Maha Shivratri, also known as the ‘Great Night of Shiva’ is observed in various ways around the country. The festival is also observed with great zeal and enthusiasm by the Indian diaspora across the world.
Varanasi, on the other hand, holds a greater significance. Days before Maha Shivratri, the city of Kashi is engulfed in a celebratory mood. Several temples in Benaras provide ‘bhang’ as Baba Vishwanath’s prasad during the Shivratri festival. ‘Bhang’ is also offered to Lord Shiva. During Maha Shivratri, stores stock up on ‘Bhang’ and set up machines to grind it for customers who wish to buy it.
There are measures in place to keep it clean, and Thandai, a popular drink (milk combined with bhang), is widely accessible throughout the city.
On Maha Shivratri, ‘bhang’ is offered in Benaras not only as thandai, but also as sweets (burfi), ice-cream Kulfi, cookies, and other delicacies. ‘Bhang’ is also known as Vijaya in ancient Indian texts. Bhang, dhatura, and tambul prasad are regarded to be acceptable offerings to Lord Shiva. As a result, worshippers in Benaras drink ‘bhang’ as prasad from Bhole Naath.