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‘Chhoti Kashi’ turns godly

Statesman News Service | Shimla |

It was a spectacular show in Mandi town of Himachal Pradesh (HP) as week-long Mahashivratri fair began on Thursday with over 200 hill gods and goddesses (deities) converging in for the celebration.

Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur and other political leaders from the district also reached Mandi for the ‘divine show’.

The festival is celebrated with much fan fare in Mandi, which is popularly known as ‘Chhoti Kashi’, a day after it ends at all other places.

Mandi’s Mahashivratri fair sees a congregation of the deities and it begins with a ‘jaleb’, a kind of procession in which chief minister and locals also participate with much enthusiasm.

The deities are brought to the town from entire Mandi district in beautifully decorated palanquins by their devotees in a procession amid sounds of trumpets and drums. According to officials, over 200 deities were extended invitation for the Mahashivratri festival.

“Most of them have reached here and will stay till the festival concludes on 21 February,” the officials said.

The festival dates back to 1,526, when this town, known for its ancient temples, was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen.

The ruler invited local deities to mark the founding of the new town, which became a tradition and is still followed.

Just like traditional Dusshera celebrations in Kullu, the administration pays nazrana (honorarium) to the deities for participation, which goes to their kardars (care takers).

The Mandi district administration organises cultural shows in the evening during the Mahashivratri fair.

Mandi’s Mahashivratri festival attracts lot of tourists, especially foreigners, besides many researchers, who are keen on studies on hill gods and goddesses.

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