With the four-day annual Ambubachi Mela in the Kamakhya Temple here starting from Wednesday, the authorities are gearing up for accommodating over 25 lakh pilgrims that are expected to turn up over a period of one week in the Assam capital.
Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of India have already started pouring in, with the authorities already setting up five large camps apart from several temporary shelters in the Nilachal foothills. “We are expecting over 25 lakh footfalls, and thus have drawn up a foolproof plan to help the temple authorities organize the mela in the most flawless manner,” Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner M Angamuthu said here on Monday.
While the Kamrup (Metro) administration has been given the responsibility of smooth conduct of the four-day mela, the state tourism department has mounted a massive campaign to showcase the Ambubachi Mela as a major attraction for pilgrims as well as other visitors from across the country. That Kamakhya is also the most important centre for practice and study of tantra and shaktism is also an added attraction.
“Taking the Ambubachi Mela as the focal point, we are trying to sell Kamakhya Temple as a round-the-year tourist attraction in different states of the country. While earlier it were mostly sadhus and sanyasis who used to turn up for this mela, the festival in the Kamakhya temple nowadays gets all kinds of visitors,” said a senior tourism official. “This year, for instance, we already have many tourists and photographers from Europe and the US,” he added.
The Ambubachi Mela is said to be a festival coinciding with the four-day annual holy cycle that Kamakhya – the Mother Goddess in this temple who also represents the goddess of procreation and fertility – undergoes generally in the fourth week of June. While the temple door remains shut for four days marking the annual holy cycle of the ruling deity, pilgrims wait in serpentine queues for a one-minute entry into the sanctum sanctorum on the fifth day.
Though dedicated to Devi or the Mother Goddess, Kamakhya Temple does not have any statue or iconographic representation of the ruling deity. Instead, there is a yoni – a female genital – on a rock inside the sanctum sanctorum, on which prayers and offerings are made by the priests and pilgrims.
Sanitation: 700 extra toilets
With sanitation and cleanliness being given the topmost priority, the authorities have already installed over 700 temporary toilets and 400 temporary bathrooms for the large number of pilgrims in and around the temple complex. These are in addition to over 400 permanent toilets that exist in there, an official said.
Taking the large turn-out of people from all over the country, the authorities are also mounting a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign, with chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal personally directing officials to ensure that the temple complex remained spic and span in spite of the crowd. A number of medical and first aid teams, apart from dozens of food safety officers, public health volunteers and over 3,000 police personnel have been also deployed.
Likewise, 80 new buses have been deployed by the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) to transport pilgrims from the foothills to the main temple area – a distance of about three kms up the Nilachal Hills. “Private vehicles are not allowed to drive up to the Nilachal Hills during these four to five days,” an official said.