Maha Shivaratri, the night of Lord Shiva, is approaching (March 7). This year Maha Shivaratri is more auspicious as it has fallen on Monday, which is a day dedicated specially to worship Lord Shiva. Every year the premises of Pashupatinath is thronged with devotees from within and outside the country. Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) has been managing the flow of devotees and this year it is believed around 12-lakh devotees will be at Pashupatinath to offer their prayers on Maha Shivaratri.
Everything will naturally be related to earthquake for obvious reasons. No matter how much damage has been occurred to the monuments and structures outside the core temple of Pashupatinath due to the quake of April 2015, sadhu (saints) have already arrived to pay homage to Lord Shiva. It is not easy and fuel crisis has added to the problems. In spite of that the fervour has not diminished. And everyone has taken that leap of faith.
Enthusiastic spirit during crisis
Annapurna Bhandar, Shivam Sewa Mandal, Maa Brahmayani Sewa Mandal and many such groups of devotees have been working for the management of food and shelter of sadhu in Pashupatinath temple during Maha Shivaratri. It’s been 18 years that Maa Brahmayani Sewa Mandal has coordinated with PADT to serve free snacks, lunch, non-alcoholic drinks and dinner to the devotees.
It is the feeling of giving and receiving blessing from Lord Shiva that these groups have been volunteering during the festival. “It is our privilege to work for the devotees during Maha Shivaratri. For us it is similar to the biggest Hindu festival Dashain. We are prepared to serve food for around 40,000 devotees on the day of Maha Shivaratri. Our serving opens on March 6 till midnight,” said Vinod Lila, President of Maa Brahmayani Sewa Mandal.
On the big day there will be 135 stalls that will serve various food items to the devotees according to Taranath Subedi, Treasurer of PADT.
Though the intention is noble, the circumstances aren’t. The only thing that he complains about is the fuel crisis. “We need 75 LPG to cook, so far we have been helped by Baba gas, Om gas and STC and received 60 LPG. We are hopeful that we will get the sufficient LPG when needed. However, we are not getting any petrol, even waiting in queue we have not been able to get it. We need fuel to transport goods. This is the only problem we are facing right now,” he expressed the concerns.
As they say ‘where there is will there is way’, with 500 volunteers Lila is in high spirit and feels that all is well and the problems will be taken care of somehow.
The festival is already on the doorstep, and preparation is going on in full swing. “Due to the April Earthquake we lost more than a dozen of sattal (structure built to rest) and some monuments got cracked and many ashrams where we used to provide shelter to the saints have been damaged. Thankfully, nothing has happened to the core temple premises and we have cleaned the damaged sattal. Having said that we are more alert this year. We have managed the problem by adjusting saints in a camp. Around 12 such camps have been made around the temple premises for the shelter. The security too is tight where around 2,200 Nepal police personnel will be guarding the premises during the festival,” Subedi explained.
According to Subedi some sattal like Bhansa Ghar, Yagya Mandal, Bastra Ghar, Amarkanteshwor Shatal, Guruju’s Sattal are completely damaged due to earthquake which might take more than three years to rebuild.
Apart from this “for the first time all four doors (gate number one from Guheshwori, gate number two from Jayabageshwori, gate number three from Pingalasthan and gate number four from Tilganga) of Pashupatinath temple will be opened for easy access. The public will not be disturbed by the vehicles of VIP and VVIPs”.
Devotees who have paid Rs 1,000 get a special pass that can be collected from PADT — they will be using gate number one to offer their prayer as per Subedi.
A myth among many
There are various myths associated with Maha Shivaratri. One myth is explained by priest Upendra Sharma at Koteshwor, “Once upon a time there lived a hunter. He was lost in a forest while hunting. Being trapped and afraid of wild animals he climbed a Bel tree. To stay awake, he started plucking Bel leaves and dropped it. He was shivering in the cold night, while shivering he produced a sound syue syue, which sounded like ‘shiva shiva’. Thus, he was protected from wild animals and the cold temperature. It was like chanting the Lord’s name and dropping Bel leaves (considered holy) for the entire night became an offering, so crimes he had committed were pardoned by Lord Shiva.”
Maha Shivaratri also means the presence of throng of sadhu. So, there will be people wandering around the temple premises to get a glimpse and ashirbaad (blessing) of sadhu and mahatma during the festival. This year is not different as sadhu have come from inside and outside the country. Among 500 to 600 saints already in the temple, Sitaram Bishwakarma aged 65, a resident of Banke is one of them. Bishwakarma, who has been attending the festival since a decade, feels that coming here will give him a space in heaven. “I spend my time here worshipping and burning firewood so as to please the god,” he shared.
Bhootnath, aged 62, another sadhu from Banke was there attracting audience with his uncanny headgear, beads necklace and stick that looked like a snake. “I am here to get darshan of the god and get moksh (salvation),” shared Bhootnath.
And then there was 67-year-old Lol Langadi Naga Baba from Siraha with ashes smeared on his body. “The ash is an identity of a sadhu,” he smiled and said. “People are surprised when they see me with such colourful tika and ash on my body,” he added.
Though earthquake devastated the nation, faith of the sadhu remains intact. “What is there to be afraid of, it was a natural disaster,” said Naga Baba. Their faith precedes anything, “it is the place of god and I don’t think anything wrong will occur here,” shared Bishwakarma.
Where one expects only old saints, one is surprised to see a 14-year-old as a sadhu. Sawan Kumar from Kashi, India was roaming around with a trident on the Ram Mandir premises. “I have become a sadhu so that I can roam around and live a free life. It is fun to roam than to read and write,” Kumar said perhaps unaware of what education can offer him. It is his second visit to the temple. For him the reason to come here is simple. “The city is beautiful and I love to roam around and this is why I am here again.”
A version of this article appears in print on March 06, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.
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