Maha Shivaratri (Hindi: माहा शिवरात्री) meaning ‘The Night of Lord Shiva’ is celebrated by Hindus throughout the world in dedicatio to Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity.
It is widely celebrated on the 13th/14th day of Maagha month of Hindu calender when new moon ocurs. The date varies every year, and this year on Maha Shivaratri, which falls on February 27, it is expected for at least 700,000 Hindu devotees, including 150,000 Indians, to throng the famous Pashupatinath shrine in the Kathmandu (Nepal) to worship Lord Shiva.
~Origin & History~
Out of many theories, one which is most regarded is from the Puranas;
During the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.
Therefore, celebrating the veneration of Shiva has been carried out since ages. The observant of the extravagance and lavish atmosphere of the occasion remain awestruck. The devotees observe the day by fasting, bathing the Lingum (Stone Phallus) and chanting devotional prayer “Om Nama Shivaya.”
Celebrated mainly in South Asian nations of India and Nepal, many international fairs are held on this day -inviting throngs of devotees from the around the world. The most extravagant fairs are held in Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, Nepal and Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, India.
Pashupatinath Temple (Nepali: पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) is one of the most significant Hindu temple of Lord Shiva, located in Nepal. Because of the ancient ideologies of the temple’s guardians, only the born Hindus are to allowed to enter the temple.
It dates back to 400 A.D. and is known to be the ultimate pedestal for Hindu devotees, and during Maha Shivaratri the temple premise comes alive with devotional songs buzzing on loud speakers, Naga Sadhus dancing on the tunes, devotees queued up to pay visit to the Lingman located at the center of the temple and Marijuana fuming in the air.
Antics of Naga Sadhus
Shivaites or Naga Sadhus are known to be the ardent followers of Shiva. Part of Dashanami Sampradaiya (Tradition of 10 Names), they remain naked throughout their life and rub a kind of paste mixed with Ash over their bodies while staying mostly in a trance mode. The hullabaloo of Naga Sadhus can be seen in only two different occasions, Kumbh Mela of India and Maha Shivaratri of Nepal. Their out loud and carefree behavior remains the major attraction of the day. Sadhus chanting “Bum Bum Bole..” can be heard almost the entire day.
Some 5,000 Sadhus are expected during the festival in 2014 and free meals, shelter and other facilities will be arranged for them. Hundreds of Naga Sadhus will also arrive to pray at the temple. [source]