Colourful palanquins of over 200 deities congregated at historic Mandi town of Himachal to celebrate week-long Shivratri fair on February 28. The organising committee had sent invitations to 215 deities seeking their presence. Arrangements were being made to host deities and their thousands of followers.
The historical Shivratri fair of Mandi, which was started by Raja Ajber Sen in Purani Mandi around 400 years ago, revolves around Mado Rai (Lord Vishnu) temple and Bhootnath temple (Lord Shiva) of Mandi, which has 81 temples within the town and is popularly known as Chhoti Kashi.
One of the most important fairs and festivals of Himachal Pradesh is Shivratri Fair held in the picturesque Mandi. Held in February and March each year, Mandi Shivratri fair attracts visitors from all over. Festivities last about a week and a multitude of colours amaze the viewer. During Shivratri Fair Himachal Pradesh, pleasantly decorated crowbars carry out all the local deities.
Accompanied by folk bands, and hordes of enthusiastic amateurs, crowbars stop at Mash Rai Temple and then proceed to the Bhootnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
"215 deities were invited and arrangements of boarding and lodging were made for their followers," additional district magistrate Pankaj Rai said. He added that the cultural programmes were held at Paddal ground.
This year, several artistes from Bollywood, Punjab and other states also performed during the cultural nights. Shivratri celebrations at Mandi concluded on March 6 when all deities return to their respective temples. Security arrangements were being made by the district police. Mandi superintendent of police R S Negi said that CCTV cameras were installed all across the venue. "Heavy police deployment were made to ensure peace and order. Cops in camouflaged dress kept an eye on pickpockets and a bomb disposal squad and sniffer dogs pressed into service," he said.