded auspicious to worship and offer Lord Shiva in Maha Shivaratri. They are
- Bel Leaves (Marmelos Leaf): Offering of Bel Leaves represents purification of soul.
- Chandan (Vermillion Paste): Chandan is inseparable part of worshipping Lord Shiva, Applying Chandan on Shivalinga after washing it represents good feature.
- Prasad (Food Items): Food items like rice and fruits are offered to ensue long life and fulfillment of desire.
- Dhoop Batti (Incense): Incense sticks are lit before worshipping Lord Shiva, to be blessed with wealth and prosperity.
- Diyo Batti (Lamp): The lighting of Cotton handmade batti , lamp or diyo is believed to be helpful to gain knowledge.
- Paan ko Patta (Betel Leaves): Betle leaves or Paan ko pat represents satisfaction with maturity.
Meaning of Om Namaha Shivaya (ॐ नम: शिवाय)
Lord Shiva is worshipped by chanting Mahamantra (also called Sadakshri mantra- सदाक्षरी मन्त्र), “Om Namaha Shivaya”.
Each letter in this mantra has spiritual meaning.
“Om” alone is the sound of life, it is the beginning and it is the end.
In Sanskrit, the meaning of Om is avati, or rakuati. Rakuati means one who protects or sustains.
Na (न): Main god of all the regions (loks)
Ma (म): One who gifts supreme and spiritual knowledge and destroys greatest sins
Shi (शि): generous, calm and responsible for the beginning by Lord Shiva
Va (वा): Symbol of vehicle (Nandi) the bull and the Vasuki and Vamangi Energies (Shakti)
Ya (य): Positive residence of highest heaven and Lord Shiva.
Just chanting of "Om Namaha Sibhaya" relives anyone from sufferings.
Must Visit place in Shivaratri
Pashupatinath is the must visit place during Mahashivaratri festival in Nepal. Pashuptinath itself is one of the oldest and sacred temple of Hindus in Nepal. It lies on the banks of holy Bagmati River.
The temple is dedicatied to Lord Shiva and thousands of tourists visit every year. Although non-hindu are not allowed to enter the temple.
Many other temples, stupas and sadhus can be seen on the premises of the Pashupatinath temple.
And it is believe that the people who die in Pashupatinath temple are reborn as humans, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their Karma.
So the dead bodies are burnt on the banks of Bagmati river and the ashes are thrown on the river which later meets the holy Ganga river.
During Mahashivaratri, thousands of Hindu devotee visit the temple from all over the country and India as well. In order to take control over the huge crowd of pilgrims and devotees, huge number of police forces is used on this day.
Pashupatinath and its atmosphere during Maha Shivaratri Celebration
Aside from crowd, Mahashivaratri is welcoming and happy festival. You can see people celebrating the festival, worshipping Lord Shiva, cremation of the dead on the banks of Bagmati River, blessings, etc. from the opposite side of the temple which is allowed to the people of all religion.
1. The Sadhus of Pashupatinath
So, one of the major attraction of Pashupatinath area is sadhus who come from all over the country and also from India. On this day, they color their body with ashes and some bright colors.
Sadhus here are tourist friendly and will pose for you to take photos. Though it is not free. You need to pay some amount (NPR 50-100), so it would be better if you keep some changes with you.
2. The Naked Sadhus
Apart from the normal sadhus, you can also see sadhus walking around completely naked on this auspicious day, Mahashivaratri.
They will be in trance after smoking Ganja and you can see them dancing on the banks of river.
It is believed that smoking weed/cannabis/hashish is a blessing (Prasad) from Lord Shiva. So, you can see sadhus and some youngsters smoking weed openly on the premises of Pashupatinath Temple.
Though smoking weed is not legal in Nepal.
Thus, this is how we celebrate Mahashivaratri in Nepal. And this year this festival falls on 1st Falgun, 2074 (13th February, 2018). So, you are always welcome to Nepal and celebrate with us.
So, what are your thoughts on Lord Shiva, legends of lord Shiva and Mahashivaratri celebration?
Some other places to visit in Kathmandu are