Maha Shivaratri (the great night of Shiva) is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the waning moon of the month of Magh as per the Hindu lunar calendar. The festival is principally celebrated by offering bael leaves, milk and water to lord Shiva, fasting all day and holding nightlong vigils.
Shivaratri meaning ‘the night of Shiva’ is celebrated by the Hindu population on the ‘magh chaturdasi’. While ‘Krishna parksha chaturdasi’ of every month is called Shivaratri, this one is the Mahashivaratri which is believed to be the day when Lord Shiva is happiest.
While there are various mythical stories and different versions of each associated with the day, as the two stories from ‘Garudh Puran’ and ‘Skanda Puran’ led to celebrating Shivaratri.
Hindus all over the nation observed the Mahashivaratri festival on Sunday, 10 March this year with great excitement, religious fervour and devotion. While ascetics and pilgrims visited Shiva temples, thousands flocked especially to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu to pay respects. On the occasion of Mahashivaratri, some of the devotees took holy dips in sacred rivers and ponds (though the water was not clean), observed fasting, made bonfire, took Prasad, and recited hymns to Shiva.
Legend has it that people who perform self-abasement on this day or in the run up to the festival receive boons in the practice of yoga and meditation for the cleansing of the soul and bring them one step closer to liberation from maya (the cycle of rebirth). Shiva is considered the first guru in Hinduism, from whom the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is said to be beneficial to stay awake and aware throughout the night.
Worshippers of Shiva (shaiva–margis) fast and worship different forms of Lord Shiva by staying up all night. This is where the marijuana smoking comes in as Shiva is believed to be an avid smoker and marijuana smoking on this day is called taking ‘Shivako Prasad’ or ‘Shiva Buti’.
However, possession of cannabis is illegal in the country though ascetics are permitted to possess and consume the narcotic during the festival as it is considered as the ‘Prasad’ of lord Shiva. Shiva is known for accepting negative habits for goodness and worshippers, Sadhus and Babas smoke particularly on this day in reverence to Shiva. Grown up youngsters especially the boys, the festival is also associated with smoking marijuana.
During Mahashivaratri, young boys and girls lure to take pictures with Sadhu Babas for their memory and fun. It’s really a fun and also an occasion to look and see hundreds of Sadhus, female Sadhus and also Nanga Babas at a time in and around the Temple of Pashupatinath and across the river Bagmati. These Sadhus come from various parts of the country and also from India. Most of the Swami Sadhus and Nanga Babas came from India, just after completing the Prayag Kumbha Mela in Allahabad this year.
As kids, Shivaratri meant blocking roads and lanes with strings and ropes, listening to others talk about the crowd at Pashupatinath. Blocking roads during Mahashivaratri, as many might have realized, is a phase. During blocking of the road, children say that Mahadev (Shiva) is feeling cold. So it needs some money to buy and collect the firewood. Children do it for pure fun, more often than not, not knowing the myth behind the tradition.
It used to be cold during Shivaratri night and people, who fasted and awoke all night worshipping Shiva, primarily blocked roads asking for firewood to keep them warm through the night with bonfire (samidha). With time, kids started blocking roads asking for money for fun and some earning.
Collections from various sources