[portfolio: vamos.com.sg email: foocheechang@gmail.com phone: +65 9622 9024 twitter: foocheechang]

viva la shiva!

when lord shiva performed the tandava – the primal dance of creation, preservation and destruction, he probably did not expect the hordes comprising millions of adoring devotees and sadhus (sincere or otherwise) to rise in his wake, or the persistence of a religion and its rituals.

but the above is only one of the many legends surrounding maha shivaratri (or great night of shiva, celebrated this year on 13 January), given the multi-faceted and sometimes contradictory nature of the hindu opus – some believe that the festival marks the wedding anniversary of shiva and parvati, while another version tells of how shiva manifested himself as the lingam, a phallic representation used as a symbol for worship.

the pashupatinath compound and its reflection in the bagmati river in the morning light. note the crowd on the right bank.

regardless of where the truth lies (or if such a thing even exists), it is indisputable that pashupatinath temple in kathmandu, the world’s largest and most sacred temple dedicated to lord shiva, bore witness to the greatest expression of devotion and fervour on maha shivaratri. many arrived and got in line as early as the night of the eve, in order to perform puja with offerings of milk, honey, water, garlands and betel leaves among other items.

a lady, the mother of a gentleman called govinda that i met, tosses petals into the river as offerings.

hindu followers having a meal and studying by the bagmati river.

betel leaves are also burned as offerings, along with the pouring of milk, yogurt, honey and other items on the lingam, the phallic representation of lord shiva, within the inner area of the temple.

with their matted hair, brightly coloured faces and calm disposition, perhaps so given their copious consumption of cannabis expediting their trips into the netherworld, sadhus (or holy men, also known as babas) have become an institution in themselves, though they seem to have acquired a tainted mystique, like the proverbial stained robe – with stories of fake sadhus, misbehaving sadhus and whatever other unfavourable anecdotes adding to this. nevertheless, the sadhus were out in their numbers, smoking, meditating, begging for alms, chatting and at times even fighting with curious onlookers. or posing for photos.

the baba that i picked for my sadhu portrait. he was sitting in great light, with a fantastic background behind, and an even better get-up. couldn’t have asked for more.

a gathering of babas.

i went off to photograph something and came back to find a friend of mine sitting with the 2 babas above, who i christened blackman baba (he was dressed completely in back) and junta baba (with his military fatigues), under a makeshift tent.

under the tent of “blackman baba” and “junta baba”, paraphernalia included.

the babas roll their joints in record time, given the amount of practice they get.

other than the religious aspect, a carnival mood permeated the air (the smell of weed too). joints were going for 10 rupees each, about as much as a ride in a microbus, the most common mode of transportation here for those without their own vehicles.

my friend yusuf, taking in some evening light along with the requisite dust.

a portraitist at work. maha shivaratri features a carnival atmosphere, with all manner of activities on the periphery, aside from the religious.

one of the many street vendors hawking food and all sorts of knickknacks.

temple of bishworup within the pashupatinath complex.

pashupatinath, photographed against the dying light.

for the rest of the selects from the day, visit my flickr. click here.

for more posts direct from nepal, click here.

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