The trail of death and devastation left by Saturday's 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Nepal and its aftershocks has driven the devout in Bihar to seek the protection of the presiding deity of one of the oldest living monuments in the country.
A special maha-aarti will be performed by Vedic scholars from Varanasi on Tuesday to propitiate Goddess Mundeshwari, the presiding deity of the nearly 2,000-year-old Mundeshwari Temple, in the belief she would save the country from disasters.
The Mundeshwari Temple, which was built in around 108 AD, is located on the Mundeshwari hills at Kaura in western Bihar's Kaimur district, about 200 km west of state capital Patna.
According to the chairperson of the Bihar Religious Trust Board Acharya Kishore Kunal, the oldest recorded Hindu temple situated atop a 608-feet hill is the "oldest functional temple" in the country where regular prayers are being performed since the past 1,900 years.
"The Mundesvari Temple is an important landmark in the story of temples in Bihar, being the oldest in age and the only specimen of Nagara architecture...", according the website hindubooks.org.
The devout believe Goddess Mundeshwari is just the right deity to seek protection from such calamities.
"She represents the Mahishashana incarnation of Goddess Durga, in which she presides over life and death of all beings. Her benediction can turn ashes into life," said Pandit Shivpujan Shastri of Varanasi, an ardent devotee of the goddess.
"There is also a belief that the goddess never refuses anyone who prays to her with full devotion," added Shastri, who will visit Bhabua for the programme on Tuesday.
The special maha-aarti for the well-being of earthquake-hit Indians and Nepalese will mark the opening of the two-day Mundeshwari Mahotsava, an annual festival dedicated to the goddess.
The maha-aarti will be followed by a light and sound presentation displaying the unique features of the ASI-protected temple and its deity.
Bhojpuri singers Malini Awasthi and Kalpana, who will perform at the festival, have been asked to stick to classical, semi-classical and folk songs, besides bhajans, to maintain the solemnity of the show in view of the tragedy.
Kaimur district magistrate and ex-officio chairperson of the Mundeshwari Trust committee, Prabhakar Jha, said that officials and trust committee members were working round the clock to make the mahotsava memorable.
Bihar health minister Ram Dhani Singh will be the chief guest at the inaugural function on Tuesday and Bhabua MLA Pramod Kumar Singh will preside over it.