Shobha Yatra to begin tomorrow in 'Kashi' of Himachal

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Mandi, Mar 6 (UNI) Shivratri is the time for week-long celebrations in this centuries-old 'town of temples', attracting devotees and visitors from across the world.

Mandi town has been decked up to receive about 125 gods and goddesses which converge here with regal traditions of the erstwhile princely state. They pay obeisance to Madho Rai, the presiding deity of ancient Mandi State on the occasion of Mahashivratri. The celebrations, in form of a religious fair, commence with a spectacular 'shobha yatra', a day after Mahashivratri worship is held in the temples.

It used to be a time for great royal celebrations marked with religious fervour and gaiety for the rulers of Mandi state, who were devotees of Lord Shiva.

Former royal scion, Virbhadra Singh, restored the ancient glory to the fair when he became Chief Minister for the first time, by declaring it a state fair and later elevating its status to an international carnival.

Not much has changed in the tradition of the fair except that now the place of the king has been taken over by Chief Minister and Governor who pay obeisance and perform pooja before the Madho Rai and at Bhutnath temples.

The ancient shrines of Shiva, Bhutnath, Trilokinath, Panchvaktra and Ardhnarishwar built in 'Shikhara' style are the finest specimen of ancient art and finest monuments of hill architecture. The town is dotted by over 100 temples and is famous as "Kashi of Himachal".

The grand Shobha Yatra, starts from Damdama Palace, led by Madho Rai and hundreds of gods and goddesses carried by thousands of devotees.

Mounted police, home guards and NCC, officials accompany the yatra which after traversing through the town, terminates at the sprawling Pandal Ground where the Chief Minister formally inaugurates the fair.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal will inaugurate the Shobha Yatra tomorrow.

The week-long colourful cultural nights in which national and international artistes regale the audience are the highlights of the fair, which would be declared closed by the Governor, Mr Vishnu Sadaship Kokje.

UNI XC PS JS1630

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