Guwahati: Over 25 lakh devotees from different parts of India and across the world are expected to set foot at the holy shrine of Kamakhya in Guwahati, Assam for the four-day Ambubachi Mela from June 22 to 26.
Due to an expected increase of footfall by up to five lakh this year, the district administration and the temple management committee are leaving no stone unturned to make it a grand affair.
Ambubachi Mela, also known as ‘Kamakhya Devi Puja’, is held annually at the Kamakhya temple atop Nilachal hill in Guwahati. During the four days of the religious congregation, the doors of the temple will remain closed from 1.40 am on June 22 to 6 am on June 26 as the presiding goddess of the temple, Devi Kamakhya, is believed to undergo her annual cycle of menstruation.
Various departments under the Assam state government such as tourism, public works and public health and engineering, besides the Guwahati Management Development Authority (GMDA) are putting up a joint effort to organise the grand gathering. The Assam government is also planning to turn the gathering as a major congregation of different faiths to boost religious tourism as well as create a cohesive atmosphere of national integration.
Union minister of state for tourism Prahlad Singh along with Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal and North East Democratic Alliance convenor and state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will grace the opening ceremony of the gathering at the Sonaram Field in Guwahati at 4 pm on June 21. Renowned Bollywood folk and classical singer Kailash Kher will also perform ‘bhakti sadhna’ to enthral devotees at the opening ceremony.
Meanwhile, the Assam Tourism Development Committee is already taking up promotional activities on various platforms in major cities of India with an intention to increase inflow of tourists ahead of the event.
Speaking to EastMojo, ATDC chaiman Jayanta Malla Baruah said that fierce campaign for promotion of Ambubachi Mela has been organised by the state tourism department, especially in states like Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, UP and MP this year.
“In Delhi and Kolkata airports, starting from standing boards to digital screens, Ambubachi Mela campaigns are being displayed,” he said.
The state tourism department is also looking into all aspects to make sure that pilgrims and tourists coming from other parts of the country feel comfortable during their stay and enjoy the four-day religious celebration without any hitch.
The ATDC chaiman further said that four makeshifts camps at Fancy Bazar, Pandu railway station, Naharbari and Boriapara playground with 20% more accommodation capacity have been constructed to host devotees coming from other states. The Fancy Bazar camp will be the biggest of the lot, he added.
“Unlike every year, there is no camp set up at the Kamakhya Station this year but an information and registration centre has been set up in its place”, he said.
Crowd management happens to be a tough call among all aspects when it comes to Ambubachi Mela. The motorable road that leads to the shrine is packed with people due to which many devotees often suffer discomfort and fatigue.
However, this year, the tourism department has planned to open three alternative roads, other than the main road, from the foothills to the temple. Waiting sheds along the road with drinking water stalls will be put up to ensure less trouble for visitors. Moreover, the department has also planned to run state bus services for specially-abled persons, old age people and mothers with toddlers in the morning hours of the day.
“We appeal pilgrims to take all the four roads to climb up to the shrine so as to minimise hassles and help in crowd the management. We discourage passes for vehicles, even for VIPs, and as and where necessary we would facilitate them on that particular date,” expressed ATDC chairman Baruah said.
The state administration along with the Kamakhya Temple committee has also decided to deploy over 1,000 volunteers from the National Cadet Corps, Scouts and Guide and state police department for management of crowd.
Drinking water facilities and food items to be served to devotees visiting the temple will be considered as one of the core priorities by the state administration this year. Baruah informed that a large number of drinking water stalls will be installed along the motorable road and within the temple premises to ensure comfort of all pilgrims.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to attract tourists to other destinations of the city, the state government has decided to provide free ferry services to nearby Umananda Temple in North Guwahati.
Significantly, after assessing upon the problems faced in the previous years, the Kamakhya Temple Development Committee has decided to provide specific places to keep footwear for devotees coming to visit the temple.
“We feel bad as we have to throw away lakhs of slippers and shoes belonging to devotees every year as they can’t locate them back due to different entry and exit points at the temple,” said Mohit Chandra Goswami, the ‘Bor Doloi’ (head priest) of Kamakya temple.
Talking about the preparations for the biggest religious celebration, Goswami said that a separate committee has been formed to look into the works in and around the temple. “All works are going on in full pace and are in the last stages. Pandals and stalls are almost complete,” Goswami added.
Cleanliness and management of waste are also being taken up as a priority during the four days of religious gathering. The temple committee along with the state administration have appealed people to using less plastic materials during those days.
“We have installed two plastic bottle shredder machines inside the temple premises and over 300 workers from GMCH and temple committee will be engaged in waste management and cleaning works daily,” Goswami added.
Security has also been beefed up in and around the Nilachal hill in the city in an effort to avoid any untoward incidents. Over 300 CCTV cameras including temporary ones are being installed to monitor all kind of movements during the four days of celebrations. For the first time, a new baggage-checking machine is being installed in the parking area of the temple. Bamboo barriers are also being put up to control large crowds of people.