Over a million turn out for major Hindu festival after 2-year hiatus

Kathmandu, Mar 1 (EFE).- More than a million devotees worshiped the god Shiva on Tuesday on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, one of the most popular celebrations for the Hindu community in Nepal, which was held in the Himalayan nation for the first time in two years because of the pandemic.

The religious festival, which is known as “the great night of Shiva” and marks the end of winter and the arrival of summer, was held at the Hindu temple Pashupatinath in the capital, a Unesco World Heritage Site in the Kathmandu Valley.

Tens of thousands queued outside from early morning, holding marigold garlands, incense sticks, and coconut fruits in leafy trays to offer to Lord Shiva at the temple on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River.

“I was excited to see the return of the festival after two years,” said Rabindra Sharma, a devotee who has been coming to the temple for the past 20 years.

This year’s celebrations attracted more than one million devotees, mostly from neighboring India.

More than 5,000 police officers were deployed to ensure security during the festivities, a spokesman for the Kathmandu Police, Dinesh Mainali, told Efe.

The festival was also celebrated by members of the Hindu community in several regions of South Asia, such as India and Sri Lanka, where devotees commemorate the life of the god Shiva, who is believed to have drunk poison to save humanity and the gods from annihilation, according to Hindu mythology.

The celebrations were also attended by more than 5,000 naga babas and sadhus (Hindu ascetic monks), according to Nepalese police.

Among them was Sachinanda Goswami Pandit, a sadhu who came a week ago from the northern region of Bihar, in India, to enjoy the festival that ends Tuesday night at midnight.

“I come to Nepal every year, except for the last two years, to participate in the biggest annual religious event,” he told Efe.

The Hindu celebration resumed in Nepal after being suspended for two years due to Covid-19 restrictions after infection rates in the country fell. EFE


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