By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
The Baba at the Pashupatinath told me “If you take ‘Shiva Buty’ during the Shiva Ratri, all the sins you have committed in the past and present will be purged. Take one shot my boy and you will feel as if heaven has come on earth” Oh, really. Is it possible? I asked pretending to be curious.
In the previous year’s Shiva Ratri, I was in Kathmandu. Well, my intention was not to go to the Pashupatinath temple, but the hotel owner where I was staying advised me to visit the temple as I could meet with some incredible Sadhus there. Being a freelance writer and a travel blogger I am always hungry for a story or two. I was really thrilled by the idea of seeing those Sadhus and babas.
Every year Hindu believers and Sadhus from across the country throng over the premises of lord Pashupatinath temple to mark auspicious Shiva Ratri with agog and excitement. Sadhus, tangled hair and ash smeared on their forehead; make their magnificent presence to witness the holy Shiva Ratri. Spending much of their time on meditation, smoking marijuana and resting on both sunny and shady places, these sadhus became the cynosure of all eyes.
Sadhus and their lifestyle have always been mystifying the people. These ascetic sadhus give up worldly pleasure and lead a spiritual life. This way they make an effort to attain enlightenment, realizing the almighty. Meanwhile, some sadhus don’t mind displaying powers they have attained through years of meditation and penance while others remain reticence.
The Shiva Ratri celebrations have provided an opportunity to many Nepali devotees to meet several Sadhus face to face. Their appearances may have largely varied but still share many common characteristics with each other. This is the reason why all Sadhus are revered in our society.
These Sadhus burn incense alongside flagrant flowers and little fire in the middle. As night spreads its blanket, Sadhus begin singing melodious bhajans in a group and bring life even in the coldest night. Bhajans play an important role in their lives as it takes them closer to the almighty god.
However, I saw a Sadhu was surrounded by the young boys. Soon I understood what hanky-panky was going on there. The Sadhu was selling Shiva booti (Marijuana) to young boys. ‘Jai bom, bom, bhole’ and the boys smoke marijuana with a chilim in their hands.
Soon the boys got high on marijuana. Hardly had I spent half an hour there, the Sadhu sold out all marijuana he had. I heard him saying the boys for coming the next day for more marijuana. The boys left the scene contented. I saw more boys sitting around other sadhus.
Also read: NAGA SADHUS, KUMBH MELA AND COLORS OF LIFE.
In the mean time, I saw two cops coming there. The boys walked away briskly with marijuana in their pockets. This gave me an opportunity to have a few words with the Sadhu. I straight forward blamed the Sadhu for derailing the youths by encouraging them taking drugs.
He quickly retorted. “This is not a drug but Shiva booti! If you take it during the Shiva Ratri, all the sins you have committed in the past and present will be purged. Give a try and you will feel as if heaven has come on earth!” I bitterly objected and once again blamed the Sadhu for encouraging drug addiction among the youths. Now he too became stern, perhaps tinged with little anger and spoke bitterly.
“We Sadhus are not respected and cared by your government. We come all the way from India to attend Shiva Ratri. But there is no proper arrangement for our staying. We need money to return to our destinations, but get no financial assistance. In a situation like this we have no other way but to sell marijuana”.
These Sadhus may have some problems as they described, but still in the name of such a pious festival like Shiva Ratri nobody can be allowed to get involved into drug addiction. Under the pretext of poor financial support, no person, even Sadhus, should not be permitted to sell drugs to public. If this trend is not nipped in the bud soon, the auspicious festival of Shiva Ratri might lose its religious significance.
In fact, the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) has already put a ban on the illegal trade and consumption of marijuana by the commoners. But this ban has never been followed strictly.
To celebrate this year’s Shiva Ratri around 4,000 Sadhus have already arrived from different parts of India and Nepal. The trust expects over 6000 Sadhus will have their dignified presence in the Pashupatinath premises.
Interesting fact is that until 1995 the trust itself distributed marijuana to Sadhus and welcomed them with profound respect, during the Shivaratri festival. However, later the trust stopped distributing marijuana to Sadhus.
This blogger has come to know that in order to maintain law and order in the Pashupatinath area, about 7,000 policemen will remain active during the entire time of Mahashivaratri festival. About 3000 volunteers will also have their presence to manage the crowd.
According to Nepali law, possession of marijuana is a punishable act under Narcotic Drugs (control) Act 1976. If caught with the possession of marijuana can lead to a jail term for one month, or a fine up to Rs.2000.
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