Nepal’s night of Shiva
“The most unforgettable festival experience I have had was Maha Shivaratri Festival in Nepal. A Kathmandu friend took us southwest of Boudhanath to the great Pashupatinath Temple, where devotees flock from all over Nepal and India.
They come to celebrate Shiva’s birthday, which falls in February or March on the new-moon of the month of Falgun. The festival is filled with surprises, beauty, spirituality, depth and peace, and one feels the deep devotion that the Hindu people have for their faith.
It was fascinating to see the Sadhus make the long trek and demonstrate difficult yogic asanas and feats of great strength in honor of Shiva at the Pashupatinath Temple. From sticking thorns and needles into their bodies and tongues, to smoking holy items, it’s astounding to witness their displays of dedication. The king of Nepal was also present that day, as Pashupati is asked to protect Nepal. Many of the devotees bathe in the Bagmati’s holy waters and along the banks of the river the sites are filled with worshippers doing holy practices in bright colors and vibrant performances.
In the evening there was ringing of bells to mark the light ceremony. I became extremely dizzy when at the temple around a huge ancient bell. I went into an altered state of consciousness, where I remembered being there before and celebrating Shiva’s birthday in another time. It was a profound experience that was brought on by the sound of the ancient bells.
The Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important temples in Hinduism. The area is expansive and takes time to walk through on the day of the celebration and absorb all the energies of this eclectic site.
Participating in this festival… praying at the temple, chanting and setting off a floating candle in a cradle of colorful flowers was an awesome and great spiritual experience that I will never forget. It made it all the more special to be with local Nepalese people and travelling friends.”
Photo: Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal by Briar Tutty.