Dev Bhoomi Himachal Pradesh is known for its religious history, festivals, and temples which has earned Himachal the popular title of Dev Bhoomi (Land of the Gods).
Many fairs are organized in Himachal, some of which have international recognition, one of them is the Maha Shivratri fair celebrated in Mandi, which is a famous international fair. This year it is starting from 18th February and will end on 24th February.
Mahashivratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion all over India, but the Shivratri celebrated in Mandi is a unique amalgamation of culture and devotion, which makes it the center of international attention and attraction.
Held for 7 days starting from the Hindu festival of Shivratri in the city of Mandi in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
The Mandi Shivratri fair is celebrated every year on the 13th day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu calendar, which falls in February/March. The popularity of the fair is wide and hence it is known as an international festival.
Mandi is the heartland of Himachali/Pahari culture, situated in the heart of Himachal. It is home to about 100 temples, it is also called Chhoti Kashi and is considered as the city of Shiva by the local people. Its famous temples include Bhoot Nath Temple, Ekadashi Rudra Temple and Tarna Mata Temple.
In Himachal, almost every locality or village has its own deity. Invitations called nimantran are sent to these deities to be a part of the grand celebration of Mahashivaratri.
During the seven days of the fair period, the mandi is visited by over 200 beautifully decorated deities from all over Himachal.
Mandi town situated on the banks of river Beas is one of the oldest towns of Himachal Pradesh, which has about 81 temples of various deities in its periphery.
The most widely believed story on the origin of this fair is that in 1788, the Raja of Mandi, Aishwarya Sen, was released from captivity by Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra at the time of Maha Shivaratri.
To pay respect and homage to Raja Aishwarya Sen, all the regional people reached Mandi with their deities. Since then this tradition is being followed.
The entire festival is centered around the presiding deity of the mandi, Madhav Rai Ji, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. All the deities participating in the festival have to first offer their respect to Madhav Rai ji.
The Shobha Yatra or the procession of the deities is called Jaleb in the local Pahari language. Jalebs are made three times during the seven-day festival period.
Before the start of Jaleb, Madhav Rai ji and other deities visit Bhoot Nath temple to pay homage to Lord Shiva and are invited to Mahashivratri.
The Bhootnath temple located in the center of Mandi is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built by Raja Ajbar Sen in 1527 AD.
The Mahashivaratri festival begins only after Bada Dev Kamrunag reaches Mandi and as per protocol first Madhav Rao ji visits the temple, takes his blessings and performs puja at Raj Mahal Behera, after that he leaves for Tarna Mata. Dev Kamrunag stays at Tarna Mata Temple during his entire journey of 7 days. He does not get involved in any jaleb.
There are many interesting aspects of the festival such as the six Narol goddesses do not participate in the procession. She stays at Roopeshwari Behera in the Raj Mahal during the entire festival.
Such traditions form the backbone of our society and connect us to our roots.