Hundreds of Hindu devotees visited the Sri Ratneswar Mahadev Temple, attributing the pleasant weather in the city to their Shivratri celebrations on Wednesday.
According to their tradition, it rains on this day every year so that the earth can be purified. Hindus from all over Sindh assembled at the old temple near Clifton to honour lord Shiva on the sixth night of the dark phalgun, which usually falls in February or March every year. They believe lord Shiva is the destroyer of the world, following Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver.
Milkweed pearls, wild white and purple flowers sacred to lord Shiva, adorned every vendor’s stall. They sold materials for the pooja (worship) such as incense, garlands, holy powders, lamps, coconut.
It is an auspicious day for worshippers to purify themselves and express their devotion to God by fasting, praying and meditating. “It is a time to seek happiness in this world and the hereafter,” said the temple’s priest Mahraj Ravi, dressed in a kameez and dhoti, topped with a yellow turban.
The priest said that the rituals begin the night before with a Vrata (penance) and the followers spend the night worshipping. The night is divided into four prahars, or quarters, and each quarter has a special pooja that last three hours each. “This is the time when the devotee is working for his life after death. He is working his way up to unification with the lord,” said the priest. Worshippers seeking great merit also fast from sunrise and break the fast 24 hours later.
The formal worship of Maha Shivratri consists of bathing the Shiva Lingam using milk, honey, yoghurt and pure ghee. “This year we sprinkled jal (holy water) collected from 1,008 temples and holy places across the world,” he said.
The occasion was significant to worshippers for reasons of their own. Many married and unmarried women fast for their husbands because, according to history, Parvati married the lord after she meditated for an undefined period, praying to get him as her husband.
“I wore new clothes and got a new thali for worship to please the lord so I too get a good husband,” blushed Seema.
Neeta wore a new outfit and cooked prasad at home with her mother and aunts. She entered the temple after getting a tilak on her forehead that symbolises respect.
Kumar accompanied his mother, all the way from Quaidabad to play at the temple. “I come here because it is fun,” shrugged the young boy. His tilak, kohl-laden eyes and two amulets showed that he belonged to a family of staunch observers.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2011.
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