2018.02.14 (VT) This year Maha Shivaratri is being celebrated over two days. The majority of pilgrims who have brought Ganga water to offer to Lord Shiva in Braj are making their offerings today.
Many pilgrims will visit the four ‘dik pal’ Shiva Lings of Braj, which are said to protect the four corners of Braj. It is traditional for pilgrims to offer Ganga water to Gopeshwar in Vrindavan, then visit Bhuteshwar Mahadev in Mathura, followed by Chakaleshwar and Kameshwar Mahadev in Goverdhan. Many will also make the journey to Nandagaon to worship Nandeshwar Mahadev.
Many make the journey on foot, taking weeks to travel hundreds of kilometres in a traditional pilgrimage that requires pilgrims to dedicate several weeks of their life, giving up many creature comforts. Many carry beautifully decorated palanquins with bottles they have filled with Ganga water and can be seen walking along the side of the road in the days leading up to Shivaratri.
Speaking about the tradition of worshiping Mathura’s Bhuteshvara Mahadeva in his Mathura-Mahatmya (texts 234-238), Srila Rupa Gosvami quotes the following verses from the Adi-varaha Purana recounting Krishna’s words:
“O deva! You will be the protector of Mathura. O greatest of the gods! Whoever sees you will attain My abode. By seeing Bhuteshwar Mahadeva, all sins are destroyed. O Vasudha, one who sees him, achieves the land of Mathura. In Mathura is the deity of Lord Bhuteshwar, who grants liberation even to the sinful. This Bhuteshwar deity is very dear to Me. How is it possible for a sinful person who tries to worship Me but will not worship Bhuteswar Shiva, to attain devotion to Me? Those who are bewildered by My Maya, who are the lowest of men, will not meditate on, bow down before, or offer prayers to Lord Bhuteshwar.”
Sanatan Goswami, the founder of Madan Mohan temple, is also associated with two ancient Shiva Lingas. Bankandeshwar Mahadev appeared in Sanatan Goswami‘s bhajan kutir to save him the effort of having to walk to Gopeshwar Mahadev every day and Govardhan’s Chakaleshwar Mahadev is said to be free from mosquitoes even to this day because Lord Shiva removed them so that Sanatan Goswami would stay and worship the linga.
For further description of the glories and history of Braj’s ancient Shiva temples, see here.
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