21st February, Namchi, South Sikkim.
Grand celebrations took place on the 21st of February at Siddeshwar Dham also known as Char Dham, Solophok as thousands of faithful devotees of the Hindu God Shiva also known as Mahadeva (the greatest God).
Maha Shivratri, which literally translates to “great night of Shiva” is a Hindu festival largely celebrated in the Hindu community. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha according to the Hindu calendar. The day is celebrated in veneration of Lord Shiva.
There are various interesting legends
related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. The most popular legend says that
Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Some believe that
it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the
‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction.
Another popular Shivratri legend stated in Linga Purana states that it was on
Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Hence the
day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they
celebrate it as Mahashivaratri – the grand night of Shiva.
The worshippers of Lord Shiva dutifully follow various traditions and customs related to Shivaratri Festival. Devotees observe strict fast in honour of Shiva, though many go on a diet of fruits and milk some do not consume even a drop of water. Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaratri absolves a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands, unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband. To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc.
On Shivaratri, worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the day and night. Every three hours priests perform ritual pooja of Shiva lingam by bathing it with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water amidst the chanting of Om Namah Shivay’ and ringing of temple bells. Nightlong vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where a large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. It is only on the following morning that devotees break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.
All the rituals and traditions were duly followed at Siddeshwar Dham, where the Dham administration organised a bhandara for the visitors, a cultural program devoted to Lord Shiva. Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation cum Commerce and Industries, Shri B.S. Panth was invited as the Chief Guest with the Guest of Honour being renowned dharma guru Rohit Raj Maharaj. The Dham Trust fund was graced with Rs 50,000 by the chief guest with him cutting the ribbon for the re-opening of the fountains that had almost laid dormant for 7 years and the flag hoisting at the Yoga and Meditation Center of the Bramhakumaris at Siddeshwar Dham.