| Amid chanting of mantras, devotees of Lord Shiva form a serpentine queue outside Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar to offer prayers on the occasion of Mahashivaratri on Sunday. (PTI) |
Bhubaneswar, March 10: Lakhs of devotees thronged the 11th Century shrine of Lord Lingaraj at Old Town on the occasion of Mahashivaratri today.
Even though the rituals were delayed by about an hour in the evening, temple authorities expected the mahadeep (the huge lamp lit atop the temple) to be taken to the temple top on time — between 9.30pm and 10pm.
In the evening, more than 3 lakh devotees gathered around the temple to catch a glimpse of the mahadeep.
The devotees were seen queuing up from midnight for darshan (divine view) of the lord and to offer their prayers. The temple that was opened around 3.30am for sahanmela darshan was closed at 11am. As the sun blazed in the morning, temple authorities expected fewer people to turn up. A patch of cloud covered the sun in the afternoon, bringing relief to devotees who were already there and prompting more to visit the temple. A large number of devotees were seen queuing up at the shrine that reopened for public viewing at 3pm.
The officials said there was a delay of a few minutes in opening the temple because of a few minor issues. But once the temple was opened to the public, the rituals went smoothly. However, by evening the rituals were being performed about an hour late.
“The rituals were late by an hour because of unavoidable circumstances. But all the nijog (servitor groups) members are trying their best to perform their activities and coordinate among themselves so that there is no more delay. We expect the mahadeep (auspicious lamp) to be lifted to the temple top by the scheduled time — between 9.30pm and 10pm,” said chief executive of the temple administration Abani Pattnaik.
Devotees, who fast all day, end their fast after seeing the mahadeep being lifted to the top of the temple at night. The administration had this time talked to the nijog to ensure smooth conduct of the rituals and planned to stick to the schedule. With an eye on the huge footfall, the temple administration had erected barricades inside the temple and arranged for places where people could light small lamps.
“I have come from Cuttack CDA to offer prayers to Lord Shiva here. A few years ago, I had come here on Shivaratri and a wish was fulfilled. Since then, I have been visiting Lingaraj temple on Mahashivaratri,” said Hemalata Sadangi, a homemaker, who was originally from Old Town.
Not only devotees from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, people from distant places like Berhampur, Koraput and Keonjhar were seen waiting in queues to offer their prayers to the lord. Devotees from outside the state along with foreign tourists were also seen enjoying the festive fervour in Old Town.
“I visit Odisha every year during rath yatra and on other occasions. This year, I have been able to witness Shivaratri in Bhubaneswar. The arrangements are so good that I had a darshan of the deity in the morning and offered my prayers,” said Naresh Mitra from Calcutta.
A few foreign tourists were seen offering prayers from raised platforms outside the temple boundary wall. “We may not be allowed entry into the temple. But the festive atmosphere and spirituality in people is amazing here,” said Albertina, a tourist from Germany.
The devotees partake of the prasad (divine food) offered to the lord after seeing the mahadeep to break their daylong fast. But they continue nightlong prayers by chanting shlokas (Sanskrit verses).
Police officials had erected barricades outside the temple for crowd control. Fifteen platoons of police were deployed for law and order, crowd control and to manage vehicular movement.
Vehicles were not allowed to approach the temple and were diverted from various places on the approach roads.
Devotees were allowed to queue through the barricaded lines into the temple. Volunteers were seen sprinkling water on the devotees as the sun blazed.
A large numbers of devotees thronged Shiv temples all over the state. Huge footfalls were also seen at Srilokanath temple in Puri, Akhandalamani temple at Aradi in Bhadrak, Dhabaleswar temple near Cuttack, Mukteswar temple in Ganjam and Gupteswar temple in Koraput.