Portraits Capture the Colorful Faces of Pilgrims During an Important Hindu Festival

Sadhu at Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

In March, Egyptian travel photographer Yasser Alaa Mobarak traveled to Kathmandu's Pashupatinath Temple during the sacred Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri. While there, he executed a wonderful portrait series that captures the souls of the religious ascetics who were celebrating at the temple.

Maha Shivaratri is an annual festival honoring the deity Shiva. In Nepal, it is considered a national holiday and is celebrated at all of the country's temples. Pashupatinath Temple has a particularly rich tradition with the holiday, as this temple is dedicated to an incarnation of Shiva known as Pashupati. Pilgrims flock to the temple during the celebrations to recite prayers, leave offerings of fruit and flowers, meditate, and perform rituals to help purify their minds, bodies, and souls.

Amid these celebrations, Mobarak successfully mixed with the crowd, noting that many believed him to be Nepalese and were shocked when he couldn't speak the language. He used this error to his advantage; it made people feel comfortable with him, and he was able to easily engage with them to get his desired portraits.

Many of the portraits are of sadhus—holy people who live a life of spiritual discipline. Sadhus often paint their faces to represent the deities they devote themselves to. Mobarak's portraits show us this incredible body art and also call attention to this important tradition, which may be lesser known in the Western world.

Mobarak, who was struck by the friendly and open disposition of the people he met in Nepal, hopes that this series will make more people aware of the holiday and its importance in Hindu culture.

Egyptian photographer Yasser Alaa Mobarak spent time in Kathmandu for Maha Shivaratri.

Pilgrims of Maha Shivaratri by Yasser Alaa Mobarak

Sadhu at Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

This important Hindu festival is a national holiday in Nepal and honors the deity Shiva.

Sadhu at Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

Pilgrims of Maha Shivaratri by Yasser Alaa Mobarak

It is particularly celebrated at Pashupatinath Temple, with worshipers flocking to the festivities.

Pilgrims of Maha Shivaratri by Yasser Alaa Mobarak

Pilgrims of Maha Shivaratri by Yasser Alaa Mobarak

Many are sadhus who paint their faces to show the deity they are devoted to.

Sadhu at Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

Pilgrim at Maha Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

Pilgrims of Maha Shivaratri by Yasser Alaa Mobarak

Yasser Alaa Mobarak: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Yasser Alaa Mobarak.

Related Articles:

Beautiful Portrait Series Celebrates the Flower Men of Saudi Arabia

Striking Photos Document Lives of Indigenous People Most Impacted by Climate Change

Portraits of Traditional Ukrainian Outfits Highlight the Country’s Rich Cultural Heritage

Photographer Attends Powwows To Take Evocative Portraits of Native Americans in Full Regalia

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content