Maha Shivaratri and Pashupatinath

Posted on Feb 27, 2014 by subodhscs under Culture and Festival

Tags: Kathmandu, Pashupatinath, Shivaratri, Nepal

Maha Shivaratri Meaning

Maha Shivaratri (meaning the great night of Shiva- the holiest diety of Hindus) falls on the moonless (Falgun Krishna Paksha) 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Falgun, which corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Hindu devotees celebrate this day as one auspicious occasion and observe strict fast in honor of Lord Shiva-the supreme power of primal creation, preservation and destruction. Hindus believe that a devoted fasting would please Lord Shiva and absolve a person of all the sins to liberate him for the cycle of birth and death. Married women observe fast and worship Lord Shiva and Parvati (spouse of Lord Shiva) to shower their grace for a peaceful and blissful married life while the unmarried girls pray for an ideal husband like Shiva.

Why is Shivaratri celebrated?

As per the Hindu mythology, there are many legends marking this day as Shivaratri. It is believed that Shivaratri is the auspicious day when day Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. Some believe that on this very night, Lord Shiva saved the world by drinking the poison that emerged from the ocean during the great mythical churning of the ocean and threatened to destroy the entire world. Lord Shiva drank the poison which turned his throat blue, giving him the name Nilkantha. Later to quench the heat from the poison he pierced Earth using his Trishul and drank the holy water at the Himalayas, the place today is revered as Gosainkunda.

Another popular legend from Hindu mythology says that this is the auspicious night when Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga, a symbol for the worship of Lord Shiva. Also some believe that this is the night when Lord Shiva performed Tandava- the divine dance performed by Lord Shiva that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution.

What people do in Shivaratri?

Millions of Hindu Devotees worship Lord Shiva on this day at all the different famous Shiva Shakti Peetham. Nishita Kal is the ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja as per the Hindu traditions. Devotees clean the Shiva Lingas and offer cold water, milk and belpatra (aromatic leaves Bael- species of tree, native to Indian Subcontinent) on the holy Shiva Lingas. Sadhus-the hindu monks visit holy shrines of Lord Shiva and offer marijuana to worshippers. They portray themselves as the ardent follower of Lord Shiva by wearing a garland made of Rudraksha and applying turmeric vermilion or holy ash on forehead as did Lord Shiva. They recite holy mantras and perform special pujas throughout the night to celebrate Shivaratri. Most people often keep an all-night-long vigil (jagarana). All through the day the devotees, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra dedicated to Lord "Om Namah Shivaya". All the sweet shops sell Ladu or any form of cake or Special Lassi (milkshake) on this very day with Bhang (made out of leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant) as a gracious offering to Lord Shiva.

Shivaratri Festival at Pashupatinath Nepal

Located on the bank of holy Bagmati river to the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is revered as the most holiest shrines of Lord Shiva. The two-tiered pagoda style temple at the center of the town of Deopatan, was originally built by Supuspadeva, a Lichchhavi king in 753AD. The temple was attacked and badly destroyed by Sultan Samsuddin of Bengal in the mid14th century. The temple was then erected a new in the 17th century by King Bhupatindra Malla. There are gold gilt doors on all the four faces of the temple inside which stands the about three feet high Shivalinga with four faces. All these faces of the the black stone diety have different names and significances and are worshipped at different times of the day. The Namboothiri Brahmins from Kerala, India are the priest to do all the rites and rituals in the temple and only 4 priests can touch the deity.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees throng at Pashupatinath on the holy occasion of Maha Shivaratri. People gather at the temple from as early as 2 AM in the morning to worship the deity. Recently the authorities have inducted a system of a priority line for NRs.1000 who would not have to stand on a line for the holy darshan of the Shrine. Pashupatinath becomes a major attraction for tourists from all over the world on this day especially because of the Sadhus and Naga Babas (the naked Hindu monks). It is the Sadhus who travel long distances on foot mostly from India to reach Pashupatinath, making it extra bit special during the Shivaratri. Most of them have their bodies painted with turmeric vermilion or holy ash, a Rurdraksh garland on neck and decorated body parts with bright colors. They usually attract a huge crowd as most of them are high on Hashish and Marijuana, which are offered to them for free by the Governmental authorities. There are a lot of Naked Sadhus, better known as Nagas, who walk around completely naked. They become the center of attraction for a lot of tourists. These spiritual warriors are taken special care and provided with proper food and even travel fare by the Government authority. Bonfires are lit and feasts of food are put out for all in the Pashupatinath area for the devotees. As the area is crowded with almost a million visitors on the day so Nepal Police, Red Cross, Medical and Emergency services and public volunteers assist in the queue management, sanitation, safety and security issues.

Pashupatinath is Nepals most renowned Hindu cremation site.

How to reach Pashupatinath?

As many people gather at the area, getting lost is one big issue, if you are not familiar of the routes. Each year government authorities designate proper routes to enter and exit the area. Among the planned routes, one enters from Gaushala, passing through Bankali, another passes from Chabahil through Mitrapark, the third from Sifal.

If you are in Kathmandu, the following are the routes you can reach Pashupatinath area:

Ringroad: If you are anywhere on the Kathmandu ringroad, take a bus that goes throughout the ringroad. Pashupatinath is some 10-15 minute ride on a taxi from the Tribhuvan International Airport and around half an hour ride from the Gongabu Bus Park.

Center of Kathmandu: If you are around the center of Kathmandu (Old Buspark, Durbar Marg, New Road, Ratnapark, Bagbazar, area), catch a microbus at Ratnapark for the route of Jorpati, Gaushala or Mulpani. Since the Pashupatinath area is very crowded, you will have to get down at Maitidevi and walk for around 20 minutes pass the Kalopul.

Happy Maha Shivaratri

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