MANSEHRA: At the stroke of midnight on the 13th day of Phalguna, the twelfth month of the Hindu calendar, Hindus all around the world remember Lord Shiva.
The three-day festival of Shivratri or Great Night of Shiva usually falls between mid-February and early March. It is supposed to fall on a moonless night when Hindus offer a special prayer to Shiva. It is said to be the night when Shiva performed the Tandaya Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
In Khyber-Paktunkhwa (K-P), the Hindus gather in a small mandir, which looks much like a house built over 13 marlas, about 30 minutes away from Mansehra in Chiti Gati Gandiyan to celebrate Shivratri.
As one of the most auspicious events of the religion, devotees fast during the day and hold vigils during the night.
This year, like the last, security has been tight. Over 700 families from Punjab, K-P, Sindh, Hazara division and a few others from the United Kingdom thronged the streets of Chiti Gati Gandiyan’s Shiv temple.
On Thursday morning, the devotees performed a ritual where Shiva was bathed with milk and honey. In the evening, they carried out a mehndi and sehra bandi where young, unmarried girls prayed for wedlock and married women asked for Shiva’s blessing, children and the wellbeing of their husband and sons.
The temple reverberated with the sound of bells and shouts of “Shankerji ki jai”. Devotees walked around the lingam, a mark which represents Shiva, three or seven times and then poured water over it; some poured milk.
According to the pundit, Darshan Lal Pujari, a special pooja will be held at 11am on Friday (today) with pundits coming in from Kohat, Peshawar and other parts of the country. After the pooja, prashad will be distributed among the devotees at noon to mark the end of the festival.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Pujari said that the security arrangements were done well and the local community gave their support and made it possible to celebrate Shivratri.
According to the Puranas, an ancient Hindu text, during the Samudra Manthan or the churning of the milky ocean, a pot of poison came out of the ocean which the gods and demons were terrified to touch or drink it in fear that it might destroy the entire world. They went to Shiva for help and in order to protect the world, he drank the poison. But instead of swallowing it, he held it in his throat. This turned his throat blue and he became known as Nilkantha, or the blue-throated one. It is said that the poison was so deadly that even a drop in his stomach, which is said to represent the universe, would have annihilated the entire world.
Shivratri is a way of celebrating and thanking Shiva for protecting the world from destruction.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2014.