Since early morning, the devotees thronged Shiva temples to offer prayers and were seen taking a holy bath in rivers, sacred 'sarovars' and performing special 'pujas'.

The famous Saketri temple here was bedecked for the celebrations.

The festival was also celebrated with traditional fervour and gaiety in both the states as lakhs of devotees gathered at the temples.

The devotees made a beeline at the ancient Shiva temple in Hoshiarpur. At other places in Punjab, including Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala, there was a huge rush.

In Haryana, devotees were seen at temples in Kurukshetra who took a dip in the sacred 'sarovars'. In Yamunanagar also, devotees took a dip in the Yamuna river.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar greeted people on the occasion.

In a message, Badal said that Shiva is the lord of mercy and compassion.

"Lord Shiva protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, anger and grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in his devotees," he said.

Badal asked people to celebrate the festival with traditional fervour and gaiety as such festivals not only promote communal harmony, compassion and goodwill but also bring joy and prosperity.

In his message, Khattar said, "Maha Shivratri inspires people to strive towards the pursuit of truth, which leads to the ultimate consciousness epitomised by lord Shiva."

He asked people to celebrate this auspicious occasion collectively by rising above the petty considerations of caste, colour, creed and religion.

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