Maha Shivaratri is an annual festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is regarded to be the most divine among all gods. Mahadeva, which means the greatest god is another name given to him. Lord Shiva is also considered as father of the whole universe.
It is believed that worshipping Shiva keeps mind calm and balanced and also keeps sorrows away.
Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, the Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. Furthermore, unlike most Hindu festivals which include expression of cultural revelry, the Maha Shivaratri is a solemn event notable for its introspective focus, fasting, meditating on Shiva, self study, social harmony and an all night vigil at Shiva temples.
The celebration includes maintaining a Jaagaran, an all-night vigil and prayers, because Shaiva Hindus mark this night as “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in one’s life and the world through Shiva.
Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction. The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva’s presence everywhere.
A different legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailash and liberation.
Maha Shivaratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal as well. It is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Magha month, as per the Hindu lunar calendar. That falls on 1st of March this year.
The festival is observed across the country. Hundreds of thousands of devotees visit Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus. Pashupatinath is considered the Guardian and Protector of the Kathmandu Valley and Nepal. Likewise, devotees pray and worship at the temples where idols of Lord Shiva have been installed.
Devotees chant “Om Namah Shivay” and “Mahamritunjaya” all night praying for light over darkness. Tourists are seen enjoying the ambiance with curiosity, as colorful and Sadhus without dresses are seen meditating, posing for photographs and interacting with disciples.
Special attendance camps are set in the courtyards of the temples. Children are seen collecting donations from passers by on this day preparing for holy meal and bonfire in celebration of the special night.
This year, on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is expecting a crowd of 1.3 million people from across the world. For the successful celebration of the festival, the management unit in Pashupatinath has started cleaning the area. Also, this year more importance has been given for figuring out an easier way to manage crowd so that devotees can carry out their Puja and Darshan faster and more conveniently.
Apart from Puja and Darshan other attractions for visitors to the temple vicinity at the time will be the colorful crowd including gorgeous Sadhu Babas from different parts of Nepal and India.