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Sawan Shivaratri today: Long queues at lord Shiva temples across the country
Today the nation is celebrating the Hindu festival of Sawan Shivaratri, as the night of the worship of Lord Shiva. According to the Hindu scriptures, it is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.

Hindus in Jammu & Kashmir observe the festival for 15 days. The 13th day is observed as a day of fast followed by a family feast. Shiva devotees believe that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with fasting and pure devotion, he or she is freed from all sins and liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

On this day, in many houses and all Shiv temples ‘kalash’ or urn is decorated with the leaves of 'bilva' or 'bael' and mango atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. It is believed that the uncut shank of the coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and the three spots on the fruit Shiva's three eyes.

Often, the five foods of immortality - milk, clarified butter, curd, honey and sugar are placed before the Kalash. Many devotees keep on chanting "Om Namah Shivaya!" mantra throughout the festival time to purify themselves.

In Shiv temples, devotees maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns and songs related to Lord Shiva. They break the fast the next morning, after the nightlong worship.

According to a noted spiritual leader Gyan Rajhans, Hindus believe in one supreme God, but worship Him through various male and female deities, each one representing His certain function, characteristic, manifestation or quality.

He further adds that this principle of "unity in diversity" is very important to mainstream Hindus, but some western scholars and non-Hindus misinterpret it as polytheism -believing in many Gods.

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