Maha Shiva Ratri
The Night of Shiva
Maha Shiva Ratri
Maha Shivaratri is one of the commonly popular festivals among the Hindus in India and Nepal. The technical translation of Maha Shiva Ratri is “The Great Night of Shiva”. In fact, the 14th day of every lunar calendar or the day before the full moon is considered as Shiva Ratri and there are 12 Shivaratris in a lunar calendar of a year or 12 full moons. Among these 12 Shivaratris, the Shivatri that occurs in the month of Falgun (Nepali and Indian Calendar) or February-March is called Maha Shivaratri, which has significant spiritual value.
In this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being. This is a day where nature is pushing one towards spiritual peak. Therefore, Hindu establish this night-long festival in order to capitalize the state of spirituality as a part of human life.
According to a legend, Parvati (the consort of Shiva) prayed and meditated on 13th night of new moon to ward off any evil that might befall on Shiva, which is also called union of Shiva and Parvati.
According to another legend, with world facing destruction, Parvati asked her lord Shiva to save it by dedicating a night where living souls become active and upon worshipping Shiva would have his blessings. Shiva spent the night performing the Tandava Dance, the Cosmic Dance of creation, preservation and destruction.
However, to the ascetics or yogic tradition, Shiva is not worshipped as a God, but considered as Adi Guru, the First Guru ( first teacher) from whom the knowledge originated. After long meditation, one day Shiva had once become absolute still like a Mount Kailash. That day is Maha Shivaratri. All movement in him stopped and he became utterly still, so ascetics see Mahashivratri as the night of stillness.
Ritual of Shiva Ratri
According to Shiva Purana, Maha shivaratri worship must in cooperate 6 items:-
1. Bathing Shiva Linga with milk, water and honey and bel leaf is offered that represents purification of soul.
2. Applying Chandan (Vermilion paste) on Shiva Linga after washing represents good feature.
3. Food items such as rice and fruits are offered to the Lord to ensure a long life and fulfillment of desires.
4. Incense sticks (Dhoop batti) are lit before Lord Shiva to be blessed with wealth and prosperity.
5. Lamp (Diyo) — The lighting of Cotton handmade batti, lamp or diyo is believed to be helpful to gain knowledge.
6. Offering Betel leaves (Paan ko Patta) represents satisfaction with maturity.
On this day, shiva temple will be crowded with pilgrims. On the part of India, crowd of pilgrims can noticed in the temple of Mandi in Himanchal State, Haridwar in Uttarakhand State, South Indian State and Herath in Kasmir State.
Maha Shivaratri In Nepal
There is national holiday on Maha Shivaratri in Nepal. Crowd of devotees can be observed in different parts of Nepal worshiping in Shiva Temple. But, Pashupatinath temple premises, one of the highest pilgrimages for Hindu followers, is the center of attraction for millions of people from Nepal and India holding the worshiping stuff in their hands. Pushupatinath is another incarnation of Shiva as guardian and protector of animals, as a whole, entire creature. Devotees chant “Om Namah Shivay” and “Mahamritunjaya” all night praying for light over darkness.
Sadhus and Babas (Ascetics) from Nepal and India make Pashupatinath temple premises extra special during Shivaratri. Many cover their bodies with ashes to give it pale complexion where as some ascetics are completely undressed. Smoking pot is illegal in Nepal, but ascetics are allowed for the religious purpose inside the Pashupati Temple premise. Ascetics can be observed smoking weeds and hashish openly as a divine gift from Lord Shiva as Shiva himself is depicted enjoying weed sand hashish.
Female devotees both married and unmarried pray to the Shiva and Parvati for the well-being of her family and relatives in all aspects where as unmarried women, in particular, seeks her blessings for a future husband to the like of Shiva.
There is always a big fair and market set around Pashupati temple area in Shiva Ratri. People stand in queue line from early morning to pay homage to Shiva Linga at Pashupatinath. The line become kilometers long and devotees stand there to perform worshipping rituals of Shiva for hours without food or some even without water.
Around the streets, from the evening time, fireplaces are set. Hymns will be played on the honor of Shiva and his re-incarnations and manifestation. Prasad will be distributed among the people at the fireplaces. Some people stay close to fire until midnight and some people do stay whole night.
Consumption of Cannabis in the festival of Maha shivaratri
Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is expecting around 1.3 millions of devotees and 5000 ascetics (sadhus) to the premises of Pashupati Temple.
From religious point of view, marijuana and its derivatives are considered as the divine gifts of Shiva. So, on the day of Maha Shivaratri, basically Ascetics as well as normal people consume them to pay homage to Shiva.
Although the government classified marijuana and its derivatives as drugs and banned their use and sale in 1973, the authorities have been tolerating their uses during Maha Shivaratri to respect the religious significance and sensitivity.
PADT is aware of the cannabis smoking and selling that transpired on the temple premises during previous Maha Shivaratris. This year, however, it plans to strictly monitor the use and sale of cannabis. Hence, ascetics (Sadhus) will be exempt from smoking, the visitors will be arrested if caught smoking or for possession and they are instructed not to sell or offer marijuana to the visitors this year. The PADT and Metropolitan Police will be coordinating each other to monitor the activities of reveller as well as the consumption of cannabis by unconcern parties.