Home English News 1 million pilgrims from India and Nepal join sacred ‘Night of Shiva’

1 million pilgrims from India and Nepal join sacred ‘Night of Shiva’


Kathmandu– Sitting by a smouldering log fire on a platform in the hills overlooking a centuries-old Hindu temple, Shri Rokampa Kedarpuri, a holy man from India, lit a traditional clay pipe filled with marijuana in the Nepalese capital on Friday.

“This is the abode of God in the Himalayas,” said Kedarpuri, gesturing towards Pashupatinath, a UN World Heritage Site by the holy Bagmati River in Kathmandu.

“I am very happy to be here. This is the day of God Shiva. If you worship him today, he will fulfill all of your wishes,” he said.


Hundreds of pilgrims gathered around the 55-year-old, who had travelled from Ujjain in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. They came seeking blessings from the man with dreadlocked hair, his skin smeared with ashes and a red loincloth covering his lower body.

An estimated 4,000 Hindu holy men from India journeyed to Pashupatinath, a major pilgrimage site, to celebrate the annual festival of Shivaratri, which means “Night of Shiva.”


A Hindu holy man smokes marijuana during the Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, on February 24, 2017. Holy men from India and Nepal join thousands of pilgrims to celebrate the festival dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. (Credit Image: © Skanda Gautam via ZUMA Wire) Photo: Skanda Gautam via Zuma/dpa

Shiva the destroyer is one of three main gods of the Hindu pantheon, with Brahma the creator of the universe and Vishnu the preserver. While Shiva destroys the universe, he does so to recreate it, in an ongoing cycle of regeneration.

He is depicted in various forms, one of them being “Ardhnarishwara,” or half man, half woman – the other half being that of his wife Parvati.

Some 1 million devotees from India and Nepal also thronged the temple, and more than 6,000 security forces were deployed to the site, officials said.

Parbindu Kumar, a 35-year-old man from a village in the Indian state of Bihar, queued up for hours in the sprawling temple complex waiting for his turn to pray before a shrine of Shiva.

Yogesh Muni, a 73-year-old holy man from Kashi in northern India, rode trains and buses for two days on his maiden trip to Kathmandu.

“It feels great to be in this holy place where God Shiva lives,” he said as he rubbed marijuana on his palm, preparing to roll a joint.

As part of a centuries-old tradition, the holy men are allowed to smoke marijuana within the temple complexes. Shiva himself is believed to have used marijuana, and the holy men claim that by smoking it they are able to become more attuned to their god during the auspicious ceremonies.

But in recent years police have tightened their security around the ascetics, fearing that they might give the drugs to other pilgrims.

The festival’s origin is found in Hindu mythology, which says that Shiva visited the place after his wife Parvati’s death. On Thursday, the holy men observed an all-night vigil devoted to Shiva.

On Friday, devotees offered milk, fruit and incense sticks to a phallus of Shiva. They believe that their prayers will help them cleanse their sins and pave the way for their afterlife in heaven.

Some holy men were meditating while others found themselves posing for photographs with pilgrims. There were frequent chants of “Jay Shambho,” or “victory to Shambho,” one of Shiva’s names.

The temple authority allocated 2.4 million rupees (36,000 dollars) as travel expenses for the holy men, according to Deepak Bahadur Pandey, an official with Guthi Sansthan, a state body that looks after religious sites.

“We have made sure that all needs of the holy men are addressed. We have provided them with logs to keep them warm. We have also sent blankets to them,” Pandey told dpa.

– dpa