Kathmandu [Nepal], March 1 (ANI): Thick plume of smoke fills the air, floating across the Bagmati River that flows through Kathmandu, as the devotees of Lord Shiva throng the Pashupatinath temple.
Marijuana has religious significance among the followers of Lord Shiva. The air near the Pashupatinath temple smells of heavy smokes exhaled by the followers who have thronged the top religious attraction of Kathmandu to celebrate Maha Shivaratri. Marijuana is consumed as "Prasad" of Lord Shiva, the revered god in Hindu mythology.
"I usually come here at Pashupatinath temple around Maha Shivaratri to blow weeds that are brought by Babaji (Sadhus). I don't consume it frequently but getting high on cannabis gives a different feeling," Kumar Pandey, a devotee who thronged the temple on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, told ANI.
Once considered safe haven for cannabis and a favourite destination for hippies, the festival of Maha Shivaratri brings thousands to the premises of Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu.
Sadhus, the seers who have devoted their lives to Lord Shiva, throng the temple every year and bring cannabis for their own consumption which is sometimes distributed to fellow devotees in limited amounts.
"The air here is very purple. The air is very purple here, the smoke has covered most of the area here (Pashupatinath temple). Baba Jee (Sadhus) are having marijuana as well as some of the devotees lighting up the fire. The smoke is mixed here and it's visible in the sky as well," Topendra Bahadur Singh, one of the devotees on the trip over cannabis told ANI.
Nepal has banned personal consumption and sales of marijuana since 1976 and a person consuming the banned substances can face a jail term of one month or a decade depending on the seized quantity. But the festival of Maha Shivaratri has become an exception for people to come out and get "high" on the plant-based drug which sooner will be legalized in Nepal for medicinal purposes.
Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs is working on standard operating procedures to let people consume the drug under certain terms and conditions.
"The ministry's policy, planning, monitoring and evaluation division is working on it to define provisions for regulation of marijuana cultivation. We know it was being used for medicinal purposes for ages, but now it will be brought under the ambit of the law. But the process is still in the stage of infancy," Phadindra Mani Pokharel, spokesperson at the Ministry told ANI over the phone.
Nepal's chairing Health Minister Birodh Khatiwada also has been raising his voice in support of the legalization proposal which has been laid on the table of Parliament by another fellow Parliamentarian.
Though the legalization of cannabis seems still far away, the herb which has been proved to have medicinal values in curing various diseases has a high demand in Nepal.
"Most of the Nepali citizens are also in favour of legalization of Marijuana in the country. That's because it is said to cure cancer," Singh said. (ANI)