The week-long International Mandi Shivaratri Fair started with much fanfare on Saturday with Sobha Yatra from Shri Raj Madhav Temple to Paddal Mela Ground in Mandi.

The fair was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who presided over the opening ceremony and said it was vital that we respect our tradition and culture as only those societies thrives that respect and love their culture.

“Mandi Shivratri not only reflects the deep faith of the people of their Gods and Goddesses, but it provides an opportunity to the people for socialization,” he said, adding the fair has also emerged as the major fair for commercial activities.

Thakur said in the present era of cut-throat competition, people usually have little time to participate in the fairs, which was a matter of concern.

Himachal was known as Dev Bhoomi as lives of the people of the state are deeply influenced by the local Gods and Goddesses. Almost all the villages of the state have their own temple and own deity.

He said Mandi town was also known as Choti Kashi as there are over a hundred temples in the town.

The state government has spent over Rs 72 crore on providing twenty-four-hour drinking water supply to the Mandi Town. A Shiv Dham would also be developed in Mandi town, besides construction of Heliport to attract the tourists to visit the town. “The state government is striving hard to construct International Airport at Balh area of Mandi. Multi-Story parking would be constructed in Mandi town,” he added.

He also announced that trekker hut would also be constructed in the town to facilitate tourists visiting the town.

He announced Rs 20 lakh for two ambulance roads in the town and announced to increase of ten percent in the ‘Nazarana’ of the deities participating in the Shivratri.

He also announced a ten percent increase in honorarium of ‘Bajantaris’ on the occasion.

“Himachal is celebrating golden jubilee year of its statehood and during these fifty years, the state has made unprecedented and unparalleled development in all spheres of development.

The state government has decided to celebrate this year in a befitting manner, highlighting the achievement of the state during the last fifty years,” he said.

Chief Minister said the state government during the last two years has started several welfare and development oriented schemes for people of the state.

Schemes such as Jan Manch and Chief Minister Helpline 1100 have proved boon to the people for redressal of their grievances and Himachal is the fifth state of the country to start this scheme.

He said HimCare Scheme has benefitted over 60 thousand people of the state in getting free treatment.