Photo Courtesy: http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-03-06/11-m-visitors-5000-sadhus-expected-to-visit-pashupati-this-shivaratri.html
Shivaratri is the festival of Shiva. This year it is celebrated on 7th of March. Hindus believe that Lord Brahma is the creator, Lord Vishnu is the preserver and Lord Shiva is the destroyer of the world.
Shivaratri is the festival which is mostly celebrated by Hindus in the name of Lord Shiva. According to this Hindu mythology, it is said that a devotee who performs sincere worship to Lord Shiva on that special day of Shivaratri will attain Moksha.
It is believed that this day is the wedding day of God “Shiva” with Goddess “Parvati”. Most of the devotees do not drink even a drop of water until they have finished their puja while others rely solely on fruits & milk on that day.
Shivaratri is considered an auspicious day for women. Married women prayed for the well-being of their husbands while unmarried women prayed for a husband like Lord-Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
To celebrate this festival devotees wake up early in the morning and take a bath. After taking a bath they were new clothes and visit the nearest Shiva temple to give the ritual bath to Lord Shiva with milk, honey, water, flowers, fruits, and leaves of Bel plant (Bel Patra). They stay awake the whole night burning oil lamps to please Lord Shiva. Many people stay awake and burn fire. They also take “bhang”.
Shivaratri is one of the most important annual festival, popular for both Nepalese and Indian. Many sadhus or holy men visit the Shiva temple, especially the Pashupatinath temple, to celebrate the Shivaratri festival, since it is the oldest and the largest Shiva temple. Most of the sadhus come from India before Shivaratri begins. They sit along the banks of the river Bagmati. They burn fires, take “ganja” and “bhang” which are considered as “prasad” of Lord Shiva. They also distribute them to others. Taking ganja and bhang becomes part of the ritual for many people on that day.
There are so many beliefs regarding the intake of ganja and bhang on that day. One of them is that “Lord Shiva is always in deep meditation, Bhang helps him to stay in the state of happiness and concentration”. They take these things to be like Lord Shiva. Some people also think that bhang will cure every illness and relieve all sorts of pain. So taking bhang becomes one of the most important activities of this day.
Shivaratri is the day to worship Shiva and achieve Mukti (freedom of soul) in life. People celebrate this day to show their devotion to Lord Shiva. It has great value in Hindu religion and is one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals.