January 19, 2018
contest: "Wood and Life" Heritage category
$ 4800
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Siddharth Rathod

On the moonless night when it is believed Lord Shiva performed his tandava, the cosmic dance of destruction, a great mahapuja is performed. This great ritual begins at midnight on Mahashivaratri, when naga bavas, or naked sages, seated on elephants and decked in ornaments, arrive holding flags and blowing conch shells, tungis, and turis, the sounds of which reverberate through the entire space. Leading a large procession to the temple, they thus mark the commencement of an emotive religious ceremony.

Devotees believe that Shiva himself visits the shrine on this occasion. Girnar is said to be the abode of the nine immortal nathas, and eighty-four siddhas, all of whom also visit the temple in their invisible spirit forms during Mahashivaratri. Offerings are made to the deities, and the festive energy courses through performances of dance, music and traditional bhavai theatre.

Before going to the fair, many pilgrims do a parikrama of the holy hills of Girnar, a journey of about 7 km. Visitors are served free meals by the organizers. Special stalls sell idols, rosaries brought from Ayodhya and Mathura, and delectable sweets.

This fair is beautiful but at the same time passionate and intense, so we caution first time visitors to move in groups, not alone. It is a mammoth affair brimming with mysticism and revelry.

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