Skanda Gautam Showcases the Colors of Maha Shivaratri Festival in Nepal

All images by Skanda Gautam. Used with Creative Commons permission. 

Festivals are among the events and photo opportunities sought after by photographers interested in story-driven imagery, such as documentary, travel, and street photography. It’s easy to see what makes it so captivating for both photographers and viewers alike, as we see in the vibrant festival snaps of Kathmandu-based photojournalist Skanda Gautam.

Skanda’s career as a photojournalist for The Himalayan Times is as colorful as the festivals he covers. Take, for example, his recent photos taken during the Maha Shivaratri Festival held in Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple. In this annual event held in either February or March, he mentioned that thousands of sadhus or holy men from India and Nepal celebrate by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash, and offering prayers of devotion to the Hindu god Shiva. Interestingly, this festival is a more solemn and meditative event, compared to most Hindu festivals that involve upbeat merriment and parades.

A Sadhu or holy man applies color on his forehead while getting ready during Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu or holy man smears ash on his face during Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu or holy man looks at a pocket mirror while getting ready during Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu displays his beards on the eve of the Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday, February 12, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu whom is considered holy keeps himself warm in firewood on the eve of the Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday, February 12, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A person dressed as Lord Hanuman looks on during Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

Nevertheless, Skanda’s photographs show how vibrant and eye-catching the Maha Shivaratri’s colors and costumes can be. We get a glimpse of them in his portraits of the sadhus as they get ready for the festival, putting on ashes, paints, and costumes of different colors. The clash of hues, stains, and pigments are an interesting opposition to the serene nature of this religious event.

Skanda’s choice to photograph the sadhus in close-up portraits is the most evident reflection of how solemn and pensive the Maha Shivaratri Festival is. It would have been nice to see what the devotees of Shiva also do on this occasion. Or, to see a bigger picture of the celebration in the Pashupatinath Temple, which is one the Shiva temples to gather the biggest crowds on this day.

A Hindu Sadhu or holy man smokes marijuana placed in a chillum inside the Pashupatinath Temple premise in Kathmandu, Nepal on Sunday, March 6, 16. Holy men from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash, offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity, Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu or holy man exhales marijuana smoke from a chillum during Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu whom is considered holy smokes marijuana from a chillum on the eve of the Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday, February 12, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

A Hindu Sadhu or holy man smokes marijuana placed in a chillum inside the Pashupatinath Temple premise in Kathmandu, Nepal on Sunday, March 6, 16. Holy men from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash, offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity, Lord Shiva.

A Sadhu whom is considered holy rests near his ashram on the eve of the Maha Shivaratri festival inside Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday, February 12, 2018. Thousands of sadhus from India and Nepal come to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri by smoking marijuana, smearing their bodies with ash and offering prayers devoted to the Hindu Deity Lord Shiva.

Don’t forget to check out Skanda Gautam’s Behance Portfolio to see more of the colorful festivals and events he covers.