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Cannabis-smoking ascetics light up Nepal festival - Yahoo! News

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  • Petros Evdokas
    Cannabis-smoking ascetics light up Nepal festival http://news.yahoo.com/cannabis-smoking-ascetics-light-nepal-festival-110448337.html By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2013
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      Cannabis-smoking ascetics light up Nepal festival
      http://news.yahoo.com/cannabis-smoking-ascetics-light-nepal-festival-110448337.html

      By Gopal Sharma

      KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Ringed by an endless stream of pilgrims at an
      ancient temple in Kathmandu, Hindu holy man Mahant Ramnaresh Giri sat
      naked and puffed on a pipe filled with cannabis, his body smeared with
      ash as he took part in Nepal's biggest annual religious event.

      Giri was one of more than a hundred such naked ascetics at the ancient
      Shivaratri festival, which brings an estimated one million devout Hindus
      flocking to Kathmandu's Pashupatinath temple each year for rituals to
      cleanse them of sin and earn a place in heaven.

      Holy men such as Giri, 35, bless them and smoke cone-shaped pipes of
      cannabis as part of the annual festival dedicated to Shiva, the god of
      destruction.

      "After I smoke I get a feeling that I have overcome worldly pleasure and
      dissolved myself in the universe," said Giri, smoke billowing around his
      head.

      After Shiva's consort died, legend has it, he came to the forests near
      the temple, his body smeared with ash. Smoking cannabis, which grows
      wild in the forests of Nepal, he wore a serpent and draped his waist
      with a tiger skin as he wandered.

      Cannabis is illegal in Nepal, but permitted as a religious ritual for
      ascetics during the festival, which took place at the weekend. The only
      explanation for this is that the ascetics are imitating Shiva.

      The ban is ignored during the festival for the ascetics, who are allowed
      to smoke inside the temple complex but not sell or distribute it to
      pilgrims.

      Authorities supplied the drug to holy men in the past but the practice
      was discontinued in the 1990s after critics said it amounted to
      promoting its consumption.

      For pilgrims, the rituals are more mundane and involve pouring milk on a
      stone phallus and making offerings of fruit, sandalwood paste and
      incense sticks. Holy men such as Giri press ash-covered thumbs onto
      their foreheads and bless them.

      "I became an ascetic for the protection of our religion, the welfare of
      the world and myself," said Giri, his dreadlocked hair and beard not
      combed or cut for 17 years.

      This year's festival included modern touches such as 65 CCTV cameras to
      help guard crowds estimated to have topped one million devotees. Some of
      the holy men also played music on their mobile phones.

      But for most, the festival remains deeply spiritual.

      Krishna Nanda, a Romanian holy man wrapped in white cloth who came to
      India to study Sanskrit, said his desire to know more about life was
      behind his renunciation of physical and worldly pleasure two years ago.

      "I love everything in society and god ... I am always happy," said the
      23-year-old.

      (Reporting by Gopal Sharma, editing by Elaine Lies)

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