1. Mahashivratri is a Hindu festival celebrated by the devotees of Lord Shiva — the Hindu god of creation and destruction.
A devotee dressed as Lord Shiva during a religious procession for Mahashivratri in the northern Indian city of Allahabad on Feb. 27.
A Hindu devotee at a Shivratri procession in Allahabad.
3. Hindus mark the festival of Mahashivratri or the “Great Night of Lord Shiva” by offering prayers, fasting and meditating.
A man dressed as Lord Shiva performs with fire during Shivratri celebrations in Allahabad.
A woman dressed as the Hindu Goddess Kali participates in a Shivratri procession in Allahabad.
5. This year the festival was celebrated in India and Nepal on Feb. 27.
A devotee holds a python during a Shivratri procession in Allahabad.
A devotee holds a human bone in his mouth during the Shivratri procession in Allahabad.
7. By some accounts, Mahashivratri marks the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati — the Hindu goddess of love and devotion.
Devotees dressed as Lord Shiva (right) with a snake in his mouth, and Mata Parvati (left) participate in a procession on the eve of the Shivaratri in Jammu in the northernmost part in India.
An artist is helped with getting dressed as both Shiva and his wife Parvati before a religious procession in Jammu.
9. By other accounts, Mahashivratri signifies the night Lord Shiva performed the “Tandava,” the cosmic dance that symbolizes the creation, conservation, and destruction of the universe.
Devotees perform a mock cremation ritual during a procession in Allahabad.
A devotee holds a human skull and a bone in his mouth during a procession in Allahabad.
11. Every year, hundreds of Hindu “sadhus” (holy men) travel to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, to take part in Mahashivratri celebrations.
A “sadhu” at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu.
A holy man talks to his devotee during Shivaratri at the courtyard of the Pashupatinath temple.
14. The “sadhus” mark the festival by praying, meditating, smoking some form of cannabis, and smearing their bodies with ash.
A sadhu smokes marijuana on a chillum (pipe) at the Pashupatinath Temple during Shivaratri.
15. So do some holy women.
A Hindu holy woman smokes marijuana during the “Shivaratri” festival in the courtyard of the Pashupatinath temple.
A “sadhu” rubs ashes on his hand at Pashupatinath.
17. The holy men smoke cannabis which has mythological and spiritual associations with Lord Shiva.
A Nepalese “sadhu” smokes marijuana using a ‘chillum’, a traditional clay pipe, as a holy offering for Lord Shiva.
19. Although marijuana is illegal in Nepal, only the “sadhus” are legally permitted to smoke it for religious rituals inside the Pashupatinath temple.
21. The holy men are not permitted to sell or distribute drugs to ordinary devotees and pilgrims.
A dreadlocked “sadhu” at the Pashupatinath temple.