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Maha Shivaratri 2024

Maha Shivaratri, also known as the “Great Night of Shiva”, is one of Hinduism’s most important holidays, honoring Lord Shiva, one of the supreme lords in Hinduism. Maha Shivaratri is an annual celebration that takes place on the 14th night of the full moon in the Hindu month of Falgun or Magh, which corresponds to February or March in the Gregorian calendar. It is celebrated in March 8, 2024 in English calendar & Magh 29, 2080 according to Nepalese calendar.

Significance of Shivaratri for Hindus

Maha Shivaratri is an important festival for Hindus because it honors Lord Shiva, the destroyer and transformer. It represents a period of spiritual reflection, purification and regeneration, during which devotees fast, pray and meditate in order to receive Lord Shiva’s blessings for spiritual growth and enlightenment. The celebration is rich in mythology and symbolism, with numerous traditions glorifying Lord Shiva’s cosmic significance and generosity. Observing Maha Shivaratri is thought to wash one’s sins, remove ignorance, and lead to inner transformation, eventually leading people down the road of righteousness and freedom (moksha). It is a moment for devotees to renew their faith, express appreciation and celebrate Lord Shiva’s constant presence and divine blessing in their life.

History of Maha Shivaratri

One of the most well-known tales related with Maha Shivaratri is the story of the ocean churning (Samundra Manthan). According to Hindu legend, as gods and demons thrashed the cosmic ocean in search of the nectar of immortality (amrita), a terrible poison (halahala) emerged, threatening to destroy the planet. To save his creation, Lord Shiva swallowed the poison but kept it in his throat, which turned blue. This gesture earned him the appellation Neelakantha (the one with a blue throat), which represents his kindness in defending the universe against destruction.

Another story of Maha Shivaratri is the marriage of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati. It is believed that on this auspicious night, Parvati performed intense penance to win the heart of Shiva, who eventually accepted her as his consort. Hence, Maha Shivaratri is also celebrated as the divine union of Shiva and Parvati, symbolizing the union of Shakti (divine feminine energy) and Shiva (pure consciousness).

Maha Shivaratri & Pashupatinath Temple

Maha Shivaratri holds profound significance at Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, one of the holiest sites dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu Pashupatinath Temple becomes the focal point of elaborate celebrations during this auspicious festival. Thousands of devotees from Nepal and around the world gather here to pay homage to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the temple, on this sacred day. The atmosphere at Pashupatinath during Maha Shivaratri is vibrant and charged with spirituality. Devotees engage in various rituals, including bathing the sacred Shiva Lingam with water, milk, and honey, as well as offering prayers and performing aarti (rituals with lighted lamps). Sadhus, ascetic devotees who renounce worldly possessions, flock to Pashupatinath during this time, adding to the mystical ambiance with their distinct presence and spiritual practices.

The festival at Pashupatinath is not only a religious event but also a cultural spectacle, with colorful processions, traditional music, and dance performances enhancing the festive spirit. Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple epitomizes the deep devotion and reverence that devotees hold for Lord Shiva, making it a truly unforgettable experience for pilgrims and visitors alike.

How people celebrate Maha Shivaratri in Nepal?

In Nepal, Maha Shivaratri is a big festival for Hindus. People celebrate it with a lot of excitement. They visit Shiva temples, especially the famous Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. People pray and offer special things to Lord Shiva there. Many also fast on this day, which means they don’t eat food for the whole day. Some even fast without drinking water. They believe it helps them become closer to Lord Shiva and cleanses their body and mind. On the night before Maha Shivaratri, there’s a special tradition where people stay awake all night. They chant prayers, sing songs, and read religious texts dedicated to Lord Shiva. One important ritual is the bathing of the Shiva Lingam with water, milk, and other holy liquids. This festival is a time for people to show their love and devotion to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings for themselves and their families.

Culture of Smoking during Maha Shivaratri

The association between Maha Shivaratri and smoking, has cultural and religious roots in some Hindu traditions, particularly among followers of Lord Shiva. In certain sects of Shaivism, which worships Shiva as the supreme deity, the consumption of smoking is considered a sacred practice, believed to facilitate spiritual enlightenment and communion with the divine.

During Maha Shivaratri, devotees who follow this tradition may choose to consume as part of their spiritual observance. It’s believed that by smoking, devotees can emulate Lord Shiva, who is often depicted as enjoying the “bhanga” for its purported ability to heighten consciousness and induce a state of transcendence.

“Note: Smoking is illegal in Nepal and Injurious to Health. We do not promote smoking.”

Is it celebrated in other countries as well?

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated by Hindus worldwide, not just in Nepal. It is observed in countries with significant Hindu populations such as India, Mauritius, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and many others. In these countries, devotees gather in temples, homes, and community centers to offer prayers, perform rituals, and engage in spiritual practices to honor Lord Shiva on this auspicious day. The customs and traditions associated with Maha Shivaratri may vary from region to region, but the central theme of devotion, fasting, and seeking blessings from Lord Shiva remains consistent across all celebrations.

How can Foreigners enjoy Shivaratri in Nepal?

Tourists visiting Nepal during Maha Shivaratri can enjoy themselves in the rich cultural and spiritual traditions of the festival in several ways. One of the most prominent attractions is the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, where elaborate ceremonies and rituals take place throughout the day and night. Tourists can witness the vibrant atmosphere, including the chanting of mantras, ceremonial bathing of the Shiva Lingam, and the presence of colorful Sadhus (Hindu holy men) who gather at the temple during this auspicious occasion. Beyond Pashupatinath, tourists can explore other cultural sites in Kathmandu and surrounding areas where Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with fervor. Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple), and various temples in the Kathmandu Valley host special events and ceremonies during the festival. Tourists can participate in these celebrations, enjoy traditional music and dance performances, and savor festival foods sold by street vendors.

Moreover, tourists can engage in spiritual activities such as meditation and attending religious discourses to understand the deeper significance of Maha Shivaratri. Exploring the cultural heritage and traditions associated with the festival offers tourists a unique opportunity to connect with Nepal’s rich religious and spiritual heritage.

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