Sharmili Mallick

Bhubaneswar: Amid stringent security arrangements, devotees queued up at various Shiva temples across Odisha since morning to offer special prayers to Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri today. People in large numbers thronged Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, Lokanath Temple in Puri, Dhabaleswar Temple in Athagarh, Chandrashekhar Temple at Kapilash in Dhenkanal and Akhandalamani Temple at Aradi in Bhadrak to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva.

Many devotees in 2 km-long serpentine queue were seen waiting outside the Lingaraj Temple since early morning to offer special prayers to the Lord. The door of the temple was opened for ‘Sahanmela’ (open darshan) at around 3 am. This year, the Mahadeepa which marks the end of the puja, has been scheduled to be placed atop the temple at 10 pm.

The temple authorities and Commissionerate Police have made special arrangements in and outside the temple to ensure hassle-free darshan of the deity. Barricades have been put for smooth movement of the devotees. This apart, 30 platoons of police force and CCTV cameras have been installed to keep a tab on the devotees.

The festival is also being observed with similar religious fervour at Dhabaleswar Temple in Cuttack where the Lord was adorned in ‘Keteki’ flower. Here, the Mahadeepa will be raised atop the temple at 4 am tomorrow.

Devotees also made beeline at Akhandalamani Temple as darshan was opened for Sahanamela at 4 am today. The Mahadeepa will be raised at 4 am. Elaborate arrangements have been made by the administration and temple authorities for smooth conduct of the rituals and darshan of the deity.

I have come from Kendrapara and was in queue since 4 am, said a devotee after having darshan of Lord Akhandalamani.

Similarly, thousands of people thronged Lokanath Temple on this auspicious occasion. “We have been waiting outside the temple since 2 am. I feel blessed that I will have the darshan on Maha Shivaratri which falls once in a year,” said a devotee.

As per reports, the door of the sanctum sanctorum of Lokanath Temple was opened at 12 midnight following which rituals like Mangala Alati, Mailam, Tadap lagi, Abakash Niti, Sakhala Dhupa and Madhyana Dhupa. Later the temple was thrown open for devotees. The Mahadeepa will be raised atop the temple at 4 am tomorrow.

Meanwhile, hundreds of devotees witnessed 'Mahadeep' being lifted atop Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar almost half an hour ahead of schedule at around 9.30 pm.