Shivratri fair of Mandi is one of the most popular fairs of Himachal Pradesh. It is a famous annual international fair that is held for seven days starting with the festival of Shivratri.
The festival’s popularity is global and hence is known as an international festival. Since a large number of gods and goddesses are invited to the festival from its 81 temples, Mandi enjoys the distinct sobriquet of being ‘Varanasi or Kaashi of the Hills.’
The festival of Shivratri is held in the Krishna Phalguna month. Shivratri festival was started during the time of Raja Ajbar Sen in the 16th century in the middle of the town. He erected the temple of Bhootnath, which is an epithet of Lord Shiva.
Bhootnath is a manifestation of Lord Shiva. It is said that this temple was built by Raja Ajbar Sen of Mandi when he was asked in a dream to dig where an idol of Shiva was buried. It is said that in the olden days the land on the left bank of Beas was lying unused where the cattle used to graze. Bhoothnath or Lord Shiva is said to be the guardian deity of Mandi town.
Raja Suraj Sen, who ruled the state from 1637-1679 dedicated his kingdom to Madhorai (Lord Vishnu) as he had no heir. At the Shivratri fair, Madhorai leads the procession. Other gods pay homage to Madhorai first and then the Raja.
It is only during the fair that Madhorai comes out of his temple. As the state government has declared the Shivratri fair as an international fair, this generates widespread recognition and encourages trade and business.