Maha Shivaratri – Honoring Lord Shiva
The Lord of all Lords in the Hindu religion is Lord Shiva, and his home was in Nepal. The festival of Maha Shivaratri is therefore one of the biggest and most celebrated events of the year. Lord Shiva is also known as the God of Destruction or Destroyer of Evil, and the day of his creation is the day that is honored and celebrated by the Hindu followers. The festival is held on the thirteenth night until the morning of the fourteenth day, in the month of Phalguna, as indicated on the Hindu calendar. Visitors are welcomed at the ceremonies, and invited to join in on a unique opportunity to experience the festival first hand.
There are a few legends and stories connected to the Maha Shivaratri that have significant meaning to some of the rituals that are performed. One such legend is that a hunter once started to worship Lord Shiva, without realizing that is was the day of Shivaratri. To pay honor to Lord Shiva, the hunter fasted under a tree for the entire night, laying down bael leaves at the base of the tree. Because of the great efforts by the hunter and because of the day he was worshipping on, all his sins were forgiven. The fact that followers can have all their sins forgiven if they worship Lord Shiva at Maha Shivaratri is still a part of the Hindu belief.
Another famous legend is that Lord Shiva was set to marry his beloved Sati, but King Daksha was so opposed to the marriage that while attending the yagnya holy sacrifice, he publicly and intentionally ignored Lord Shiva. These actions infuriated Sati so much that she threw herself on the still burning sacrificial fires. Lord Shiva was devastated at losing Sati and blamed King Daksha for Sati’s demise. He performing the Taanday, a terrifying dance, which completely destroyed the kingdom of King Daksha. To try and appease Lord Shiva and calm him down, before he shattered the rest of the world, the gods brought Sati back to life, and it is believed that Lord Shiva and Sati were joined in marriage on Maha Shivaratri.
In Nepal, the festival is held in Kathmandu, and Hindu’s pilgrimage to the Pashupati Temple from all across the country. Worshippers rub ash onto their bodies, pray to Lord Shiva and carry out ceremonies throughout the night. Fasting, meditating and even the smoking of marijuana are all part of the festival. It is the only day that the smoking of marijuana is legal. Tourists and visitors are allowed to watch the festival from the sidelines, but only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple. It is a fascinating sight and a interesting part of the Nepalese culture.