Have no wonder if you see untidy freaks and ascetics with matted hair on the streets of Kathmandu or women dancing and fasting in a group. Believe, the fever of Shivaratri has begun.
Shivaratri, the night of Shiva, is an interesting Hindu festival and the beginning of one of the two halves of Hindu calendar. Shiva, one of the supreme gods in Hindu trinity, is the god of destruction, death, and protection. It is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the waning moon, Krishnapaksha of the month of Magh or Fagun of Bikram Era. Shivaratri is for many, worshipping, fasting, night-long vigil, chanting hymns bhajan while for ascetics retreat to wander Kathmandu, smoking and do something that attracts the crowd. Worshippers wish to take a holy bath or dip in the river and worship Shiva. Bonfires are lit, neighbors and friends share food, and devotees enjoy a night of music, song, and dance. They believe all sins get forgiven if one profoundly celebrates the festival. Worshippers put three horizontal stripes on the forehead symbolizing spiritual knowledge, purity and penance or Yoga. The ultimate objective, whatever a Hindu does during Shivaratri, is to experience the realm of enlightenment Moksha.
Worshippers visit Shiva temples. Women perform fasting, worship and dance. They eat consecrated offering prasad to break the fasting. Few smokers consume an intoxicating substance Bhaang prepared during Shivaratri. Indulgance in smoking intoxicating substance is a disapproving aspect of Shivaratri. For many visitors, it is a fluke to smoke of marijuana or different intoxicating offerings and gather with hope around sadhus and ascetics.
The fever of Shivaratri reaches its climax when tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors walk wit devotion towards the temple of Pashupati to worship. Pashupati Temple is one of the holiest Hindu shrines on earth and is a world heritage site. Worshippers gather from all over the Indian sub-continent to worship Shiva. Kathmandu experiences the sudden influx of devotees including thousands of yogis, sadhus, and ascetics from India. Special walking routes and vehicular arrangements are made for the day. Organizers estimate around 1,50,000 devotees to turn up to mark the day.
This is the day, Hindus believe, Shiva married Parvati. Married women worship the day for the well being of their husbands, while unmarried ones pray for an ideal husband like Lord Shiva! Parvati once asked Shiva what is his favorite day. When Shiva said it is Shivaratri, Parvati believed to have promoted the day and the ordered frenzied celebrations to begin.