Shivratri in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, also known as Choti Kashi, begins when Shivaratri ends in the rest of the world. In 2016, Mahashivratri begins on March 7 and ends on March 26, 2016. The highlight of the festival is the congregation of over 200 deities from the village temples. The murtis of Gods from nearby village temples are carried on palanquin and they arrive at the fair ground and stay at a designated spot. They then participate in processions to important Shiva temples in Mandi. The town of Mandi has more than 50 temples and important ones are dedicated to Shiva.
Mid Day reports
The celebrations date back to 1526 when this town was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen. He had 'invited' all the local deities to mark the founding of the new town.
Since then, the assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples during Mahashivratri has become a tradition.
After the rule of princely states came to an end, the district administration took over the task of inviting the gods and goddesses.
"More than 215 gods and goddesses have been invited to participate in Mahashivratri," Deputy Commissioner Devesh Kumar, the chief organiser of the festival, told IANS.
According to a legend, ruler Sen (1499-1534) saw in his dreams a cow offering milk to an idol of Lord Shiva. His dreams turned into reality when he himself saw the cow offering milk to an idol.
He then constructed a temple there in 1526 -- the Bhutnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Simultaneously, the foundation of Mandi town was also laid and he shifted his capital here.
During the first day of the fair, Lord Madho Rai, an incarnate of Lord Vishnu and the chief deity, leads the procession. The assembled deities follow him in beautifully decorated palanquins, as per protocol, and assemble at the Bhutnath temple.
Three such processions, locally called Jaleb, would be taken out on the opening, middle and concluding days of the fair, said an organiser.