Mandi Shivaratri Fair: An International Fair of Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh, often referred to as "Devbhoomi" or the land of Gods and deities, has been a beacon of spiritual significance for centuries. The people of this picturesque hilly state maintain a profound connection with their divine entities, shaping their daily lives around faith and reverence. 

In Himachal Pradesh, the presence of Gods is not confined to temples and special occasions; rather, it permeates daily life. Whether it's agriculture, marriage, childbirth, or any significant activity, the people invoke blessings from their deities. This deep-rooted devotion reflects a belief system ingrained in the fabric of Himachali society.

Mandi International Shivratri

Mandi, a picturesque town nestled in the serene landscapes of Himachal Pradesh, comes alive with vibrant colors and spiritual fervor during the annual International Shivratri Festival. Mandi Shivratri becomes a focal point, where the people of this picturesque state come together to express their devotion to Lord Shiva.This seven-day extravaganza, commencing with the auspicious Hindu festival of Shivaratri, transforms Mandi into a cultural haven, earning it the revered title of "Chhoti Kashi."

Mandi, formerly known as Mandavya Nagari, traces its historical roots to the meditations of Mandav Rishi on the sacred Kolsara rock in the Beas River.

  • The Mandi Shivaratri Fair, an esteemed international event, unfolds annually over seven days, commencing with the auspicious Hindu festival of Shivaratri in the town of Mandi
  • Aligned with the Hindu calendar, the Mandi Shivaratri Fair occurs each year on the 13th day and night of Krishna Paksha, with the fast-breaking ceremony ('vrata') conducted on the 14th day post-sunrise. This corresponds to the month of Phalguna, equivalent to February/March in the Gregorian calendar.
  • Recognized as an international festival due to its widespread popularity, the event earns Mandi town the moniker of the 'Varanasi of the Hills,' owing to the participation of numerous deities from its 81 temples.
  • Renowned for its transformative impact, the Mandi festival turns the town into a magnificent celebration venue as over 200 deities from the Mandi district gather, initiating with Shivaratri.
  • Nestled on the banks of the Beas River, Mandi, often referred to as the "cathedral of temples," holds the distinction of being one of the oldest towns in Himachal Pradesh, boasting 81 temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses.
  • The festival revolves around the guardian deity of Mandi, "Mado Rai" (Lord Vishnu), and Lord Shiva of the Bhootnath temple in Mandi, with several legends associated with this vibrant celebration.


The history of Mandi's fair dates back to the sixteenth century when Raja Ajbar Sen, the first great king of Mandi state, built the temple of Bhootnath in the center of the Mandi town. It is one of the two temples closely associated with the Mandi Shivratri fair, which emphasizes Shiva and related goddesses worship. 

The next ruler, Raja Suraj Sen, emphasized Vishnu worship and built the Madhav Rai Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the protector of Mandi. The temple has an elegant silver image of Radha and Krishna named Madho Rai, which was ordained as the King of the State of Mandi. Subsequent kings served the state as the servants of Madho Rao. 

Under Ishwari Sen's reign, Mandi Shivratri fair began. However, in 1792, he lost his kingdom and was imprisoned by Sansar Chand of Kangra for 12 years. Gurkha invaders eventually freed the king, and when he returned to Mandi, a grand reception was held, which coincided with the Shivratri festival. This marked the beginning of the tradition of holding the Mandi fair during Shivratri, which continues to this day.

Vibrant Procession of Deities

On the auspicious day of Shivratri, the quaint town of Mandi comes alive with a spectacular display of devotion and cultural richness. Villagers from far and wide carry their revered village gods in rathas or palanquins to Mandi, creating a mesmerizing sight as they converge for the grand celebration.

The day after Shivaratri, a vibrant pageant unfolds at Paddal, featuring 200 deities, folk bands, dancers, and devotees in colorful attire. With fanfare, the procession is a daily spectacle where devotees worship the deities at their assigned places, maintaining the pecking order.

