Centuries old Mahashivratri Fair to be inaugurated by HP CM
The unique seven-day long, centuries old Mahashivratri fair of Mandi will be formally inaugurated by Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur (MLA from Seraj constituency of Mandi District) on Thursday with traditional pooja and religious fanfare.
The grand Shobha Yatra headed by Madho Rai, the ruling deity of erstwhile sovereign Mandi State, will march to the sprawling Padal Stadium, the venue of fairs.
The Chief Minister, R Thakur Deputy Commissioner-cum-Chairman Mela Comm-ittee, officials, people of the town and over 200 hill Gods and Goddesses along with thousands of devotees dressed in multi-colour clothes will be the star attraction of the divine procession. People of the town line up on both sides of the road and spray flower petals on the hill deities.
The town resounds with melodious tunes of over 200 hill music instruments and orchestra played by thousands of devotees, accompanying the marching deities with the Shobha.
The exhibitions organised in the fairs play a major role in educating the farming community about the new developments in horticulture, agriculture, floriculture and similar other fields for enhancing the income of the farmers besides modern changes in various spheres of science and technology.
The Shivratri fair dates back to the era of Raja Ajber Sen of Mandi State who ruled the sovereign State in 1500 AD.
Legend has it that the land on which the present Mandi town has been established was once a dense forest where cows and cattle used to graze. A villager was astonished to note that his newly calved cow was not yielding the desired milk. He kept a regular vigil on her and found that she was spilling her milk on a stone in the forest. It is said this news spread in the town like a wild fire and also reached the king, who personally verified it.
In the meantime, it is said, another strange development took place. Ajber Sen saw Lord Shiva in dream who ordained him to dig beneath the stone where cow was spilling milk. He did it and was surprised to find a large size Shivalinga buried beneath the stone. His joy knew no bounds when he found the Shivalinga. He made up his mind to build a big Shiva Temple, now known as the temple of Bhutnath.
He also decided to shift the town from Bhiuli, the ancient capital of Mandi State to the present location on the left bank of Beas. The inauguration of the new Mandi town was fixed to celebrate the birth of the new town with a bang on the sacred day of Mahashivratri. King Ajber Sen organised a mega celebration on the birth of the new town.
All the hill deities were invited to grace the occasion. The royal celebrations continued for over a month at that time. Since then the Shivratri Fairs are being celebrated year after year. The duration of the fair has been curtailed to one week only since independence. The D.C. is the ex-offcio chairperson of Mandi Shivratri Mela Committee.
During the rule of Raja Surya Sen (1664-1679), who had no heir as all his 18 sons had died during his life time, the sovereignty of the state had been vested in Madho Rai (Lord Vishnu). Therefore, in the subsequent years Ratha carrying the silver image of Madho Rai has been leading the Shobha Yatra. The image of Madho Rai had been made by a goldsmith, Bhima.
The silver image of the Madho Rai is still revered as before and his Ratha is in the forefront of the divine march of the hill gods and goddesses. After independence the Mandi State was merged in Himachal Pradesh. Now the role of the Raja is performed by the elected rulers (chief Minister) who performs prayer and joins the Shobha Yatra in keeping with the ancient traditions.
The status of the Shivratri fair which was first declared as the state fair, then national fair and finally elevated as International Shivratri Fair in which the renowned artists from home and abroad regaled the people of Mandi.
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