Srinagar: Maha Shivratri, locally known as ‘Herath’, was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety across Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.
Pandits paid obeisance at temples and offered Puja on the occasion. The biggest gathering on the festival was held at Shankaracharya Temple overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar.
The special prayers were also held at Ganpatyar and Hanuman Temple at Amira Kadal in Srinagar throughout the day.
The festival holds an important place among the Pandits, who celebrate it to mark the wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati by cooking traditional Kashmiri food and dishes especially fish.
On this festival, the Pandits distribute walnuts as a mark of respect to the Hindu deities. The temples were decorated with different colours and flowers.
Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna.
Sanjay Saraf, a Kashmir Pandit said that Herath is the most important festival of the Kashmiri Pandits and is uniquely observed for atleast three weeks.
“Each day or group of days has a special name and an associated religious function. Herath brings with it joy and happiness, family reunion, celebration of the Siva-Sakti and an urge to strive for a better life. We pray and celebrate the presence of Siva and Sakti in our midst along with their Ganas in the form of Vatuk,” he said.
“The occasion is celebrated throughout J&K and has a special significance for Kashmiri Pandits,” said Mohan Lal, a Kashmiri Pandit.
“Maha Shivaratri, locally known as Herath, calls for a night devoted to worship of Lord Shiva. It holds immense value for Hindus and is a big day for the devotees of Lord Shiva,” he added.
Ashok Bhat, another Kashmiri Pandit said that they were overwhelmed by the greeting messages received from Muslim brethren.
“Social media was abuzz with greeting messages posted by our Muslim brethren. I also received scores of messages while my Muslim friends also greeted me and my family on phone and by paying visit to us on this occasion,” he said.
He added that the festival is a symbol of communal harmony for ages. An official said that the Fishers Department had made available fish at different stalls in Kashmir, including in the summer capital Srinagar.