What Makes Maha Shivaratri Festival in Nepal Special?

Maha-Shivaratri is a Hindu festival dedicated to worshiping Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity. The term Shivaratri translates to the Night of Shiva, signifying a significant occasion to honor this revered god. 

The Shivaratri Festival is observed on the new moon day in the month of Falgun, falling in either February or March. This year, the Festival is scheduled for March 8, 2024 (Friday).

In Nepal, Shivaratri is celebrated with excitement at various temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. However, the focal point for these festivities is the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.


Importance of Maha Shivaratri in Nepalese Culture

Maha Shivaratri is a major festival celebrated in Nepal with great fervor and enthusiasm. The festival holds immense importance from spiritual, cultural, and even financial perspectives.

  • Spiritual awakening:

In Shivaratri, devotees celebrate the union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.  This day serves as a time for self-discipline, inner reflection, and the pursuit of spiritual awakening to overcome ego and negative tendencies.

  • Cultural unity:

Shivaratri transcends caste, creed, and social boundaries. It fosters unity and social harmony between people from diverse backgrounds where they come together to celebrate the festival as a single community devoted to Lord Shiva.

  • Financial gain:

Many devotees and tourists across the world visit Nepal during Maha Shivaratri to participate in the celebrations. This brings revenue to the country and local businesses gain more customers. Also, devotees provide charity and donations to support the less fortunate ones as an act of good deed.


Legend behind Maha Shivaratri in  Nepal

In Hindu mythology, Maha Shivaratri marks the anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati's wedding. It marks the sacred union of the two most powerful forces in the universe. This special day is also associated with the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava dance - a celestial and cosmically significant dance.

In Nepal, there's a significant legend linked to Maha Shivaratri involving a poor woodcutter named Lubdhaka and a devoted hunter. 

Lubdhaka, while gathering wood in a forest, unintentionally plucked Bilva leaves from a sacred Bilva tree - a dwelling place of Lord Shiva. 

While searching for water, Lubdhaka reached the Pashupatinath Temple. Unaware of its sanctity, he decided to spend the night up a Bel tree, fearing wild animals.

During the night, Lubdhaka accidentally dropped Bilva leaves onto a Shivalinga beneath the tree. At the same time, a hunter (a devout follower of Lord Shiva) habitually offered Bilva leaves to the Shivalinga. 

These unintentional offerings by Lubdhaka and the sincere worship by the hunter pleased Lord Shiva.

Upon Lubdhaka's passing, Lord Shiva acknowledged his inadvertent devotion and granted him liberation. Similarly, the hunter also received Lord Shiva's blessings. 


How do people celebrate Maha Shivaratri in Nepal?

During Maha Shivaratri in Nepal, people engage in various activities to honor Lord Shiva.  Let's have a look at them.


1. Maha Shivaratri Puja

During Maha Shivaratri, devotees mark the occasion by fasting all day and performing puja pujas. Later, they spend the night in prayer devoted to Lord Shiva. 

They go to Shiva temples, such as Pashupatinath, and take part in traditional customs like offering fruits, flowers, diyos, and bael leaves. The air is charged with a deep spiritual vibe as people express their profound respect and devotion to Lord Shiva.

2. 'Om Namah Shivaya'

The sacred mantra "ॐ नम: शिवाय" is a devotion to Lord Shiva. (न) N represents the main deity of all realms. (म) M symbolizes the giver of supreme spiritual knowledge and the destroyer of major sins. 

(शि) SHI signifies generosity, calmness, and Lord Shiva's role in new beginnings. (वा) VA stands for the symbolic vehicle – the bull Nandi – and the energies Vasuki and Vamangi (Shakti). (य) Y denotes the positive abode of the highest heaven and Lord Shiva.

During Maha Shivaratri, chanting this mantra holds special significance as devotees believe it invokes the divine energy of Lord Shiva, purifies the soul, and brings blessings. 

Many people engage in the continuous repetition of "Om Namah Shivaya" during the night-long vigil of Maha Shivaratri as a form of devotion and meditation. 

3. Jagran (Night Vigil)

During Jagran or Night Vigil, people come together in sincere gatherings where they stay up all night, participating in religious activities. 

This includes singing devotional songs (bhajans), reading religious texts, and sharing spiritual stories. The main emphasis is on devotion and maintaining a connection with the divine through group prayers. 

Offerings such as fruits, sweets, and flowers are often presented to contribute to a sacred ambiance. Jagran tradition strengthens a feeling of community and spiritual togetherness among those involved.

4. Bonfire

Bonfires are a special feature during Maha Shivaratri, especially lit at night time. Devotees make bonfires at night vigil, homes, offices, temples, and other religious gatherings.

