Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Saturday inaugurated the weeklong International Shivratri Mandi Fair in this town popularly known as “Chhoti Kashi”.
Speaking on the occasion, he announced a medical university would be set up here.
Earlier, the Chief Minister participated in religious ceremonies in the ancient temple of Lord Madho Rai, an incarnate of Lord Vishnu and the chief deity of Mandi.
Accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, he led the colorful procession that also saw participation of nearly 200 assembled deities from hundreds of temples located in the region.
The assembled deities follow the chief deity in beautifully decorated palanquins, as per protocol.
The festivities of Mahashivratri began here a day later when celebrations ended in other northern states. It will conclude on March 2.
The celebrations date back to 1526 when this town was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen (1499-1534). He had “invited” all the local deities to mark the founding of the new town.
Two more such processions, locally called ‘Jaleb’, would be taken out — another in middle of the festivity and the last on the concluding day of the fair.
Mandi, located on the Chandigarh-Manali National Highway-21, is dotted with more than 80 temples built in typical hill architecture. The prominent temples are those of Bhutnath, Triloki Nath, Jagannath, Tarna Devi and Jalpa Devi.
The Chief Minister announced an increase in the ‘nazarana’ or honorarium of deities by 10 per cent.
He said the life of the people of the state revolves around the local gods and goddesses, which are are an inseparable part of life and participate in almost all the activities. “We should perform all the religious ceremonies as per the traditional practice.”
Transactions worth millions of rupees are conducted during the festival. Kullu and Kinnauri shawls, handicrafts, carpets and dry fruits are a major attraction for the customers.