As the Maha Shivaratri festival draws closer, sadhus (holy men) are a ubiquitous sight at the Pashupatinath temple premise, drawing attention of the devotees for more than one reason.
While some sadhus could be seen sauntering around the temple or just taking a nap, several others gathered around the fire smoking cannabis or having conversation with fellow sadhus.
“Arrival of sadhus breaks the monotony of regular rituals. This is why they draw a lot of attention,” said Bishnu Ram, who was at the temple to see sadhus on Friday.
Over 6,000 sadhus are expected to visit the temple for the Maha Shivaratri festival, which falls on Tuesday.
“So far, around 5,000 sadhus have already arrived. Flow of sadhus to the Pashupatinath temple will continue till Tuesday” said Taranath Subedi, vice-president of Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT).
Last year, around 5,000 sadhus had arrived in the temple for the festival, according to the PADT.
Of the saints and sadhus arriving for the festival, over 2,000 are currently residing at Chaar Sivalaya temple, Tilgagna and Ram temple area. The remaining are putting up at various other ashrams inside the temple complex, including Gokarnanath Ashram, Bairagi Akhada and Nirmal Akahada. “We expect to see more sadhus this year. The hospitality provided by PADT is attracting more sadhus every year,” he said. For sadhus of different sects who follow Lord Shiva, the festival holds a great significance. There is a belief that one attains salvation by offering prayers to Lord Shiva at the Pashupatinath temple during the Shivaratri festival.
Sadhus of ten sects such as Aghori, Bramhachari, Naga, Udasi, Nanak and Nath visit the temple during the festival. “Majority of sadhus are from the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam and Siliguri,” said Subedi. Sadhus from India have been visiting the Pashupatinath temple since the Lichhavi era. But they were allowed to visit the Pashupatinath temple only during the Maha Shivaratri festival until the fall of the Rana oligarchy in 1950. Organizing a press conference on Tuesday, PADT also informed that it has completed all the necessary preparations for the festival. Around 4,000 police personnel will be deployed at the temple for security. “We are expecting around 700,000 visitors this year,” said Govinda Tandon, president of PADT. PADT has said that the temple gates will open from 4 am in the morning on the day of the festival.