Travel Notes from Maha Shivaratri, Pashupatinath, Nepal Part 1
The reason why my plans changed is because i just heard from my hotel manager here at Kathmandu City Hotel that Shivaratri is coming up in a few days. I was suppose to leave for the mountains yet again, but i reckoned a huge festival dedicated to Shiva is so hard to miss. I cannot afford to miss it, by hook or by crook.
I arrived the day before coming from a standing room only bus from Dollu to Kathmandu. I still had plenty of time to kill before the event the next day. So, i roamed around the back streets of Thamel before closing time to get amazing bargains. Tip: You shop around 8-9PM when shops are closing, and bargain to the max.
After coming from an amazing shopping spree, i went back to the hotel exhausted and hungry. Gladly, Shiva was there and we ate together an amazing Dahl Bat meal. That night, i started reading about the god Shiva and this amazing festival. I felt that in order to fully embrace the big day, one must understand the real reason why so many local people come here in the first place.
After a hearty breakfast, i arrived at Pashupatinath at noon. One cannot fathom the line going inside the Shiva Temple. It's the longest line I've ever seen in my life. News say that the line is so long, the end was near the Tribhuvam airport. So many pilgrims from India, Bhutan and other SAARC countries came to worship Shiva on his special birthday. I've been so lucky in Nepal this trip that i didn't pay the jaw-breaking entrance fee at 1000 rupees for foreigners. I just walked, and nobody asked me for a ticket. I just hope and pray that nobody from the ticket counter is reading this. Otherwise, i am dead meat.
I spent a total of five hours inside Pashupatinath, roaming around and eager to check what the locals are doing. Many people came in groups chatting, and relaxing by the different temples inside the complex. But the real stars of the day are the Sadhus and Babajis from all around Nepal and India, enjoying this day where everything is absolutely free. Think about anything a normal person cannot do, it happened. I saw a Sadhu naked, and was preaching his sermon to a crowd of kids. Over to the other side by the ghats are Sadhus and Babajis by the hundreds rolling marijuana and selling to all local people. Take note that this day is also the only day where marijuana is legal. It's feels weird that everyone was so high on the drug, while policemen are littered checking who're high enough to go home.
I met a Nepali guy from another province who bought a stick of marijuana from a Babaji for about a hundred rupee. That's 1 freakin' dollar. He wanted to share the stick with me.
Later on, i found myself amazed by the Sadhus and Babajis. One, they've all come out of their shells, and for one day they could totally enjoy themselves. They've been living their whole life meditating and praying so a day of having fun is definitely something they look forward to. I've been making circles seeing groups of local people, as young as 12 to as old as 65, all eyes super red, and obviously high. Sadhus and Babajis were high, too. Some were sleeping, others were on a different state chanting "ohm...ohm...ohm...".
I could go home early, buy my heart says to stay. I stayed long enough to have acquired all the burning marijuana, incense sticks, and fire at the nearby ghat. Walking up and down the stairs was a delight to all senses. I was squeezing myself to fit a very little space, while smelling urine, sweat, and smoke. I was touched (whether intentionally or not) at private parts. I've seen nipples, hairy balls, shit, and a puke. I have heard loud noises of babus crying, women being stepped on foot, old men and women laughing, and bells being rang by every Hindu in sight. In total, i was right with my estimate. About 1 million people came to Pashupatinath for Shivaratri. And when i left just as when sun was setting, more people came.
In my opinion, I've never seen a crowd so dedicated to their faith as the Hindu people. They are the living testament to an aged old tradition still being practiced until today.
One Babaji put an ash circle on top of my forehead, and tapped my head soon after. He's about the same age as mine, and he has already devoted his whole future to praying and meditating. Later on, another Sadhu blessed me by pinching my ears and stroking my hair. It seemed like regardless of religion, class, or belief, everyone was in the mood to pray. Everyone was there for one thing. For Shiva.
I could go on and on with my experiences, and even all the words that i could think of, will not be at par to the experience I've had. I will write more later today. I am now sitting on the couch of my lovely hotel here at Kathmandu City Hotel. I am already thinking how will i feel when i leave Nepal next week.
Oh, Shiva. You have brought all people to come and worship you. You have brought me, a non-Hindu, to Pashupatinath, and accepted me with open arms. That i will never ever forget.