Hundreds of thousands of Hindus gathered for worship at a revered temple in Nepal’s capital, Tuesday (1/3), following a decline in the number of coronavirus cases and life gradually returning to normal.
Around 1 million devotees are estimated to have visited the temple of the Hindu god Shiva at the Shivaratri festival, one of Nepal’s most celebrated festivals, that day.
The festival was allowed to take place by the government after the number of COVID-19 cases declined in Nepal. Temples, schools and markets have opened in recent weeks after Monday’s report of just 180 new infections, a drastic drop from a peak in January, when the number of new cases reached 9,000 a day.
Pashupatinath Temple located in Kathmandu is one of the most important and most popular Hindu temples among pilgrims. During the festival, Hindus fast throughout the day, visit temples and swim in the Bagmati River.
The festival is also famous for its participants being allowed to smoke marijuana freely. Under normal circumstances, marijuana which is classified as a drug and its use illegally is punishable by imprisonment. In the forest and riverside areas near the temple, people can be seen smoking marijuana during the festival.
Nepal was famous for marijuana and other types of drugs in the 1960s, when hippies entered the Himalayan country. Shops and teahouses used to advertise and sell it legally until marijuana was banned in 1976.
While it is still illegal in Nepal, a group of lawmakers and campaigners from the ruling party are trying to legalize the farming and use of marijuana. Currently, illegal marijuana users can be jailed for up to one month while smugglers are up to 10 years in prison. [ab/uh]