At a glance
On the moonless night when it is believed Lord Shiva performed his tandava, the cosmic dance of destruction, a great mahapuja is performed. This great ritual begins at midnight on Mahashivaratri, when naga bavas, or naked sages, seated on elephants and decked in ornaments, arrive holding flags and blowing conch shells, tungis, and turis, the sounds of which reverberate through the entire space. Leading a large procession to the temple, they thus mark the commencement of an emotive religious ceremony.
Devotees believe that Shiva himself visits the shrine on this occasion. Girnar is said to be the abode of the nine immortal nathas, and eighty-four siddhas, all of whom also visit the temple in their invisible spirit forms during Mahashivaratri. Offerings are made to the deities, and the festive energy courses through performances of dance, music and traditional bhavai theatre.
Before going to the fair, many pilgrims do a parikrama of the holy hills of Girnar, a journey of about 7 km. Visitors are served free meals by the organizers. Special stalls sell idols, rosaries brought from Ayodhya and Mathura, and delectable sweets.
This fair is beautiful but at the same time passionate and intense, so we caution first time visitors to move in groups, not alone. It is a mammoth affair brimming with mysticism and revelry.
The fair during Mahashivaratri is held for five days commencing from the Hindu calendar date of Magh Vad 11, during the Gregorian months of February-March.
The Bhavnath Fair is held at the Bhavnath Mahadev Temple near Damodar Kund, at Girnar Taleti, 8 km from Junagadh. Junagadh has a major railway station, and is also connected by ST buses to cities around the state. The nearest airport is in Rajkot, 110 km away.
The evening leading up to the midnight ritual of Mahashivaratri, at the wrestling grounds, or akhada, next to the temple, the naga bavas gather for a ritual involving a blend of dance and martial arts.
The Bhavnath Mahadev temple is a shrine ensconced in myths and legends of the Puranic era. The Shiva linga here is said to have emerged of its own divine intention. Reportedly, when Shiva and Parvati were traveling over the Girnar Hills their divine garment fell over the present Mrigi Kund, making this place an auspicious site for Shiva worshippers. Even today, the naga bavas are known to bathe in the holy Mrigi Kund before joining the Mahashivaratri procession. The fair itself is so ancient that its precise origins are unknown.
The city of Junagadh is only a few kilometers from the fairgrounds at the foot of Mt. Girnar. From there, Gir National Park is only 60 km into the forest, and the city of Porbandar is 112 km away on the west coast. Also accessible is Veraval, where the rebuilt temple of Somnath stands proudly. Further along the coast is the former Portuguese colony of Diu.
Disclaimer: You are requested to check the exact dates with Gujarat Tourism office before finalising your travel plans for this festival.
About one lakh people from different regions of India, particularly from Gujarat and Marwad, have been coming here for many years. While many come clad in lively colors, the Ahirs and Mers of the Junagadh district are the most striking among them.