Saturday 1st March 2003 marked the
celebration of 'Maha-Shivratri' at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
in Neasden. The day began with the sacred installation of Shiva-Lingas
beneath the Mandir dome amidst chanting of Shiva Mahima Stotram
by the pious pundits of the Mandir. Every visiting devotee offered
billi-patra on the Shiva-Lingas and rudrabhiskek was performed
with pouring of sacred water and milk in which the holy rivers
of Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Kaveri, etc. were invoked.
The atmosphere rang with the divine Shiva Panchakshara Stotra.
On this auspicious day, maha-puja
and arati were performed in the Haveli in the evening, in which
over 400 aspirants participated. Throughout the day, devotees
had the opportunity of annakut darshan in which 75 different varieties
of 'falahar' items were offered in the shrine of Shiv-Parvati
& Ghanshyam Maharaj.
The ice Shiva-Lingam on display at
the entrance was a great attraction. Amarnath in India has natural
ice Shiva-Lingam and this was a similar replica..
In total, over 8000 devotees participated
in the Maha-Shivratri festival that was celebrated from 7a.m.
to 9.30p.m. In the special assembly held in the evening, the significance
of Shivratri was explained along with the singing of bhajans dedicated
to Shiva. Every visiting devotee was given prasad and milk.