Jawalamukhi (Himachal Pradesh), Apr 10 : A large number of pilgrims thronged the sacred temple of Jawalmukhi in Himachal Pradesh to offer prayers during the nine-day festival of 'Navaratri'.
The temple is considered extremely sacred for the Hindus, and is dedicated to Goddess Jwalamukhi, the deity of flaming mouth.
The temple is a natural cave, where the eternal flame continues to burn. The legend has it that Goddess Sati's tongue fell at the spot, which can now be seen as the eternal flame.
"Hawans (sacred fire ritual) performed during these days hold special significance. It was here that Sati's tongue fell which can now be seen in the form of a flame since, making an offering here is equivalent to a 10,000 ahutis (offerings) elsewhere," said Rishi Bhushan, a priest at the temple.
People come here from every nook and corner of the country. The hotels in the region are jam-packed. This was the case with Mahesh, a devotee.
"I have seen immense faith among the devotees. I was hunting for a room to spend the night, I could not get one as the place was jam packed with devotees thronging the place in thousands for the blessings of goddess," said Mahesh.
These nine days provide a challenge for the administration. "The Navaratras are important because the place attracts maximum number of pilgrims from across the country. The usual arrangements are always made like sanitation, security arrangements and puja," said Kamlesh Pant, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Temple-in-charge, Kangra.
Devotees observe fasts during the nine-day festival and consume only fruits and milk in their meals, avoiding cereals.
Goddess Durga is worshipped throughout the country in different forms. Durga stands for "shakti" or power. She is depicted as raging lion, holding weapons in her ten hands.
Known as Vasantha 'Navaratri', it is celebrated during Vasantha Ruthu, which means beginning of summer in March or April.