Shivaratri, also known as Maha Shivaratri, is one of Hindu devotees’ greatest festivals throughout the world. Literally, Shivaratri is composed of the two Nepali words ‘Shiva’ and ‘Ratri’; ‘Shiva’ is the name of Hindu God, and ‘Ratri’ means night. According to legends, the day is supposed to be the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parbati. Pashupatinath (The Hindu Temple) is supposed to be visited by a couple of thousands of devotees on the festival’s single day.
If you are in Nepal during the festival, I highly recommend visiting the Temple of Pashupatinath. Generally, Shivaratri falls in February. India and Mauritius are two other countries celebrating this festival locally. Thousands of devotees and sadhu flock come to Nepal almost a week before the festival and set the tent on the temple premises. This year it was on Feb 17th, and a couple of my friends made a plan to be in Pashupatinath for a celebration. This was my second time at Pashupatinath on the day of Maha Shivaratri.
We had decided to be there at the main entrance, next to the bus station, not late than 11:00 am. But, because of the high flow of traffic, the regular entire for four-wheelers was diverted. Including me, all of my friends walked around thirty minutes to reach the prefixed venue. There was a long queue to enter, and we were not ready for that cause’ it looked like we need to spend a couple of hours waiting in a queue. We had an idea about a secondary entrance towards the temple, and we decided to give it a try for next to nothing. We had tried almost two or three entrances, but our attempts were unsuccessful. There was a broken fence, and people were jumping inside, but police had already taken the situation under control when we reached over the fence. We were walking around to find a loophole under high security. It was so hard to manage entry for the five of us. Luckily, there was no security and no queue, we ran there and entered, finally yes! We made an entry. It looked like the entire territory was sprayed with cannabis flavour. We could see people sitting on a group of four to five and smoking weeds. You could see people stoned with marijuana. I felt like if Bob Marley were alive and attended this festival, he would have loved it. I almost spent the whole day next to the temple premises and observed the festival and serenity. Here are lists of five of the things you should do in Pashupatinath on Maha Shivaratri’s day.
1. Find entrance on the backend of Temple, No need to stay in a long queue, and you can save a couple of hours
You don’t want to stand in a long queue to enter the temple area. If you want, you can; otherwise, ask anyone for the “Guheshwori Area” and head towards it. Basically, it is on the northwest part of the main entrance to the Temple. Pass by the big police station and take a right turn. Continue until you find the left downhill trail. You will definitely see a long queue there too. Continue downhill, and you will find a queue bend towards the right. Now you follow left and pass by Bagmati River. Cross the first bridge you find and continue ahead. Soon you will find stone steps and an entry gate. Congratulation!! Now hike up and follow downhill stones stair to reach the main temple premises. Although you can’t go inside the temple using this route, enjoy the temple and crowd’s view. Choose a suitable place to sit either on the right or left of the staircase.
2. Watch Sadhus smoking weeds and doing meditation
Today weed is legal to smoke, especially on temple sites. There are lots of Sadhus settled temporarily on small huts. Most of them manage to burn firewood. They are seen busy preparing weeds to smoke.
You can enjoy watching their activities. After smoking, they stay on certain yoga pose and spends hours like that.
Don’t stay too close to sadhus because sometimes, when they feel disturbed by crowds, they throw ashes in the air to distract the crowd. It’s better to stay at least a couple of feet far from those holy sadhus.
3. Buy a weed and smoke or just simply ask for a couple of puffs
Don’t get surprised when you see a lot of sadhus acting as a vendor to sale marijuana. You can buy it with most of them. They will charge you around USD 0.2 to USD 1 for weeds. If you give them cigarettes or paper roll, they can prepare for you with an additional service charge. If you don’t want to smoke by buying in bulk, simply ask for a couple of puffs and pay them slightly. This is the more safe idea than buying in bulk and carrying along with you. If you are in a big group and thinking of buying in bulk, then better taste a one whether it’s of good quality or not cause’ weeds once sold will not be returned, and you can’t complain to anyone that someone sold you bad quality weeds.
4. Find free food after you finish smoking, yes free foods not free weeds
Are you hungry now?
Free food stalls are waiting for you at the next bank of the river. Access is not easy, though. You have to pass through a heavy queue of devotees in one place before you get access to free food stalls. I will help you in pointing in the right direction. Descend to the riverbank and turn left. You can see many crossing rivers walking through water, but it’s a bit dirty. Stick to the riverbank and follow the herds of people.
On your right, you will see the dam made up of stone and net. There is a small gap in the dam. You can easily jump to the next side. (Remember, if you leave the riverbank and follow right, you will exit and need to make entry again from the beginning phase). Follow left after you reach the next bank. You can see a long queue of devotees, and you have to pass through the middle of the queue. This is the toughest part to gain access to free foods. There are lots of volunteers managing the queue, and they won’t let you do that.
Maybe you can request people standing in a queue. If that doesn’t work, then tit for tat, wait for a suitable moment. When the entire queue is moving ahead, you might find a loophole to pass the next side. Find a suitable place and wait for the perfect moment. If you manage to reach the next side, then food is waiting for you. There will be lots of stalls with varieties of foods and drinks.
5. Take care of your belonging valuables and watch out for friends
If you are walking in a group, be careful as you or your friends can easily get missed by the crowd. It will be hard to find a misplaced friend. Always walk together. Pay great attention to your valuable stuff like wallet, mobile or camera. If you are trying to set up the tripod for photography or videography, try avoiding the main walking trail cause crowds sometimes get easily distracted and go out of control. It is a lost and found section. If your friend gets misplaced, you can announce through speakers to pass your voice message, ask the police for help.
And last but not the least; wear comfortable shoes instead of flip-flop and fancy boots.