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Mahashivratri is being celebrated with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervor
B K Upmanyu | 20 Feb 2012

Mahashivratri is being celebrated with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervor throughout the country with traditional gaiety and fervor today. In Himachal Pardesh temples in various places were beautifully decorated and illuminated. Thousands of devotees were seen standing in a queue in front of Shiva Temples to pay their obeisance.

MAHASHIVRATRI IS being celebrated with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervor throughout the country today. In Himachal Pradesh temples in various places were beautifully decorated and illuminated. Thousands of devotees were seen standing in queues in front of Shiva Temples to pay their obeisance. Special discourses relating to Shiv Puran and lord Shiva were held. Bhajan and kirtan were organized at different places and the Shiv Mahima recited.

The devotees started queuing up since early morning and waited for hours to pay obeisance at various places. Meanwhile Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has felicitated the people of the State on the eve of festival.

He said Himachal Pradesh was known as abode of Lord Shiva and Shivratri had its own importance. He hoped that Shivratri would go a long way in strengthening the bonds of brotherhood. Dhumal said that the people of the state had been celebrating the festival with traditional fervour and gaiety in all parts of the state since the time immemorial. Chief Minister said that Shivratri festival of Mandi had been given the status of International Fair amongst five such festivals of the State. He wished for the success of Shivratri Fair celebrations throughout the state.

In Mandi town at least 215 hill Gods and Goddesses arrived at Padal Ground to participate in the centuries old Shivratri fair. Shivratri is celebrated all over the country, but it has assumed a special significance for Mandi where week-long celebrations are held amidst colourful festivities in keeping with the centuries old royal traditions of princely rulers of the erstwhile Mandi State when Shivratri used to be a mega imperial celebration marked with religious fervour and gaiety.

Mandi rulers were devotees of Lord Shiva. Bhutnath, Trilokinath, Panchvaktra and Ardhnarishwar, are the prominent among about 100 temples in this town. Built in Shikhra style, these temples are the finest specimen of hill architecture. Mandi is known as a town of temples and Kashi of Himachal.

Former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who himself was a former ruler, restored the pristine glory and grandeur to the fairs in 1984 by declaring the festivities first as a state fairs and later elevating its status to “international carnivals”, according to The Pioneer.

The Shivratri fairs are being celebrated here since the very foundation of the present Mandi town in 1526 during the rule of Ajber Sen. Before that the capital of Mandi State was located on the right Bank at Bhiuli and the town was also located along the right bank of Beas, now known as Purani Mandi.

Legend has it that the land on which the present Mandi town has been established was a dense forest where cattle used to graze. A villager was intrigued to observe that his “Kapila” cow was not yielding the desired milk. He kept a vigil on the movement of the cow and was astonished to see that the cow was spilling milk on a stone. The news spread like a wild fire in the town and also reached the Raja, who verified it personally.

In the meantime Raja Ajber Sen saw Lord Shiva in the dream who ordained him to dig below the stone. He did it and to his utmost delight he found a Shivlinga buried beneath the stone. On that site he built the temple of Bhutnath and the foundation of the present Mandi town was also laid simultaneously by shifting the capital from Bhiuli to the left bank of Beas.

To mark this great event a grand congregation of hill Gods and Goddesses was held to celebrate the birth of the new town on the pious occasion of Mahashivratri. For many years the rulers of the state used to prolong the celebrations for a month. As the years rolled by the fairs have shrunk to a week.

During the rule of Surya Sen (1664-1679), who had no heir, as all his eighteen sons had died during his life time, the sovereignty was vested in Madho Rai (Lord Vishnu). In the subsequent years, the Ratha carrying the silver image of Madho Rai used to lead the Shobha Yatra. The silver image of Madho Rai is still revered as before and his vehicle (Rtha) is in the forefront of the divine march of the hill Gods and Goddesses.

After independence the role of the Raja is being performed by the elected rulers and governors who perform the traditional pooja in keeping with the ancient traditions. The fairs this year will virtually commence on February 25 when Devis and Devtas would start descending on the town. Rousing reception would be given to them by deputy commissioner cum Chairman Mela Committee and its members.

Devesh Kumar, deputy commissioner cum Chairman Mela Committee says elaborate arrangements have been made to ensure grand success of the fair. A sum of Rs 1.25 crore would be spent on the fairs. As many as 215 hill Gods and Goddesses have been invited to participate in the week-long carnival.

Kumar says the fair will be formally inaugurated on February 21 by the Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. He will perform traditional pooja at the temple of Madho Rai and participate in the grand Shobha Yatra which will start from the mini-secretariat and terminate at the sprawling Padal Ground where the international fair will be formally declared open.

Every year, thousands of people lined up on both the sides of the road from Seri Pavilion to the venue of the fairs - Padal Ground. Lead by Madho Rai hundreds of hill Gods and Goddesses, contingents of mounted police, home guards and NCC followed by the elite of the town wearing multi-coloured-turbans join the procession.

State level Shivratri sports are also organised. Shivratri exhibition is one of the main attractions of the fairs where privates, corporate, public sector organisations and government departments set up stalls.

Evening cultural programmes are the star attractions of the fairs where artists of national and international fame participate. Cultural troupes from different states take part in the cultural nights.