Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), Feb 27 IANS | 5 months ago

The festival of Mahashivratri in this town, popularly called "Chhoti Kashi", will begin Friday and see a congregation of over 200 hill gods and goddesses.


The festivities will continue till March 6.

The celebrations date back to 1526 when the town was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen. He "invited" all local deities to mark the founding of the new town.

"A total of 215 deities have been invited for Mahashivratri this year. Principal deity Dev Kamrunag reached here Wednesday," Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar, the chief organiser of the festival, told IANS.

He said the arrival of the deities in beautifully decorated palanquins amid sounds of trumpets and drums has begun. The deities will stay here till the festival concludes.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will inaugurate the celebrations Friday. He will also participate in a procession on the opening day. Governor Urmila Singh will be chief guest at the closing ceremony.

During the first day of the festival, Lord Madho Rai, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the chief deity, leads the procession.

The assembled deities follow him in beautifully decorated palanquins, as per protocol, and assemble at the Bhutnath temple here.

Three such processions, locally called "Jaleb", would be taken out on the opening, middle and concluding days of the festival, organisers said.

Mandi, located on the Chandigarh-Manali national highway-21, is dotted with more than 80 temples built in typical hill architecture.

The prominent temples are those of Bhutnath, Triloki Nath, Jagannath, Tarna Devi and Jalpa Devi.

The rulers of Mandi state were devotees of Lord Shiva.

Legend has it that ruler Sen (1499-1534) saw in his dreams a cow offering milk to an idol of Lord Shiva. His dream became reality because, according to legend, he actually once saw a cow make a milk offering to an idol.

That was when the ruler constructed a temple in 1526 - the Bhutnath temple - dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The foundation of Mandi town was laid at the same time, and Sen later shifted his capital here.

The administration has since been inviting deities to the Shivratri festivities here, ever since the rule of princely states came to an end. The administration also offers an honorarium to the "kardars" (attendants of deities) for participating in the festival.

Every year, the festival attracts scores of tourists. Many researchers studying local gods and goddesses also arrive at this time.

(Posted on 27-02-2014)