Kathmandu, February 23:

Around four lakhs devotees from within and outside the country visited the revered Hindu temple of Pashupatinath on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri today.

Serpentine queues of devotees, who had started living up outside the temple to get a chance to worship Lord Shiva, stretched up to Old Baneshwor and Chabahil from as early as 3 am. The Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) had scrapped the provision of VIP passes this year. It had promised that a person would not have to spare more than 50 minutes to worship but the devotees were complaining that they had to stand in line for more than six hours.

Member secretary of the PADT Premananda Shakya said they failed to keep up the promise due to unexpected turnout of devotees.

Around 2,400 Nepal Police, 75 Community Police and 1,200 Armed Police Force personnel had been deployed for the mega event. Volunteers, including 700 scouts and a few YCL cadres, were helping the pilgrims.

According to Shakya more than 150 saints — Sadhus and Santas — had come from different parts of India at the Pashupati. Though PADT had banned using marijuana, its transaction was being done unhindered at different junctions of the area. “We had tried our best to discourage the people from using marijuana,” said Saubhagyawati Rai, convener of Publicity Sub-Committee under the Main Committee formed for the management of the day. Young devotees flocked to watch ‘naked babas’ while many were sharing marijuana puffs with the saints. The saints were one of the main attractions of the festival. Foreigners were also seen dancing to the tunes of Nepali devotional songs.

For the first time in the Nepal’s history, President Dr Ram Baran Yadav offered puja as the Head of the State at the temple. President Yadav was welcomed by the devotees with a huge applaud. Most of the TV and FM stations were broadcasting the event live.