Devotees often gather around bonfires as a symbolic representation of dispelling darkness and ignorance. This is a way of invoking the divine energy of Lord Shiva. The bonfire is believed to purify the atmosphere and create a spiritually charged environment. 

5. Sandhya Arati

Sandhya Arati refers to the evening ritual of worship and offering of light to Lord Shiva. This is a traditional form of worship where devotees use lamps filled with ghee or oil. The lamps are lit and circled in front of the deity while singing hymns or reciting mantras.

During Maha Shivaratri in Pashupatinath, there are thousands of devotees lined up near the Bagmati river to participate in the ritual. The entire sight of the rituals and the crowd's devotion lifts the spiritual energy in mind, body, and soul.

sandhya arati

6. Offerings to Shiva Lingas

During this celebration, devotees pour milk, honey, water, and other meaningful substances on the Linga as a way of making offerings. They offer all the favorite items of the Lord Shiva in hopes of getting blessings from the divine god himself.

7. Traditional Foods

As we have mentioned earlier, devotees often fast as a form of devotion to Lord Shiva throughout the day. The fast concludes after the night vigil by eating traditional dishes.

Families prepare fruits, sweets, and other kinds of dishes like dhido and sel roti. The festive spirit is enhanced as people share these traditional foods, signifying unity and deep devotion. 

Breaking the fast and savoring these traditional delicacies turns into a communal celebration, strengthening cultural ties and expressing reverence for Lord Shiva.

8. Meditate in peace

People turn to meditation as a way to discover inner peace and connect with spirituality. Devotees head to Shiva temples, looking for a peaceful space to meditate and contemplate. 

The night is devoted to prayer and meditation, with individuals striving to achieve a sense of deep tranquility and connection with Lord Shiva. 

Many opt to meditate near sacred rivers or in the open, immersing themselves in the spiritual energy of the surroundings. The ambiance is quiet, and the rhythmic chanting of mantras adds to the overall sense of calm. 

9. Bhang consumption

In some parts of Nepal, particularly during Maha Shivaratri, the consumption of bhang (cannabis preparation) is part of the celebration. Some believe it helps connect with Lord Shiva and attain a higher state of consciousness. 

Bhang may be consumed in the form of drinks or sweets as a sacred offering. However, not all communities or individuals partake in this practice, and adherence to local laws is crucial due to the legal status of cannabis in various regions.


Major Attraction of Maha Shivratri at Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of the main focuses of this festive day. Devotees from across the country and abroad flock to this sacred Hindu temple to celebrate the festival dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Here, we have listed 2 important points that show a big draw in Maha Shivaratri.

1. Huge crowd of devotees

One of the major attractions during Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath is the massive gathering of devotees. People from various parts of Nepal, India, and other countries come together to celebrate this auspicious occasion. 

The devotees mainly belong to the Hindu community. Along with it, there are hundreds of tourists who visit the location to observe the ritual and performance. 

The temple premises witness a sea of devotees engaging in prayers, rituals, and the night-long vigil, creating a spiritually charged atmosphere. There is a huge line of devotees throughout the day.

2. Sadhu Babas

The Sadhu Babas, also known as ascetic holy men, is a significant highlight of Maha Shivratri at Pashupatinath. Their unique presence, characterized by saffron robes, ash-covered bodies, and distinctive rituals, captures the interest of both devotees and visitors. 

These Sadhus, devoted to Lord Shiva, often participate in intricate spiritual practices, contributing a deep and mystical element to the festivities. You can see them smoking weeds, and eating bhang. Although having such substances is illegal, they are allowed to have them due to the religious connection of those substances to lord Shiva.

Sadhu Babas

Best places to go during Maha Shivaratri in Nepal

There are many attractive locations to partake in the festive celebration, each carrying its own unique spiritual significance. 

Most of the Shiva Temple provides diverse experiences, allowing both devotees and tourists to immerse themselves completely in the spiritual ambiance and cultural vibrancy of Maha Shivaratri amidst Nepal's scenic landscapes.

Here are the 5 best places to visit during the festive hours:

1. Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, Nepal. It stands as one of the holiest Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world. This sacred site in the Kathmandu Valley attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists each year, especially during Maha Shivaratri.

This Temple is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It not only stands as a testament to Nepal's religious diversity but also as a vibrant center of faith, tradition, and cultural significance.

Pashupatinath serves as a revered cremation site, where Hindus believe the deceased achieve moksha - a liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. The area is filled with Sadhus (holy men) and devotees engaging in prayer, meditation, and rituals along the temple's ghats. 

2. Kailashnath Mahadev Statue, Sanga

The Kailashnath Mahadev Statue, located in Sanga at the border of Bhaktapur and Kavrepalanchwok districts in Nepal, holds the title of the world's tallest Shiva statue. 

