By Rajiv Joshi | Title Picture: Anton Jankovoy
Maha Shivaratri is one of the fondly celebrated and devoured festival of Hindus in Nepal and around the world. This day marks the union of Shiva and Shakti, the Goddess of Power.
As the word ‘Ratri’ means night, the festival of Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. Maha Shivaratri is a celebrated by staying awake all night around a bonfire and performing prayers. Hindus mark this auspicious night as conquering over darkness and ignorance by worshipping lord Shiva.
Fruits, bel leaves, milk, and sweets are offered to lord Shiva. Most of the Hindu devotees keep fasting and perform Vedic worship of Shiva while some engage in other meditative activities. The sacred chant of “Om Namah Shivaya” can be heard in Shiva Temples throughout the celebration. After the overnight fasting and worshipping, the devotees devour themselves with the offerings that were made to Lord Shiva, in the form of Prashad.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated over three or ten days based on Hindu calendar. There is a Shivaratri in every lunar month, which is 12 per year. The main festival is called Maha Shivaratri. It is celebrated on the 13th night of the waning moon during the month of February or March on Gregorian calendar.
During the festival, people throng the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. They fast for the whole day and worship Lord Shiva wishing for the well-being and prosperity of themselves and their family members.
Pashupatinath temple is the center of Hindu pilgrims around the world on the day of Maha Shivaratri. The two tiered golden temple of Lord Shiva is also one of the finest examples of Nepali architecture.
Lying on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple wears festive look during Maha Shivaratri. Thousands of devotees from around the country and different parts of India and tourists from all over the world come to the temple premises to offer worship to Lord Shiva and experience the tranquil surrounding.
Sadhus from India and Nepal add extra charm to this festival. They make the vicinity more colorful. Sadhus cover themselves with ashes to look paler and decorate their bodies with bright and vibrant colors. Nanga Baba or the Naked Sadhus can also be seen wandering around the temples during Maha Shivaratri.