World famous International Shivratri Mahotsav of Mandi began today with Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu formally announcing the opening of the Mahotsav at the historic Paddal ground of Mandi town.
Chief Minister congratulated the people on the occasion of Mahashivratri and said that Mandi Shivratri is a festival of Dev Samaj and it is for the first time in the history of the state that the Government is spending more than Rs. one crore on Dev Samaj.
Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said that International Shivratri Mahotsav Mandi has cherished high traditions which depict prosperity, brotherhood and love. Fairs and festivals were the rich repositories of our diverse culture and tradition. He said that Mandi Shivratri was unique in itself and known for its colourful tradition throughout the country as even in modern times, the ancient traditions are being practised during Shivratri Mahotsav. During the seven-day festival, the presence of deities in Mandi city adds a unique contour to Dev Samagam. It is our common responsibility to protect and conserve the rich traditions and culture of the Devbhoomi so that coming generations could be proud of it, he said.
Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said that despite the economic condition of the state being in disarray, there would be no let-up in development works and the state government has started special endeavours to bring the state’s economy back on track, to remove corruption and to save the young generation from drugs. To improve the economic condition, a water cess has been imposed on the power projects and to curb corruption, the duration of the tender process has been reduced.
Chief Minister said the upcoming budget of the present government would focus on education, health and addressing the challenges of the future.
Chief Minister said that in the first cabinet meeting the old pension was reinstated by the state government while in the second meeting, the cabinet gave accord to Mukhya Mantri Sukh-Aashray Yojana under which many facilities would be provided to the orphan children. Under the scheme, the expenses of higher education of orphan children, along with pocket money of Rs. 4,000 per month and once a year a tour package with high-class stay and travel would be borne by the state government. Integrated houses would be constructed at Sundernagar of Mandi district and Jawalamukhi of Kangra district at a cost of Rs. 60 crore each, in which facilities on the lines of the Chief Minister’s office will be provided, he added.
Chief Minister said that till now an amount of Rs. 3 crore has been deposited in the Mukhya Mantri Sukh-Aashray Kosh for which he himself has contributed his one month’s salary and all the Congress MLAs have donated one lakh rupees each.
Earlier, the Chief Minister after paying obeisance at the temple of the famous and principal deity Raj Madhav Rai, participated in the traditional “Shahi Jaleb”, Shobha Yatra which started from Shri Raj Madhav Rai temple and culminated at the Paddal ground. Thousands of devotees dressed in their traditional attire participated in the procession carrying their local deities dancing all the way up to the Paddal ground. Over 200 deities participated in the “Shahi Jaleb”, the traditional Shoba Yatra from almost all parts of the district.
Chief Minister also participated in the Pagri ceremony and performed Puja at Shri Raj Madhav Rai temple.
Later, the Chief Minister inaugurated the exhibition at Paddal Ground set up by various Departments, Boards and Corporations and evinced keen interest in it. He also released a colourful souvenir on International Shivratri Fair brought out by the Mela Committee.
PWD Contractors Welfare Association presented a cheque of Rs. 12.31 lakh to the Chief Minister towards Mukhya Mantri Sukh-Aashray Kosh.
Deputy Commissioner Mandi and Chairman International Shivratri Mahotsav Organizing Committee Arindam Chaudhary welcomed the Chief Minister and other dignitaries present on the occasion. He said that the Shivratri Mahotsav of Mandi was a unique cultural repository of Himachal Pradesh. He said that this year International Shivratri Mahotsav would be celebrated from 19th February to 25th February and more than two hundred deities have been invited to participate in this fair.
President Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee and Member of Parliament Pratibha Singh congratulated the people on the auspicious occasion of Shivratri and said this is a much-awaited moment for the region when people of Mandi get a chance to seek the blessings of the deities.
Representatives of various organizations felicitated the Chief Minister on the occasion.
Chief Parliamentary Secretary Sunder Singh Thakur, MLA’s Chander Shekhar, Anil Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Gaur, Suresh Kumar, Former Minister Thakur Kaul Singh and Prakash Choudhary, Senior Congress leaders Sohan Lal Thakur, Surender Pal Thakur, Dr. Jai Kumar Azad, Champa Thakur, Pawan Thakur, Sanjeev Guleria, Jeevan Thakur, Naresh Chauhan, Vijay Pal, Chet Ram Thakur, Chairman KCCB Kuldeep Singh Pathania, Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arindam Choudhary, Superintendent of Police Shalini Agnihotri and other dignitaries were also present on the occasion.