To celebrate Shiva Barat, procession begins from Mahamrityunjaya / Mrityunjaya Mahadev Temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanatha Temple. Not only the devotees of Shiva become part of it, but tourists also enjoy the procession of Shiva’s marriage. Another procession (Shiv Barat) is also organized on the occasion of Mahashivratri that starts from Shri Tilbhandeshwar Temple and ends at Kedareshwar Mahadev Temple. Scene of Shiva’s wedding procession and his marriage to Parvati is acted upon by people who wear clothes as considered appropriate in Hindu religion. Kashi Vishwanatha Temple, Mrityunjaya Mahadev Temple, Shri Tilbhandeshwar Temple and Kedareshwar Mahadev Temple are decorated in a beautiful manner. An interesting aspect of Shiv Barat is that the devotees recreate the wedding scene of Shiva and Parvati from Shiva Purana but, some contemporary issues are also incorporated as part of the theme. The procession has a different theme every year which is based on the current social issues which at that time seems prominent. It’s a long procession that lasts almost for five hours. Devotional songs are played and the devotees enjoy while singing and dancing. The scene is every bit of an ecstatic devotional madness. The preparation of procession and celebration starts quite early in the morning but the procession does not commence until early afternoon. Generally it starts almost in afternoon and continues till late evening.
The roots of Mahashivratri festival and tradition of Shiv Barat in Varanasi lie in Hindu mythology. As the legend goes, there was a demon named Tarakasur, notorious for evil deeds and foul intentions, wrecked havoc on the gods and human beings and kept them terrified. Though the gods with all their powers tried to vanquish Tarakasur but couldn’t succeed and, lastly, approached Lord Brahma. Brahma told that Tarakasura can only be killed by Lord Shiva’s son. But Shiva did not have any offspring and he was practicing penance after the death of his wife Sati. His penance was so deep that he could not be disturbed. Then, the gods went to Mahadevi to incarnate and marry to Shiva so that their son could conquer Tarakasura.
Mahadevi incarnated as daughter of king Himvan and queen Mainavati. They named their daughter as Parvati. Parvati from her childhood itself was a devotee of Lord Shiva. When she got young, many princes proposed before her to marry, but she denied all of them. Her father Himalaya enquired about the reason behind rejecting various proposals of marriage and if she already had someone in her mind. Parvati, then, revealed her desire to marry Lord Shiva. As Shiva was in penance, Parvati served him very well so that she could get his attention, but her effort was in vain. At same time, the gods were getting restless as Shiva was not paying attention to Parvati, sue to being in penance. Then, the gods requested Kamdeva, the god of love, to instill love in his heart. Kamdeva agreed and shot an arrow at Lord Shiva while Parvati was in front of him. Shiva opened his eyes but closed all of a sudden, as he was still in thoughts of his late wife Sati. Filled with regret and anger, he opened his third eye towards Kamdeva. As a result, the deity of love set into ashes. When Parvati came to know that her service is not going to work, she opted for penance, and slowly graded up the level of her penance. At last her penance was so effective that Brahma and Vishnu had to go to Shiva to tell him that if he doesn’t listen the prayers of Parvati, it will be harmful for them. But, then too, Shiva did not agree and sent Saptarishi (the seven sages) to test her love and devotion. When the sages were not able to convince her to put off her penance then Shiva himself in a disguised ascetic went to her and criticized Shiva negatively. Parvati could not listen negative words for Shiva and replied in anger. Shiva realized her love for him and asked her for a boon. Parvati expressed her wish to marry Lord Shiva and he honored his words. Later on, he also knew that Parvati was his late wife Sati itself. Their son Kartikeya conquered the demon Tarakasura. On the request of Parvati, Kamdeva was also given rebirth.
And here comes the story of the procession of Shiva’s marriage. Lord Shiva is dear to humans and demons alike. In the light of religious scriptures and mythological stories, he never discriminates among his devotees and dear ones, human or devil. So when it came to his marriage procession, he cordially invited all and whoever was willing to join, joined. Because of this, his procession was not a common one. Bhoot - Pret (ghost), people with distorted body shape (some without hand or leg or some other part of body), gods, demons, animals, insects and many other different creatures were part of his marriage procession. Shiva Parvati marriage was a strange example for one more reason. Shiva was self-created and has no ancestral family history, but, at the same time, it was a tradition to describe the history of ancestors of bride and groom. From Parvati’s side it was done, but from Shiva’s side there was no one to tell, then, Narada Muni told about his birth by playing a sound. This sound was the essence of the self- creation of Yogi Shiva.
In general, horses are used as vehicles by the participants in the marriage procession but the person impersonating Shiva sits on the back of a bull because Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva, is a bull. Music of pellet-drum is a must in his procession as it is the instrument which is considered related to him.
It is said that the day of marriage of Shiva & Parvati, later known as Mahashivratri, was decided by Saptarishi (the seven sages). Penance of Parvati and her marriage with Shiva holds holy significance. Mahashivratri holds immense importance for women. The female devotees worship Lord Shiva for wellbeing and long age of their husbands. The girls worship Lord Shiva so that they get blessed to marry the person whom they love or like. A large number of spectators turn up to see Shiva Barat. The overwhelming surge of crowd is managed by Varanasi police.