*Over 2.5 lakh pilgrims visit Shiv Khori shrine
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Mar 1: The festival of Maha Shivratri was celebrated today with religious fervor and gaiety across Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) with thousands of devotees thronging temples to offer prayers to Lord Shiva.
Elaborate security arrangements were made in and around various Shiva temples to regulate the rush of devotees, facilitate smooth ‘darshan’ of Shiva Lingam and to prevent any untoward incident. The temples were decorated with colourful lights and buntings. The welcome gates were also erected in front of Shiva temples to greet the visiting devotees.
In Jammu district, the biggest gathering of devotees was seen at Aap Shambu Temple in Roop Nagar area, where the devotees started thronging right from midnight to have darshn of Shiva Lingam. Long queues of devotees were seen outside the Temple. Devotees offered milk and Jal (water) to the Shiva Lingam. The heavy rush of devotees was also witnessed at Peer Kho Temple in Jammu City and Kameshwar Temple in Akhnoor.
Special community kitchens (Langars) were also organized by individuals and social organizations and traders around the temples, where people were provided cooked food, fruits, sweets, cold drinks and juices as Prasad. The community kitchens were also organized for the devotees in various parts of Jammu City including Peer Mitha, Kachi Chawni, Parade, Peer Kho, Janipur, New Plot, Jewel Chowk, Bus Stand, Science College Road, Tallab Tillo and Bantalab.
Organized by Tourism Department, a 3-day Mela is underway at Peer Kho, where children enjoyed the rides of Ferris Wheel, Pendulum Rides and Camel Rides. Some food and departmental stalls were also set up there to attract the devotees.
Devotees from different parts of Jammu also visited historic Kameshwar Temple at Akhnoor and offered prayers. Elaborate arrangements were made by the Temple Management Committee for the smooth darshan of Shiva Lingam by the devotees. Drinking water, free langer and medicare facilities for the devotees were also put in place by the management.
The Kashmiri Pandit community living in Jammu region celebrated Maha Shivratri as ‘Herath’. The festival holds special significance among the Community which celebrates the festival for several weeks. People from Kashmiri Pandit community offered prayers for the whole night and in the morning paid obeisance to Lord Shiva by visiting various temples.
Several temples falling under the realm of Dharmarth Trust including Ranbireshwar Temple Jammu, Purmandal, Utter Behni in Samba, Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar; Shiv Temple Arnas, Sudhmahadev in Ramnagar, Shiv Temple Ramban, Shiv Temple in Satwari, etc witnessed huge rush of devotees who offered prayers to Lord Shiva. Earlier in the day, Trustee J&K Dharmarth Trust and former MLC, Vikramaditya Singh visited Ranbireshwar Temple and inspected arrangements made for the devotees. He also performed traditional Pooja and later prayed for the peace and prosperity of J&K.
Maha Shivratri was also celebrated in other districts of Jammu Region. More than 3 lakh devotees from within and various parts of the country paid obeisance at the historic Shiv Khori Shrine nested in Shivalik hills of District Reasi during first two days of Maha Shivratri Festival. J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina along with former MoS Advocate Ajay Nanda visited the cave shrine, paid obeisance and prayed for the peace and prosperity of the UT.
Keeping in view the heavy flow of pilgrims during this Shivratri Festival, the Reasi administration had made all elaborate necessary arrangements which include security, drinking water, power supply, medicare facilities with ambulance, sanitation, fire services, yatra slip counter etc. A colourful cultural programme at the base camp at Ransoo was also organized on the 2nd day of the Mela. The programme mainly based on the Shiv Mahima and UT folk was witnessed by large number of pilgrims.
DDC Reasi Babila Rakwal who is also the vice chairman of the Shiv Khori Shrine Board informed that during the first two days of Mela, around 3 lakhs pilgrims visited the shrine till 5 pm on March 1. She further informed more than 2.5 lakhs pilgrims visited today at the Shrine. Huge rush was also witnessed today at Baba Dhansar, Kansi Patta, Salal Shiv Cave, Mahadev Temple and other shrines at Reasi.
Thousands of devotees paid obeisance to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in ancient Maheshwari Temple, Sameshwar Temple and Dangeshwar Temple in Samba district. Large number of devotees’ drawn from different areas thronged the ancient Shiva Temple at Billawar town in Kathua district and offered special prayers to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. A large number of devotees thronged the ancient Shiva Temple at Sudh Mahadev, Shiva Temple Ramnagar and Devki Temple at Devika Udhampur and offered special Pooja to Lord Shiva.
Huge rush of devotees was witnessed in Shiva temples in erstwhile Doda district. As per reports, a large number of devotees thronged historical ‘Gupt Ganga’ temples where main function was held. The devotees including women and children were seen waiting in long queues for darshan during the entire day. Maha Shivratri was also celebrated in temples of Ramban, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch districts.
Mahashivratri also referred to as ‘Herath’ in Kashmir was today observed with religious gaiety as hundreds of people thronged Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar where special prayers were held on the occasion. The stairs leading to the Shankaracharya Temple witnessed rush of people who were heading towards the Temple to participate in the Pooja held especially on the day.
One of the priests at Shankaracharya Temple said that he along with others prayed for peace and development to prevail in J&K while adding that they have received immense support from Kashmiri Muslims for the conduct of the Festival. Anish Shastri who had come from Jammu said that he along with his family members prayed for an end to the war in Ukraine and the safe return of Indian students stuck there.
On the occasion, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir P K Pole as well as Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu also reached Shankaracharya Temple and met the devotees there. “I prayed for the peace to persist in J&K; Last night was Shab e Meraj and today is Mahashivratri, it is nothing but a divine coincidence,” Pole said while urging Kashmiri Pandits to come and visit Kashmir.
He said these festivals teach brotherhood, unity and harmony among diverse communities. He also said that all the facilities have been made available for the convenience of devotees at Shankaracharya and various other temples. SMC, Mayor who also visited Shankaracharya Temple and interacted with devotees, extended his greetings and best wishes to them.
The Festival was also celebrated by the local Hindu community at other temples in Srinagar including Hanuman Temple and Ganpatyar Temple.