Being hindu country, there are many festivals celebrated by local people. Maha Shivaratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal and literally means “The Great Night of the Shiva”. It is celebrated on the month's 13th night/14th day of the dark fortnight of the Magh-Phagun (February-March) as per lunar calendar and before the arrival of summer. It is the day of solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world.
There are many mythological legends associated with this day. According to a popular legend, during the churning of the ocean (Samundra Manthan), the poison was found. Lord Shiva drunk poison and stored it in his neck to save the universe and the people from the harmful effects of the poison. The other gods danced all night to keep Lord Shiva awake so that the poison will have a least effect on him. Fortunately, the poison did not show any effects on Lord Shiva. Instead, it turned the neck of Lord Shiva into blue color from where comes the name Neelkantha. Since then, the night is being celebrated as Maha Shivaratri every year in honor of Lord Shiva and his contribution to save the entire world.
According to another legend, once there was a hunter wandering in search of food and got tired and hopeless that he could not find any animals in the forest. After a long walk, the hunter waited on the branch of the wood apple tree. In order to attract deer and kill it, he started throwing the leaves of the tree on the ground, unaware that there was a shiva lingam beneath the tree. Instead, Lord Shiva pleased with hunter’s patience and the leaves offered to the Shiva Lingam. The Lord then appeared in front of the hunter and blessed the hunter with knowledge and wisdom. From that day, the hunter not only stopped hunting animals for food but also stopped eating meat. This day is then celebrated as the great Maha Shivaratri since Lord Shiva showed the hunter the path of light and wisdom.It is also considered to be the night when Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. Thus this day celebrated as wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and Pravati.
It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others and forgiveness. The devotees keep awake all night and visit the shiva temples or pilgrimage such as Pasupatinath temple and Mahindreshwor Mahadev (Sano Pashupati at hanuman dokha) and worship by offering curd, milk/water, honey, tender coconut water, vibhuti (holy ash), panchamruta (mixture of milk, sugar, ghee, honey and curd), bananas, sandalwood paste, ghee, haldi, fragrant oil, beal leaves and flowers (aakamda flowers, dhatura flower and lotus). Not only Nepali, thousands of people from around the world come to Pashupatinath temple to worship Lord Shiva and many sadhus from Nepal and India come to celebrate by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash offering prayers to Lord shiva.
Married women pray for the well being of their husband while unmarried women pray for a husband like lord Shiva, considered as the ideal husband. Shiva is also worshipped as the Adi Guru(first teacher) from whom the divine wisdom originates. In the evening of the day, there is a ritual to light the fires on different part of city. Almost every corner of the city is lit with fire. The fire indicated that one day, we all will end up burning in the fire and thus we have still more things to do. It is believed that the warm of fire makes us healthy and purifies our soul.