Like other states of India, Lord Shiva is also worshipped throughout the Himalayan terrain including its lower, middle and upper ranges from Jammu to Nepal and onwards with great devotion and folkloric beliefs during Shivratri. Shivratri is a festival which represents the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Uma.
Shivratri festival commences from the first day of dark fortnight of the Phaguna month of Bikrami era, which usually falls during February-March in accordance with Christan era.
Legends of Shivratri : According to Hindu mythology Shivratri, which falls on 20th February 2012, is the night, when Lord Shiva performed the "Tandav Nritya'' the dance or primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
During the Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison, emerged from the ocean, terrified the Gods and Demons as this poison was capable of destroying whole of universe. Hence, they went to Lord Shiva for help and He drank the same to protect the world. Lord Shiva, however, held this poison in throat instead of swallowing. By this act, his throat turned blue and as such the Lord Shiva was given the name as Nilkanth. Shivratri is, thus, the celebration of this event.
There is a common belief among the Dogra folk that from Shivratri, the winter season totally departs and an advance party of Gods return to the mother earth from the Nether world (Patal Lok). Another belief linked with the Shivratri festival is that, that during the winter season forces of God proceed to Netherland to fight a battle with demons and they start their return journey on Shivratri. The main body of the divine contigent, however, comes on Baisakhi day.
Dogras also believe that on Shivratri the God Pashupati throws away all of the poisonous snakes scorpions and other stinging insects out of his bag. These creatures of class reptiles and insects quite often become visible after Shivratri. Their crawling and buzzing is a proof of their coming to active life from the hibernation period.
Lord Shiva is considered the quintessence of existence and is present in all living and nonliving things. The followers of Lord Shiva cult particularly ascetics after preparing a heavy sweeetish bread known as "Rot" on Shivratri day greet their great Master for celebrating on the earth.
Rituals : Of the many rituals, a few observed essentially by the Dogras on the Shivratri day are as follows :
* Taking bath early in the morning on Shivratris' day is essential and, thereafter, reciting of Panchakshri mantra Om Namah Shivaya atleast for 108 times.
* To pay a visit to nearby Lord Shiva's temple for his "Dev Darshan'' and worshipping is regarded an essential part of Shivratri celebration. Water containing milk is poured upon Shiv Lingam and thereafter, the floral rosaries and bael patri are placed on it. Besides, flowers of Ak, Akdatura and Dubgrass, are also mounted on the Shiv Lingum as a part of holy act.
* Bringing a new Shiva idol alongwith Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha to home is regarded to be a propitious omen. The deriving force behind the purchase of Shiva image is an ancient faith that by doing so it will usher a phase of prosperity. People generally prefer to purchase idols of Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Ganesha made of clay although metallic idols are also available.
Embodiment of well being and selfless deity.
Lord Shiva is described as personification of total well being (Kalyana). He is considered to be the most auspicious, micracious and powerful amongst the Trinity, the others two being the Lord Brahma and the Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva has been narrated by many sages as creator, controller and destroyer of the universe. The Goddess Parvati is the fountain head of His powers. She is in the form of "Matrika Shakti'', imparts a unique and significant meaning to the Master, who otherwise is "Shav'' (the lifeless corpse). This is why the people, believe that worship of Lord Shiva without the Goddess Parvati and Ganesha amounts to supernatural wrath upon house holders. The "Grahastha'' people, therefore, always venerate Him along with his consort Goddess Parvati as well as Ganesha.
Lord Shiva is the only God who always thinks for the benefits and comforts of others. He has imparted costly clothes and ornaments to his consort Goddess Uma, sons Lord Ganesha and Kartika, and all human beings of the universe. He himself puts on only a tiger's skin around his waist and neckless of snakes around the neck. He gives delicious diets to all but his own food comprises only of "Aak Datura'', "Bhang''.
Celebration of Shivratri Festival : Shivratri festival is celebrated by the Jammuites with great religious ferver and gaiety. It is amidst chanting of religious hymns and slogans "Har Har Mahadev'', "Om Namah Shivaya''. In Jammu city, thousands of followers of Lord Shiva throng the Shiva temples since early in the morning for offering special prayer to Lord Shiva. The temples are fully white washed and decorated. Devotees are seen standing in queues for hours early in morning before Jamavant cave of Lord Shiva in Pirkho, Rupon Wala Panj Baktar temple, Ranbireshwar temple at Shalamar, Aap Shambu temple at Roop Nagar and other temples in the city.
Thousands of devotees not only visit to the aforesaid Shiva temples but also go to Uttar Beni, Purmandal and Kameshwar temple in Akhnoor to pay their obeisance there to Lord Shiva. Men, women and children reach in colourful dress and offer special prayers to Lord Shiva. It is a sort of festivity and jubiliation look at Pir Kho, Panch Baktar and other Shiva temples where thousands of people old, young and children assemble to hold holy Shivratri people of other religions- Muslims, Sikh, Jains, Christans and other brethren come forward on this festival to join Hindus for felicitating them. Heavy rush of devotees from different parts of Jammu region is witnessed at Roop Nagar Aap Shambu temple. Various social, political and other organisations set up stalls and langars for devotees.
The Shiv Khori Shrine Board makes elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims like additional yatra slip counters, transport, drinking water, electricity, security, blankets besides clock room is also set up at Ramsoo and at cave to meet the requirement of the visiting pilgrims. To ensure quality and fixed rates of various essential commodities at the base camp and enroute Shivkhori, the District Development Commissioner makes the special squads.
In villages, women carry clay lingums called "Seo'' or "Shivji'' to every house hold for enabling them to perform worship. The household shares a part of their sweetish bread called "Babroo in lieu of lingum. These ''Scos'' are dried in sun well before the festival day. Performing of pooja is considered an essential part of Shivratri celebrations. Water containing milk and floral petals is poured upon lingum as a part of holy act. Listening to "Shiv Katha'' is too considered to be an act of high devotion.