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After a pause of two years, Shivaratri festivity back in Nepal's Pashupatinath

Kathmandu [Nepal]: With murals of Shiva and other deities being made over the walls, the freshly painted railings and surfaces of various temples bear a new look as the Pashupatinath Temple prepares for the first "Shivratri" or the "night of Lord Shiva" post the COVID-19 pandemic. Kamal Raj Shrestha reaches the premises of Pashupatinath Temple before dawn and continues his work of making murals on the walls till dusk. He has to finish the walls before the festivity grips the holy shrine in the Nepali capital city of Kathmandu. "The festivity of Shivaratri is high in the air. As per the directives of the Minister for Culture and Tourism and the Pashupati Area Development Trust, the work of making murals on the walls is underway," Kamal Raj Shrestha, one of the muralists assigned by Pashupati Area Development Trust told ANI Kamal Raj and his colleague, Rudra Raj Shrestha, are gearing up to illustrate the plain walls at the premises of the Pashupatinath Temple where they are working to imprint 25 murals on one edge of the wall that lies near the crematorium. They are running against time to finish it before Sunday as festivities have already started in the holy shrine which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "As it is Pashupatinath area, most of the paintings here are of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha, Daksha Prajapati, Shanidev, Lord Hanuman, Oxen and Cows amongst others," Shrestha added.This is the first public Shivaratri celebration that the Himalayan Nation would be hosting after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. The festivities will kick off on March 1. The Pashupati Area Development Trust has said that they will not leave any stones unturned to make this post-pandemic celebration memorable. "This year's main attraction during the Shivaratri festivity would be decorative entrances at various locations as well as in the premises for which flowers would be used and it would be done through the help of donors. Temple premises will be decked up with digital lights so that the temple premises is beautified and remains safe," explained Dr Milan Kumar Thapa, Member secretary of Pashupati Area Development Trust in a press briefing. As per Thapa, ten sub-committees have been formed to organize the festival. Up to ten thousand security personnel from different security agencies will be deployed to ensure the safety of pilgrims as well as the Sadhus during the celebrations. Pilgrims and visitors who have come to the Pashupatinath Temple just before the festivities remark that changes seen around are impressive. Many of the visitors are seen around taking pictures and selfies in front of murals and at other locations which have been decorated. "Shivaratri is one of the important and major festivals of Nepali Hindus. It is observed once a year. Such preparations weren't seen before. This year I really got impressed with the preparations," Krishna Basnet, one of the residents of Kathmandu who came to Pashupatinath Temple for a visit told media. Being held after a gap of two years, the Pashupati Area Development Trust is expecting to host about a million pilgrims on Shivaratri at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

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