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Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated before the arrival of the Spring season, marked as a Hindu deity 'Great Night of Shiva'. It is one of the major holidays in Hinduism, a solemn remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance. The legends signify that this day is the favorite of Lord Shiva. Legends also throw light on his greatness and supremacy over all other Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the night when Lord Shiva performed a cosmic dance called 'Tandava'.
Thousands of domestic and international devotees come to the Pashupatinath temple to celebrate Maha Shivaratri and the Shiva-Shakti Peeth nearby. The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath, Lord of the Animals. Legend says Lord Shiva roamed as a deer in the forests (Mrigasthali) nearby. The Pashupatinath temple is open only to Hindus with several shrines and pavilions where yogis and priests chant or meditate.
All through the day, devotees chant “Om Nama Shivaya”, the sacred mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation. They believe that on this day, the planetary positions in the Northern hemisphere act as potent catalysts to help a person raise his or her spiritual energy more easily. The benefits of powerful ancient Sanskrit mantras such as Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra increase significantly on this night.
The official celebration begins at midnight with priests offering items to Lord Shiva in the temple. People swim in the sacred Bagmati River, carrying water in cupped palms to offer it to the stone stele which is the symbol of Lord Shiva. In the morning, the sacred texts are recited until noon when people begin singing them. Some of the finest musicians and singers come to Nepal to sing the praises of Shiva. Naked yogis and sadhu fills the Pasupathi area covered with ash or smoking marijuana during the festival. Although marijuana is illegal in Nepal, it is permitted to use for religious rituals during the festival.
Additionally, Shiva Puran states, the beat of Damaru revealed the first seven letters of music. Those notes are the source of language too. Shiva is the inventor of notes of music Sa, Re, Ga, Ma Pa, Dha, Ni. He is worshiped as the inventor of language on his birthday too. The Shiva linga is washed with Pancha kavya (a mixture of five products of cow milk) and Panchamatrit (a combination of five sweet things). Pancha kavya includes cow dung, cow urine, milk, Curd, and Ghee. Panchamrit includes Cow milk, Yogurt, Honey, Sugar, and Ghee. In front of the Shiva Linga Kalash (Medium size vessel with a small neck) filled with mixed water and milk is set. The neck of the Kalash is tied with a white and red piece of cloth. Flower, mango leaves, Peepal leaves, leaves of Bel, are loaded inside the Kalash. Mantras, a song of God, is chanted to worship Lord Shiva.
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