The statue reaches a height of 144 feet and is situated approximately 20 km from Kathmandu. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley, the statue depicts Lord Shiva in a meditative pose, surrounded by intricate carvings and ornate details.

The Kailashnath Mahadev Statue serves as a pilgrimage site for Hindus and a captivating panoramic view for visitors. Pilgrims and tourists alike are drawn to the spiritual ambiance and breathtaking vistas, making this a remarkable destination.

3. Halesi Mahadev, Khotang

Halesi Mahadev temple, also known as Halesi Maratika Caves, is situated in the Khotang district of eastern Nepal. It is positioned in a hilly region between two sacred rivers - Dudkosi on the right side and the Sunkoshi on the left. 

The main attraction is the Halesi Mahadev Cave, often referred to as the Pashupatinath of the East, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The cave complex is believed to be a sacred abode where Lord Shiva sought refuge from the demon Bhasmasur. 

Pilgrims have to trek through scenic landscapes to reach the cave. The cave itself is adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, creating a mystical atmosphere that enhances the spiritual experience. 

4. Jaleshwar Mahadev, Mahottari

Jaleshwar Mahadev is a well-known temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, situated in the Jaleshwar municipality of the Mahottari district in Nepal. 

The name "Jaleshwar" translates to "lord of water" because the temple is often submerged, possibly due to the presence of two large ponds named Barunsar and Kshiresar on either side of the temple. 

Shivaratri witnesses a grand fair, attracting a large number of devotees who visit the Shiva temple to celebrate the festival and partake in religious activities.

5. Doleshwar, Bhaktapur

The Doleshwor Mahadev temple is situated just a short distance from the historic Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It is also known by various names such as Bimaleshwor and Sipare Mahadev.

Once a hidden gem, this sacred site is now accessible, offering devotees a unique opportunity to receive blessings from Lord Shiva for a lifetime.

This temple is believed by many to be the head of Lord Kedarnath, one of the holiest shrines in the Indian Himalayas.

Some believe that the extraordinary chance to worship both the body and head parts of Lord Shiva is granted only through the virtue acquired over multiple births.


Useful Tips for Travelers during the Shivratri Festival

If you're heading to Nepal for the Shivratri Festival, consider these tips to make the most of your experience.

  • Start by checking the specific festival dates, which vary each year. 
  • Dress modestly to show respect for the cultural significance of the event. 
  • Given the large number of pilgrims, secure accommodations well in advance.
  • Stay updated on any travel restrictions or special arrangements during the festival. 



In essence, what sets the Maha Shivaratri festival in Nepal apart is the coming together of spiritual dedication, cultural vitality, and collective celebration. The sacred rituals carried out at revered temples like Pashupatinath infuse the air with deep devotion. 

The festival acts as a unifying force, drawing people from various backgrounds and nurturing a shared sense of respect. The diverse traditions, spanning from contemplative practices to lively celebrations, beautifully showcase the intricate tapestry of Nepali culture. 

As both devotees and tourists engage in the festivities, there's a tangible energy that goes beyond the ordinary, making Maha Shivaratri a distinctive and spiritually fulfilling experience in the heart of Nepal.


Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)


Who is Lord Shiva?

Lord Shiva holds a significant place in Hinduism, known as the "Destroyer" in the Holy Trinity, which includes Brahma as the "Creator" and Vishnu as the "Preserver." His symbolism encompasses the cyclical process of creation, preservation, and dissolution in the universe. 

Typically depicted with a third eye, a crescent moon on his head, a snake around his neck, and a trident (trishul) in hand, Shiva signifies asceticism, meditation, and divine wrath.


When is Maha Shivaratri Celebrated in Nepal?

The Maha Shivaratri Festival is observed on the day of the new moon in the month of Falgun, falling in either February or March. This year, Maha Shivaratri is scheduled for March 8 2024 which happens to be a Friday.


Where is Maha Shivaratri Celebrated in Nepal?

In Nepal, Shivaratri is observed at different temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, but the primary and revered site for this celebration is the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. 


How is Maha Shivaratri Celebrated in Nepal?

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Nepal with deep reverence and enthusiasm. The majority of devotees, who are Hindus, gather at Shiva temples, with the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu holding special significance. 

Unique ceremonies involve the offering of milk, water, and beal leaves to the Shiva Linga. The atmosphere is filled with spiritual energy, complemented by rhythmic prayers and mantras.


Why is Maha Shivratri celebrated in Nepal?

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Nepal as a way to honor and show reverence to Lord Shiva, a prominent deity in Hinduism. Devotees observe this special day to express their deep devotion and seek blessings from Lord Shiva. 

The festival is believed to commemorate the night of the union between Shiva and Parvati. Also, the night when Lord Shiva engages in the divine dance of creation, preservation, and destruction is known as Tandav.