Shiv Vivah celebrations were held on Maha Shivaratri in Khajuraho, apt in a city built to celebrate the celestial union.

Lord Shiva looked majestic seated on the roof of a van — bare-chested and clad in a blue-gold silk dhoti that shimmered in the dark. His kohl-lined eyes glittered mysteriously as did the silver half moon on his head.

The baraat was a moving tableau of sound, light and colour and was part of the Shiv Vivah celebrations held on Maha Shivratri (February 12-14 ) in the temple town of Khajuraho. Presented by the luxury hotel, Lalit Temple View Khajuraho and the local Nagar Panchayat, the Shiv Vivah created fever-pitch excitement in the little town, for, everyone was invited to join in — the local stall owner and rickshaw-wallah as well as well-heeled guests and jean-clad tourists.

A motley crowd of women in glittering saris with hair elegantly coiffed for the occasion, men in suits and boisterous locals mingled with the costumed baraatis— Shiv's cohorts — the rishis, ganaswith multiple or missing heads as well as the dignified trio of Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Indra. The decibel levels were high, pounding dholaks, shrieks and cries rent the air as the crowds danced with a kind of frenzied delirium to celebrate the marriage of Shiv and Parvati. A blur of painted faces, masks, gold crowns, knee-length beards and fearsome masks, the baraatflowed like a river in spate down the main street of the temple town.

Important celebration

The theme was apt, for, Shivratri is an important a celebration in Khajuraho. Indeed the temples here, legend has it, were built to celebrate this celestial union. On this blessed day, people trudge from 100 km away to pay their obeisance at the Matangeshwar temple (the only living temple in the town), arriving in droves, clad in glittering multi-hued saris, resembling colourful peacocks. This is a centuries-old tradition, revealed noted Odissi danseuse Sharon Lowen, who conceptualised the stage show, created under the aegis of the Lalit Arts Festival which is in its fourth bi-annual year. She added that the Shiv Vivah, which was being held for the first time, was essentially an offering to the people of Khajuraho.

The lumbering procession wound its noisy way to the Western group of temples and then filed into an open arena. Here colourful pavilions, draped with gauzy curtains and bedecked with flowers, and diyasre-created the court of King Himavat and Queen Maina, Parvati's parents. The beautiful bride waited in a shimmering red sari, shy yet expectant, surrounded by her family, giggling girl friends and elegantly garbed courtiers.

Based on Tulsidas's Parvati Mangal, the multi-media show harnessed the talents of multiple classical dancers like Padma Shri Harish Rawat (also the choreographer) as well as theatre artistes. A delightful melding of the temporal and the divine (a colourful Shiv Ratri Mela takes place outside the temples), the show was followed the next evening by a sound and light extravaganza on the lawns of Lalit Temple View. This was followed by a musical performance, Mridanga Taalvada, scripted by Keshavan, a concert of largely percussion instruments.

Lord Shiva, the destroyer and the creator, must have smiled his mystic smile at this resounding paean to life in a temple town where he is the presiding deity.