Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in reverence of the God Shiva. Is celebrated during the night by keeping a “jaagaran” a night long vigil with worship.
It is belived that Lord Shiva saved the universe from darkness and ingnorance.
This day is also belived to be the day that Shiva was married the Goddess Parvati.
The festivalis principally celebrated by offering of Bael (Vilvam) leaves to Shiva, all day fasting and an all nigth vigil (jagaran) with vedic, tantrik, ritualistic worship of Shiva.
All through the day, devotees chant “Om Namah Shivaya“, the sacred manrta of Shiva. The benefits of this powerful ancient Sanskrit mantras increase greatly on this night.
Thousands of Hindus devotees and sadhu from Nepal and around the world celebrate in February and March at the famous Pashupatinath Temple, the seat of Shiva in his form of Pashupatinath (the Lord of All Animals). Along the right bank of Bagmati numerous platforms for funeral pyres are built. The cremations on these platforms are a common activity. Unlike any expectation the smell has nothing in common with the smell of decaying flesh, but rather reminds the smell of clabber mixed with different spices.
Sadhus are wandering ascetic yogis, who are trying to acquire liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth by meditating. They have very unique appearance with specific yellow paintings on their bodies. Among them, a large number ritually consumed hashish, as Shiva is wont to do, which although prohibited by Nepalese law, however, is tolerated in this Holy day.
Another culturally shocking thing in Pashupatinath is the image of local women washing clothes downstream the river. The waters of Bagmati contain animal fat because of the ashes of cremated Shiva followers and easily wash the dirt from linen. It is believed that this is how the soap was invented.