KATHMANDU, Nepal – Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is trying to attract more non-Nepali Hindu pilgrims toward Pashupatinath temple to celebrate Maha Shivaratri festival this year.
“We have done as much as we could to attract maximum number of Hindu pilgrims to the Pashupatinath Temple this year,” said Dr Govinda Tandon, member secretary of the PADT. “Hindu pilgrims from countries like India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia, apart from within Nepal, have always been visiting Pashupatinath Temple on Maha Shivaratri festival. This year, we expect the number to grow further.”
In a bid to attract more Hindu pilgrims from India, the PADT officials, along with the authorities from Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), recently visited Indian cities like Delhi and Ahmadabad and held press meets to urge Hindu people living there to visit the Pashupatinath Temple on Shivaratri.
Dr Tandon believes that around 150,000 Hindu pilgrims from India will flock to Kathmandu this year to worship Lord Shiva. “Compared to India, very less Hindu pilgrims from other countries visit Kathmandu,” said Dr Tandon. “But the number of Hindu pilgrims from other countries has also been growing every year.”
Speaking at a program held on Sunday to disseminate information about preparation of Shivaratri festival, Dr Tandon said that celebration of Shivaratri could boost religious tourism in Nepal. The PADT has expected that around 700,000 Hindu pilgrims, from within and outside Nepal, will visit Pashupatinath Temple to celebrate Shivaratri festival. Last year, around 500,000 Hindus had visited the temple on Shivaratri.
The PADT has formed as many as 10 committees to make celebration of Shivaratri a grand success. “We are making arrangements in a way that elderly, physically-disabled and weak people do not have to queue up for hours to enter the temple,” he said. “We have also advised volunteers not to behave rudely with the pilgrims. We did this because many pilgrims complained of rude behaviors by volunteers last year.”
Since last year, pilgrims who pay a certain amount do not have to stand in long queues. “Some say it is commercialization of religion and faith,” said Dr Tandon. “But, it is not. Many pilgrims come from outside Kathmandu, or even Nepal. Some of them are in so much hurry that they cannot spend the whole day standing up in long queues. This arrangement is for those pilgrims.”