Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shiva Ratri Festival

Shiva Ratri (The Day of Shiva) is a national holiday in Nepal. Shiva is one of the most important Gods in the Hindu religion, and the whole day is set aside to get closer to him. In the morning, I went to one of the shrines with older girls from the orphanage to pray for husbands in the future. Women stood in line for several hours to bring their offerings-- burning incense, fruits, leaves, water from their homes. They gave their offerings to an important looking man standing at the shrine, and the man put their offerings on the shrine, gave them a ticka (a large red mark above their eyes), and blessed them.

Shiva is also the God of destruction and marijuana. At night everyone buys sugar cane in five foot long rods, heats an end up in a fire, and then whacks the end as hard as they can on the ground. The end of the sugar cane usually explodes and makes a noise as loud as fire crackers. So at night there are several large bonfires, a lot of exploding noises, and kids and adults eating sugar cane until the sugar rush is out of control. None of the volunteers could fall asleep that night due to our sugar rushes!

Marjuana is decriminalized on Shiva Ratri, and many Nepalis smoke once a year on this day to get closer to Shiva. I opted out of this part of the festival.

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