Impressions of a frenchie at Shiva Ratri

February 15, 2018


Asking around if they were going to Pashupatinath Temple this Tuesday, the most common answer of Nepali people was « Oh no, it’s so crowded there ! ».

For a western raised girl seeing these colourful sadhus with their skin full of ashes, what first came to my mind was : « let’s get lost among these strange beggars ! ».

Although it’s a festival which seems to be a happy event for locals, it came out to be quite dark for me. The long-haired sadhus, some naked and mutilated, were sitting in line along the walls of the temple, grabbing my hands to ask for money.

The colourful clothes dominated by orange were contrasting with the grey bodies covered by ashes. It was a choc at first. The smell of marijuana was mixed with incense and with the smell of the burning bodies from the cremations. All the smoke formed a big cloud above the temple, which disappeared into the dark sky. Other festivalgoers were strolling on the banks of Bagmati river wearing strange costumes and huge masks, surrounded by the sound of drums.

All this made a captivating impression on me. I was wondering if they were actually allowed to smoke these marijuana pipes and to walk around naked. It seemed to be a world apart from the rest, with its own rules and codes. The most surprising for me was to see those naked sadhus with a chain of locks hanging on their penis. A sign of entire devotion to lord Shiva, I was told. It would have been impossible to see that in France ! Imagine the difference with Catholics sitting quietly in the rows of a church. Apart from the incense which you can smell in both places, it is hard to find similarities.

When I finally got used to the atmosphere and to my initial eerie impression, I noticed how people were joyful and kind. Everyone was offering me some tea, sweet pancakes or even cigarettes and joints - which first surprised me. At least, there were not only beggars at Pashupatinath for Shiva Ratri !

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