Shimla: Shivratri celebrated with much fanfare, for over a week at Mandi, a township besides River Beas in Himachal Pradesh but other towns across the hills also witnessed huge crowds lined up outside every small and big Shiv Temple to celebrate the festival, which concluded here yesterday.
Shivratri happens to be one of the most prominent festivals celebrated in the hill state. Mahi Shivratri in Mandi has in fact garnered the status of being an International festival. Every year it is not only attended by locals, but also draws huge crowds of foreign tourists from across the globe.
The festival is held in accordance to the Hindu calendar on Krishan Paksha, which happens to be the 13thd day of the waning moon or the 14th new day of Phalgun.
Despite rain and hailstorm in most parts of Himachal, thousands of devotees were seen lined outside temples everywhere, including Shimla.
They patiently waited in long queues for their turn for Darshan. They brought along liters of milk for making oblations in temples. They also made offerings of flowers, fruit, honey and also money.
In exchange of these offerings, priests distributed Prasad made with weed, be it Ghota (slurry drink made from weed), pakoras and several other foods in which the main ingredient was the Lord Shiva’s favorite hard stuff.
Among the crowds, youngsters occupied a prominent place in the queues. All of them in high spirits, mostly in want of the kick they’d get from the weed Prasad.
Locals of Badagoan some 15 kilometers from Shimla saw a rush of grueling crowds stranded on narrow paths snaking above on the slopes for Shiva darshan at the Swam Bhu Himeshwer Mahadev temple, also popularly known as Him Tirth.
Every year this temple in solitude suddenly comes alive on the day of Shivratri. Thousands of people throng the temple from early hours in the morning, till late at night.
After sunset the villagers organize night long prayers and poojas in honor of Lord Shiva. In their inebriated state they sing hymns and dance to the tunes of these melodies. This year was no different; over 4000 people were reported to have visited the place.
From next year we might even see special buses making trips to the temple and providing the much needed transportation.
Other Shiv temples including one in Middle Bazaar, Malyana, Dhalli and several other small Shiv Temples in various localities were also decorated for the occasion and served prasda and bhandaras all day long.
Photos by Ashwani