Hundreds and thousands of devotees thronged some of the famous Shiva temples across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on the first day of the Hindu month of Shravan.
Hindus consider the month holy and propitiate Lord Shiva. Devotees offered prayers at Neelkanth Mahadev in Uttarakhand, Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi, Mankameshwar temples in Agra and Lucknow, and at various other better and lesser known temples.
Kashi Vishwanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is one of the twelve "jyotirlingas" reverred by Hindus as representing Lord Shiva, and another is Kedarnath in Uttarakhand.
Soaked in heavy rains since morning, the devotees — clad in saffron clothes and chanting "Har Har Mahadev" and "Bum Bum Bhole" — offered "bel" leaves, twigs of "dhatoora" (also known as devil's trumpets), flowers, Ganga water, milk and honey to the deity.
This year, priests at a temple in Lucknow told IANS, there is a "rare and extraordinary line-up of stars" for Shravan as the month starts and concludes on a Monday, a day dear and devoted to Lord Shiva.
There are also five Mondays this time around in Shravan, a first in 50 years, they said.
The kanwariyas also undertake a tough pilgrimage from the fist day of the Shravan, walking with pitchers of the holy Ganga water all the way from Hardwar to their home towns and villages where the pitchers are emptied on at the Shiva temples.