This year Maha Shivaratri is being celebrated over two days. The majority of pilgrims who have brought Ganga water to offer to Lord Shiva in Braj are making the offering today.
Many pilgrims will visit the four ‘dik pal’ Shiva Lings of Braj, which are said to protect the four corners of Sri Krishna’s Lila Stan. Many pilgrims start by offering Gangajal to Gopeshwar in Vrindavan, then visit Bhuteshwar Mahadev in Mathura, followed by Chakaleshwar and Kameshwar Mahadev in Goverdhan. Many will also make the journey to Nandagaon to worship Nandeshwar Mahadev.
Many make the journey on foot, taking weeks to travel hundreds of kilometres in a traditional pilgrimage that requires pilgrims to dedicate several weeks of their life, giving up many creature comforts. Many carry beautifully decorated palanquins with bottles they have filled with Ganga water and can be seen walking along the side of the road in the lead up to Shivaratri.
Speaking about the tradition of worshiping Mathura’s Bhuteshvara Mahadeva in his Mathura-Mahatmya (texts 234-238), Srila Rupa Gosvami has quoted the following verses from the Adi-varaha Purana recounting Krishna’s words:
“O deva! You will be the protector of Mathura. O greatest of the gods! Whoever sees you will attain My abode. By seeing Bhuteshwar Mahadeva, all sins are destroyed. O Vasudha, one who sees him, achieves the land of Mathura. In Mathura is the deity of Lord Bhuteshwar, who grants liberation even to the sinful. This Bhuteshwar deity is very dear to Me. How is it possible for a sinful person who tries to worship Me but will not worship Bhuteswar Shiva, to attain devotion to Me? Those who are bewildered by My Maya, who are the lowest of men, will not meditate on, bow down before, or offer prayers to Lord Bhuteshwar.”
For a full description of the glories and history of Braj’s ancient Shiva temples, see here.