With the onset of Mahashivratri, we are reminded, once again, of the three-eyed Lord Shiva – a charismatic and influential deity of the Hindu trinity. This is one of the most prominent and widely celebrated Hindu festivals in India and a few other parts of the world. According to the lunar calendar, Shivratri is observed on the 14th morning of every month. Many observe a special fast on this day, while others visit Shiva temples in their vicinity and offer prayers to pay their respects.
Like any other Hindu festival, Mahashivratri has many legends associated with it. One of the most popular of them, says that this day marks the marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Meanwhile, the puranas suggest that it is related to Samudra Manthan, an event that involved Lord Shiva drinking the poison that emerged during the mythical churning of the ocean in order to save the world. Mahashivratri also marks the end of winter and the onset of summer.
North India celebrates the festival with much fervour. And Team LF got the opportunity to travel across these states during the shoot of Ganga: The Soul of India with Bollywood actress and environmentalist Dia Mirza. So, we bring to you a list of the best places to celebrate Mahashivratri in 2020.
Haridwar One of the sapta-puris (seven sacred cities) of Hindu pilgrimage, Haridwar is famously known for its Har ki Pauri (a ghat on the banks of river Ganga) and Ganga aarti. Another highlight of this city is the Prajapati Daksha Mahadev Temple, the Shakti Sthal (power site) that draws crowds of devotees during Mahashivratri. When here for the Mahashivratri festivities, pilgrims spend their time by taking a dip in the Har ki Pauri, walking from temple to temple chanting mantras loudly.
VaranasiThe temple city of Varanasi (aka Banaras) along the western banks of the holy river Ganges, is believed to be situated on Lord Shiva’s trident. It is home to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple where you can head to celebrate the auspicious day of Mahashivratri in 2020. The festivities for this occasion begin much earlier in Varanasi with more than a million spiritual travellers landing in the city to perform rituals.
If in the city during Mahashivratri, you’ll witness a wedding procession for Shiva and Parvati. Several locals and visitors take part in this procession, sometimes dressed as different gods and goddesses. It starts from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and ends approximately after five hours at the Tilbhandeshwar Temple in the southern part of the city.
If you’re not fasting, follow the procession and take pit stops at some of the famous street food outlets, such as the Ram Bhandar for kachoris.
RishikeshAbout 30 kms away from the town of Rishikesh is the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple. Many people who follow the path of Shaivism flock to the temple during Mahashivratri to offer milk, flowers, honey, fruits, water and coconut. In the vicinity, there’s a fair organised for visitors, which has stalls offering local delicacies, indigenous jewellery, and handmade art and crafts.
Back in Rishikesh, you can also visit other ancient temples, popular cafes, yoga ashrams, and participate in adventure sports, such as bungee jumping and river rafting.
So, this Mahashivratri, if you’re in the mood to witness the festive euphoria dedicated to Lord Shiva, then you must bookmark these places. Are you booking tickets yet?
Images: Shutterstock and Living Foodz