Photo: Pashupati During Shivaratri
More than one million people visited Pashupatinath Temple on Maha Shivaratri last Tuesday. About 5000 saints came to the temple this year. And like every year they came with bags full of weed. And like every year many of them forgot to bring their underwear.
Shivaratri is the only day in Nepal in which smoking cannabis is legal around the Pashupati temple area. On this day one can find people everywhere making joints and getting high around the Pashupatinath temple. People flock around the saints to obtain marijuana and hash which on normal days are hard to find. These saints and stoners are concentrated around the back side of the temple area across the Bagmati River.[caption id="attachment_4764" align="aligncenter" width="514"] Photo: Each of these small temples house saints selling cannabis[/caption]
Nowadays many of the saints tend to sell marijuana to people around the temple at high prices and make huge profits. They seem more like drug dealers than saints. This contradicts many of the principles of saint life. Many of the babas had bottles of alcohol and packs of cigarettes and tobacco with them. One of the buyers who wished to remain anonymous said,” Before, saints used to give weed for free but nowadays they sell it. I just bought a little amount of poor quality weed from a Baba for Rs 50. I am disappointed.”[caption id="attachment_4761" align="aligncenter" width="429"] Photo: Saints selling weed[/caption]
Generally people have a positive perception of saints. Hindus believe the saints to be holy and believe their presence brings about good luck and blessings from god. People offer food, money, clothes and shelter to these babas. The police do not bother the babas for their use of cannabis and hash. In a way it’s hard to distinguish babas from lazy beggars who get free food and get stoned out of their mind all day every day. And according to many people many of these babas are just beggers disguising themselves as saints targeting curious tourists and religious Hindus.
One of the saints, an Aghori baba from Madras, when asked about saints selling cannabis said that it was okay in Shivaratri as it is just a religious offering. He also said that nowadays there are many people who pretend to be saints to take benefits from the Pashupati Area Development Trust and sell drugs. He had a bottle of vodka next to him. He seemed like a drunkard and demanded money to buy alcohol after I talked to him and took his picture.[caption id="attachment_4766" align="aligncenter" width="729"] Photo: People carelessly smoking and littering around the temples[/caption]
Opinions on the massive use of cannabis around the temple during the Shivaratri festival are both positive and negative. Some people believe it to be homage to Lord Shiva. Some think of it as an excuse to get high. Umesh Dhungana, a student at DWIT College says, “I am okay with it. People like to kick back and relax sometimes.” Sushil Pokhrel, another student at DWIT College says,” I support it. It’s just one day. People want to smoke and listen to Bob Marley sometimes.” On the contrary Nischaya Bajracharya, a student pursuing his BBA says, “I don’t like it. It just promotes the use of cannabis among the youths. The police should try to stop what’s happening in Shivaratri.”
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Photos by: Ramesh Sodari