South Asia: In Katmandu, Hindu Holy Men Smoke Marijuana in Annual Shiva Festival 3/3/06

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Hindu holy men, devotees, and tourists by the hundreds, if not thousands, smoked marijuana this weekend outside a temple in Nepal to honor Shiva the Destroyer, the Hindu god of change and goodness. The annual festival at the Pashupatinath temple on the outskirts of Katmandu is expected to draw 150,000 people, the Associated Press reported.

Holy men (or yogis) smeared in ash and wearing loin cloths shared marijuana, or charas, with worshippers, locals, and tourists as they chanted praises to Shiva. In Hindu tradition, the gods sent the hemp plant to man to help him attain delight, courage, and sexual powers. The plant is consecrated to Shiva and is known, among other names, as "vijaya" (victory) after the gods were able to wrest it away from demons. It is still widely esteemed in India and the subcontinent for its ability to endow users with mystic, supernatural powers.

While the use and possession of marijuana is illegal in Nepal, authorities do not interfere with pot-smoking at the annual festival. They also have not managed to do away with the world famous Nepalese hash.

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Issue #425 -- 3/3/06

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