Homage to Madho Rai and the Raja

Each deity, adorned with glittering embroidered drapery, pays homage to Madho Rai and the reigning Raja in a magnificent display of reverence. The procession begins with a visit to the Madho Rai temple, where the deities offer their obeisance to Lord Vishnu, setting the spiritual tone for the festivities.

The Majestic Shobha Yatra

A highlight of Mandi Shivratri is the Shobha Yatra, a vibrant procession known by various names like Jaleb, Jeleb, or Zareb. This colorful parade is a symbolic honor to the ruler, acting as the regent of Lord Madho Rai. Once a year, Madho Rai himself emerges from the temple, leading the procession with regal splendor.

Sacred Visit to the Bhoothnath Temple

Following the Shobha Yatra, the ruler pays obeisance to Lord Shiva at the Bhoothnath temple, the focal point of the Shivaratri festival. The rhythmic beats of drums and folk music accompany the swaying palanquins, signaling the joy of the deities after visiting the temples of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

Distinct Ranks and Sacred Hierarchy

In the intricate tapestry of Mandi Shivaratri, each deity holds a specific rank and status, maintaining a strict hierarchy during the sequence of worship. Beyond its spiritual significance, the fair transforms into a bustling hub of economic activity, with local traders engaging in the trade of regional products like ghee, walnuts, honey, and wool.

Beyond Spiritual Endeavors

As the fair approaches its conclusion, the atmosphere transforms with vibrant fanfare, music, and dance. The evening before the concluding day witnesses "Jagaran," a nightlong worship. During this ritual, a guru and his disciple make prophecies for the upcoming year, adding a spiritual dimension to the festivities. 

Diverse Local Products on Display

Local traders from regions like Kangra, Kullu, Shimla, Bilaspur, and neighboring Punjab converge at the fair, creating a marketplace pulsating with energy. The fair becomes a bustling arena for the trade of:
  • Wool and Handcrafted Textiles
  • Opium and Medicinal Products
  • Natural Delicacies( honey, walnuts, and ghee (butter oil) showcase the gastronomic richness of the region)
  • General Merchandise
Cultural and Culinary Delights

Mandi Shivratri transcends religious rituals, offering a myriad of experiences for visitors. The town's architectural wonders beckon sightseers, while the performances by local and Bollywood artists provide a feast for the senses.

Daytime Spectacles

As the sun illuminates Mandi, cultural nights unfold, featuring dance, music, and traditional games. The town buzzes with energy, captivating visitors with its lively atmosphere.

Indulging in Mandi Shivratri ki jalebi and other local delicacies adds a sweet touch to the festivities. For the younger crowd, exciting swings provide an additional source of joy.

Fostering Handcrafted Jewellery

One notable highlight of the festivities is the promotion of handcrafted jewelry indigenous to the region. The fair becomes a platform where local artisans showcase their craftsmanship, offering a unique blend of tradition and modernity. This emphasis on handcrafted jewelry adds an aesthetic dimension to the fair's cultural tapestry.

Evening Enchantment

As the day transitions into night, Mandi dons a magical aura. The illuminated Paddal ground hosts a myriad of attractions, including shops, exhibitions, and local traders, contributing to the festive vibrancy.

Inclusive Celebration and Divine Presence

The Mandi Shivaratri Fair draws people from all walks of life and diverse social strata. Visitors flock to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva on this auspicious day, reinforcing the inclusive nature of the celebration. The head of the state, typically a governor, actively participates in the worship and joins the procession on the last day, contributing to the grandeur of the event.

As the state government has declared the Shivratri fair as an international fair, this generates widespread recognition and encourages trade and business. In the midst of vibrant trade, cultural exchanges, and religious fervor, the Mandi Shivaratri Fair stands as a testament to the rich tapestry woven by tradition, commerce, and spirituality. 

Come, immerse yourself in the spiritual resonance, witness the majestic processions, and indulge in the cultural extravaganza. 


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