Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Friday inaugurated the weeklong Mahashivratri in this Himachal town, popularly known as ‘Chhoti Kashi’, amid the congregation of over 200 deities from hundreds of temples.
Though the Mahashivratri was celebrated by the country on Thursday. It is a tradition to start the celebrations a day later.
The celebrations date back to 1526 when Mandi was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen (1499-1534). He had ‘invited’ all the local deities to mark the founding of the new town.
The local administration has been inviting the deities to participate in the festivity.
On the first day of the festival, a procession led by Lord Madho Rai, an incarnate of Lord Vishnu and the chief deity, was taken out.
The assembled deities followed him in beautifully decorated palanquins, as per protocol, and later congregated at the Bhutnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, which was constructed in 1526.
Two such processions, locally called ‘Jaleb’, would be taken out on the middle and concluding days of the fair, said an organiser.
A day earlier, Deity Kamrunag, the main guest, reached the town along with hundreds of his devotees in a colourful procession amid beating of drums.
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 were devotees of Lord Shiva.
It is believed that ruler Ajbar Sen saw in his dreams a cow offering milk to the image of Lord Shiva. His dream turned into reality when he himself saw the cow offering its milk to the idol.
He then constructed a temple there in 1526 — the Bhutnath temple.
Simultaneously, the foundation of Mandi town was also laid and he shifted his capital here.
Ever since the rule of princely states came to an end, the district administration has been following the practice and inviting deities to the Shivratri festivities here.
The administration also offers an honorarium to the “kardars” — the attendants of deities — for participating in the festival.