Maha Shivratri celebrations commence tonight

* More than 1,000 devotees from India and Pakistan will worship at Katas Raj * 300 Indian pilgrims expected

LAHORE: Celebrations for the most sacred night of the Hindu religion, the Maha Shivratri, will start today. 
More than 1,000 Pakistani and Indian Hindu devotees will participate in the holy festival. As many as 158 Indian Hindu pilgrims arrived in Lahore through Wahga border on Tuesday to participate in the religious event. They walked across the border, where officials from the Evacuee Trust Board of Pakistan (ETBP) welcomed them. Another 100 Indian pilgrims are expected today to observe the religious ceremony at the Katas Temples Complex in Chakwal district. 
This is the third time that Indian Hindus will be here to worship at their holiest temple in Pakistan. The first delegation of pilgrims visited in 2012 and consisted of 43 members, followed by around 200 the next year.
Sources told Daily Times that around 300 Indians have been issued visas this year for Maha Shivratri. 
Indian pilgrims staying in the Gurdawara Dera Sahab (Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s Marri) will leave for Katas Raj this morning under tight security. Delegations of Pakistani-Hindu devotees from Lahore, Peshawar, Nowshehra, Sialkot, Narowal, Rawalpindi, Kohat, Raheem Yar Khan and from different areas of Sindh province will also participate in the event. The pilgrims will spend the night and Thursday there.
The Indian Hindu pilgrims’ group leader Mr V.P Bhardwaj expressed his pleasure at visiting Lahore and for being able to attend the Maha Shivratri at the holy temple.
Maha Shivaratri, also called the Night of Shiva, is a festival to celebrate the marriage of the god Shiva with the goddess Parvati. On this day, pilgrims stand in queues outside temples with religious offerings. During these religious rituals, devotees offer leaves from the bael tree to Shiva’s idols and hold a candlelight vigil. They fast the next day.
According to the Hindu religion, goddess Parvati on this day performed the Tapas, prayed and meditated to ward off any evil that might befall her husband Shiva on the moonless night. Since then, Maha Shivaratri has been believed to be an auspicious occasion for women to pray for the well being of their husbands and sons. An unmarried woman prays for a husband like Shiva, who is considered the ideal husband.
Katas Temples Complex is also called Satgirah, as there are seven temples close to each other in holy sequence, as well as lake held sacred in Hinduism. A few other temples are also located around Chakwal, built during the reigns of Hindu kings thousands of years ago.

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