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Hundreds of Τhousands of Hindu dDevotees Celebrate Festival (Photos)

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Hundreds of thousands of devotees crowd to worship at a revered Hindu temple in Nepal’s capital on Tuesday as coronavirus cases drop and life returns to normal.

Around 1 million devotees were expected to visit the temple of Hindu god Shiva on Shivaratri, one of Nepal’s most cherished festivals, as temples, schools and markets have all begun to open up in recent weeks after the number of COVID-19 cases dropped in Nepal. On Monday, 180 new infections were reported, down from a peak of over 9,000 in January.

Devotees stand in a queue to enter the Pashupatinath Hindu temple to offer prayers during Mahashivarati festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)

The Pashupatinath Temple located in Kathmandu is among the most important Hindu temples and is popular among pilgrims. During the festival, devotees fast all day and visit the temple and take dip in the Bagmati River.

The festival is also famed for freely smoking marijuana, which is classified as a narcotic and punishable by jail term. In the forested area and riverside next to the temple, Hindu holy men were joined by devotees smoking marijuana.

Nepal was famous for marijuana and other narcotics in the 1960s, when hippies made their way to the Himalayan nation. Shops and teahouses used to advertise and sell it legally — until marijuana was outlawed in 1976.

Though still against the law in Nepal, a group of ruling party lawmakers and campaigners are trying to legalize the farming and use of marijuana. Currently, the use of marijuana is punishable by prison sentences of up to a month for users and 10 years for traffickers.

A Hindu holy man smokes marijuana during the Mahashivarati festival at Pashupatinath temple premises in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.  (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)
Nepalese people throng the Pashupatinath temple premises ahead of the annual Mahashivaratri festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.  (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)
A volunteer offers tea to holy men during the Mahashivarati festival at Pashupatinath temple premises in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.  (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)

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