NEW YORK (TIP): Sri Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir at 256-11 Hillside Avenue in Floral Park in Queens celebrated the auspicious Maha Shivratri festival which commenced on Tuesday, February 17 and concluded on Wednesday, February 18.

MAHA SHIVRATRI CELEBRATEDThe festival of Char Pahar Ki Pooja started with the first Pahar at 6:00pm with Pundit Sanjeev Mishra, Pradeep Sharma and Krishna Shastri performing Maha Rudra Abhishek and Pooja Archana followed by the second Pahar at 9:00pm, the third Pahar at 12 midnight and the fourth Pahar at 3:00am. At every Pahar, the Main Shiv Lingam was given a special bath with milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, sugar, sandalwood paste and rose water. Moreover, the Shiv Lingam was adorned with the image of different Gods at each Pahar: Lord Ganesh at the first Pahar, Sri Hanuman at the second Pahar, Lord Mahakaal the third Pahar and the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati at the fourth Pahar was decorated with flowers and fruits. Each Pahar ended with the chanting of Har Har Mahadev and Om Namah Shiva Mantra which reverberated throughout the well-decorated temple.

The temple was thronged by a stream of devotees to perform the traditional Shivling Pooja with sincerity and devotion and seek blessings from Lord Shiva. During Pooja, the devotees decorated their Shivlings with flowers and garlands and offer incense sticks and fruits. Many devotees stayed awake all night singing bhajans, hymns and verses in praise and devotion of Lord Shiva besides the non-stop chanting of Om Namah Shivay, the mantra which cleanses the soul and liberates from sins and impurities. Many devotees performed the Abhishek to Main Shivling on the altar in the background of Shivlings beautifully adorned on the wall.

MahaShivRatri which occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna is celebrated enthusiastically by Hindus every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. According to a legend, the Maha Shivratri celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Another legend states that on the ShivRatri day, the Lord Shiva danced the Tandav Nritya which signifies creation, preservation and destruction of the Cosmos.

The holy pooja ended around 6:00am on Wednesday with Maha Mangal Arti and Maha Bhog. A langar prasad, tea and thandai were served to devotees throughout the festival.

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Indu Gajwani relentlessly volunteered her services by phoning devotees to attend the festival and organizing the Pooja ceremony thought the four Pahars. A countless number of devotees volunteered their services to make the festival a grand success.

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