Folks, do you remember that unique Shiva Temple complex at Bardhaman which is more popularly known as 108 Shiva Temples? In case you missed my earlier post on the 108 Shiva Temples, I'll acquaint you with this beautiful religious architecture of my hometown once again. 108 Shiva Temples have been designed in the form of a Rudrakshya necklace whose 108 beads are comparable to 108 small temples arranged as a close loop, connected with two ponds on either side. Being blessed with divine orders in her dream, Maharani Bishnu Kumari, widow of Maharaj Tilak Chand constructed the temple complex of 108 Shiva Temples in 1788. Each temple in the 108 Shiva Temples complex is an example of Bengal style Terracotta temple of seventeenth century. As the name suggests, this temple compound houses 108 Shiva Lingams.
Located around five kilometers from the heart of Bardhaman (railway station), 108 Shiva Temple is easily accessible by Toto or by town service buses. Centered around the temple, a week-long fair is celebrated every year during the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri when tourists and pilgrims from faraway places gather at Nawabhat. Maha Shivaratri is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals in the honor of Lord Shiva which is celebrated annually on the 13th night/14th day of the Hindu month of Phalguna (just before the arrival of our much romantic 'Spring'). It is only during Maha Shivaratri celebration, cannabis consumption gets unofficially legal status in India, making this festival so widely popular among all marijuana lovers! If you're a foreigner traveling in India during Maha Shivaratri days, do not be overly surprised to find men in saffron smoking marijuana (Ganja) from clay pipes in several religious sites.
Despite my religious bankruptcy, my spiritual compass often points to the right direction. If you are an impulsive person like me you would know how difficult it gets to postpone something which you want to do right now. Abandoning an afternoon nap doesn't quite favor petting the belly fat, yet, I solidified my determination of sacrificing today's (technically, yesterday's) post-lunch sleep. My plan was to visit the 108 Shiva Temples and document its ongoing Maha Shivaratri celebration. Thankfully I happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was fun!
As expected, the temple complex was crowded with devotees, visitors and wannabe Shiva disciples. The parking space was secured but barely accommodative. Same goes for the shoe-stand. Slots were all occupied when we reached. Luckily a couple returned after finishing their rituals and we got their shoe shelf. A nominal entry fee (two bucks each) bought us access to the temple complex. There were long queues fortifying a couple of front side temples while others were relatively easy to infiltrate. Shiva Linga in all 108 temples were richly decorated with sandal paste, vermilion, flowers and traces of milk (offered by devotees).
A fascinating aroma was born by the fusion of myriad incense sticks, melting candles and other ritual consumables which evoked positivity in our otherwise aimless minds. Did it have any connection with spirituality, or was it merely the action of few biochemical receptors? I seldom try to dig things which are deeper than my level of understanding. Being in the moment always seems wiser in such situations, and I did exactly that. I kept idling with my camera following more purposeful feet. No buddy, I was not under the influence of Bhang or anything so obvious. It just felt good, and what else would have mattered?
A Hindu devotee observing this Maha Shivaratri festival would usually fast, take a bath and finally offer Puja to the deity in any nearby temple. It is customary to chant divine names of the Lord while offering the holy ritual bath to the Shiva Linga, with milk, honey, flowers and bilva leaves. The fair encircling 108 Shiva Temples is pretty basic, and thus serves in entertaining the surrounding rural population primarily. Do not be too finicky while tasting few sweets from any village fair. You might find them too sugary for your refined urban taste but be very sure that those sweets are fresh.
After a clockwise circumnavigation of the 108 Shiva Temples complex we found our way out. My dentist friend who was reluctant initially to join, thanked me at the end for planning such a productive afternoon. Most probably my blog did thank me too, for fetching it an update after almost one month! Although irrelevant to this post, I thought to let you know that a new horse is about to join my stable very soon. Yes, I booked a new motorcycle and it is from the house of Benelli this time. Hope to write many more motorcycle diaries in coming days. Wish me luck, amigos.