Exploring the Hindu weed-smoking deity Shiva, the inspiration behind the Shivaratri festival.

March 7 marked the Shivaratri festival or the “Night of Shiva,” as it is known. This festival is a celebration of the marriage of Shiva to the goddess Parvati, an action that is thought to have saved the world from darkness. It was on that night that Shiva explored love and sex for the first time.

Shiva is one of the Hindu religion’s three major gods. There is a general belief that Shiva smoked marijuana before meditation to enable him to relax and focus. The followers of the Hindu god try to mimic him by also smoking marijuana and remaining celibate (though not compulsory).

A huge number of men and even women travel from all over India and Nepal to Kathmandu, which hosts one of Nepal’s holiest temples, Pashupati. The followers with dreadlocks sit around small smoking fires and smoke clay pipes.

The day before the holiday is spent in prayer as a preparation to communicate with Shiva. Marijuana smoke mixes with that from the bonfire in a sort of religious ritual. One of the attendees, Lal Baba, who sat close to the Radhe Baba, a holy man who was 60-years old, said smoking marijuana helps them forget everything and focus on communicating with Shiva.

Two attendees from Benares said the Indian government gave them money for the journey. The men denounced their properties and started living on alms from worshippers. Madhan Lal explained that sharing of Prasad is a way of expressing their love for Shiva.

A visitor asked the 60-year-old holy man, Radhe Baba, if he had Prasad and his reply was comical, “Sit, smoke, relax.” Radhe packaged a conical pipe with hashish and used his thumb to place ash on the forehead of the visitor, signifying a blessing, and then gave him the pipe to smoke. The visitor handed out money in return.

The temple authorities have declared war on use of the drug, but marijuana is still allowed on Shiva Ratri, which is a holiday. However, not all who go to the temple smoke marijuana. Madhan Lal explained that some only go there to make offerings and pray to Shiva.

Fire is a holy symbol in Hindu and it is forbidden to touch it with unclean things, so the men who smoke wrap the base of the pipe with their hands and smoke through them. A 72-year-old devotee, Dandi Baba, said his life is in total service to Shiva. He has no wife or family and thinks the only important thing in life should be sharing love and culture, rather than chasing after money and daily things.

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