Festival # I’ve lost count… Shivaratri

On February 17th it was time for another major festival, although to be perfectly honest I have lost count of the number even just since I arrived in Nepal so Shivaratri is number…? “Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in reverence of the god Shiva.”

#1 I was reliably informed that the most magical place to witness Shivaratri on a grand scale in Kathmandu is at the Pashupatinath Temple where “millions of Hindus attend Shivaratri together from different part of the world at the famous Pashupatinath Temple”. So returning for only the second time, since I enjoyed Teej here back in August last year, I came to marvel at another spectacular Hindu event. Here’s a view across the temple complex at sunset;IMGP4505 (2)

#2 The first step was to make our way past the riot police directing the large crowds of worshippers. Though the queues take several hours to reach the main temple – the dedicated worshippers we saw were waiting patiently and calmly in their thousands;

people watching

#3 Away from the orderly queues waiting for their chance to worship in the main temple, the general crowds inside the temple complex were also something to marvel at. Essentially the complete opposite from the crowds I joined for Teej, the majority of whom were women in their bright red saris and in a mood to dance, the Shivaratri crowd was almost entirely young men, in everyday dark clothes enjoying the freedom of being quietly allowed to smoke weed openly on this special festival. When we were there in the late afternoon to dusk it felt something akin to being in a football crowd though with an edge. Also the advice was not to be around after dark and unfortunately friends of mine did fall victim to the pickpockets working in the press of people later on;

crowds

#4 Inside the sudhus were doing their thing; worshipping and supplying marijuana the crowds. “The big attractions are the Sadhu, holy men, who renounce the worldly pleasures of sex, possessions, housing, and in some cases, even clothes.” Here’s a glimpse into one of these groups (photo courtesy of Daphne De Souza);

daphne sudhas

#5 There are many interesting accounts to read of Shivaratri online including here. Otherwise, here are some of the collected sights of my Shivaratri experience; the local residents taking a drink and surveying the crowds; a giant temporary monument to the god Shiva, yes, ever so slightly phallic!? As we came to leave, the sky was dimming and the series of bright light displays set up for the occasion came into their own; finally, not only the tourists were marvelling at the crowds;

sights

#6 I decided to make the most of the temporarily, pedestrianised roads so retraced my steps and walked the one hour plus back home to Patan again. By this time the dusk had turned firmly to night and the streets were alive with people sitting together around open fires. Another tradition of Shivaratri is to light fires; “Fireplace is set in avenues and in temples at night to make Lord Shiva warm.  Children go in search of wood singing “Shivaji lai jado bhayo aago deu”. (Shivaji is feeling cold, give some fire).  In villages and towns big logs are burnt in places and people sing Shiva bhajans the whole night.” Here are a few locals around a fire in the very old heart of Patan;

fire

Watch out for the upcoming blog post bonanza as I finally come up to speed on the fun packed month of February…

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