|Photo: Nepal Mountain News|
|A sadhu smokes marijuana at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal at the Shivaratri festival. Hundreds of holy men from Nepal and India gather yearly for the festival, where religious-based cannabis use is common.|
Hindu devotees are gathering at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu to celebrate the holy festival of Shivaratri. Sadhus -- Hindu holy men who renounce the world around them for spiritual goals -- traditionally celebrate Shivaratri by smoking cannabis, reports Joanna Jolly at the BBC.
But those found selling pot at the temple this year will face eviction or even arrest by armed police, temple officials say -- even if they are holy men.
Since last week, plainclothes police have been "mingling" with the sadhus to "identify anyone selling drugs." Meanwhile, religious festival attendees are forced to endure the sight of young, gung-ho law enforcement officers defiling and disrespecting a venerated spiritual tradition dating back thousands of years.
About 20 sadhus have already been arrested and forced to an area outside the city, according to officials.
|Nepal Trans Himalayan Explorer|
The Hindu god Shiva -- in whose honor the Shivaratri festival is held -- is said to have enjoyed smoking cannabis.
Because of that, sadhus, who usually live in forests, caves and temples, see their use of cannabis as receiving a blessing from Shiva.
"In the old days, the King gave away about a ton of hash every Shivarati," cannabis historian Sam Wayne Smith told Toke of the Town. "There was a collection from the hash makers, then the King started the ceremony by carving off the chunks -- a tolah to each saddhu. A tolah is about 10 grams."
Thousands of sadhus have traveled from Nepal's southern neighbor, India, for the festival, which falls on March 2 this year.
The temple authority has said it does not mind the sadhus smoking cannabis for their own worship.
Despite this, the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) wants to make sure cannabis is not sold on the temple premises. Who are they trying to impress? And what's wrong with a spiritual tradition that's thousands of years old?
"Over the past few years, the use of drugs has become more widespread and it's also become commercial," PADT Member Secretary Sushil Nahata told the BBC. "It has spoilt the essence of the festival."
"We heard of lot of rumors that sadhus were selling these drugs," Nahata said. "We tried to stop them doing this last year, but weren't able to. This year we've started a proper campaign."
The PADT has put together a task force of 25 people, including police and armed officers, to enforce the ban on cannabis sales.
"We have only found limited amounts of hashish in cigarettes so far," Nahata said. "Any sadhus arrested with large quantities of the drug will be sent to jail."
|Nepalese Temple Ball hash|