Amid preparations for the four-day Ambubachi Mela starting in Kamakhya Temple from Thursday, the authorities have put a restriction on Naga sanyasis from taking out a procession outside the temple complex.
“We respect the tradition of the Naga sanyasis who remain naked. But then since people from all walks of life and of all ages flock to Kamakhya temple during the Ambubachi Mela, we don’t want other devotees to feel embarrassed or awkward,” said Mohit Chandra Sarma, doloi of the temple.
Sarma, speaking on behalf of the Kamakhya Temple Trust Board, said the matter was placed in a meeting of government representatives when preparations were discussed, and a decision was taken asking the Naga sanyasis not to take out a procession in the public. “We have conveyed this to them, and they have understood,” Sarma said. About 500 Naga sanyasis are expected to arrive in the next couple of days. Sarma said most of them come from the Himalayas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Jayanta Malla Barua, chairman of Assam Tourism Development Corporation, said about 200 Naga sanyasis have already arrived and been provided accommodation a little away from the main temple. “We have arranged for exclusive accommodation so that they can perform their rites without hindrance. We have also conveyed to them that they can perform their pradakshin of the temple as they want, and advised them not to take out any public procession,” Barua said.
The Ambubachi Mela, held on the four days when Mother Goddess — who also resembles Mother Earth — undergoes her annual periods, attracts a large number of devotees and tourists. “We are expecting a footfall of no less than 25 lakh,” the ATDC chairman said. “But it is not that all 25 lakh will descend on the Nilachal Hills at a time. At any given time we expect about three lakh pilgrims and devotees around the main temple premises.”
The sanctum sanctorum of the ancient temple remains shut on the four days. When it reopens, devotees make long queues to touch the peeth and receive a piece of angavastra as a token of blessings and good luck. Arrangements
Cleanliness and hygiene are a key concern, temple authorities and district administration officials said. “We have installed 600 temporary toilets and 1,000 taps apart from the permanent ones already in the temple township at Nilachal Hills,” said Palash Barua, director of tourism.
Over 2,000 volunteers, in addition to police and home guards personnel, have been engaged to ensure cleanliness, while Guwahati police have set up additional CCTV cameras, he added. “A team of about 100 doctors and paramedical staff, apart from hospitals of the government and the railways, have been also pooled in to meet any exigency. Food safety officials have been temporarily brought in from neighbouring districts.”.
The authorities have banned supply of food directly to the pilgrims by private individuals. “Any food to be provided to the pilgrims will have to be routed through the district administration where every item is being examined,” the tourism director said. Over two lakh people will be provided free meals twice a day, he said. Restrictions
Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner M Angamuthu said use of plastic, polythene and other non-biodegradable items have been restricted in the entire Nilachal Hills during the Ambubachi Mela period. “The chief minister has directed the district administration to specially monitor and restrict use of plastic, polythene and other non-biodegradable items. The entire Nilachal Hills, on which the Kamakhya Temple and a series of other temples are located, has been declared a no-tobacco zone,” he said.
With a number of sadhus and other pilgrims consuming and even selling tobacco products, bhang and ganja during the Mela, the authorities have been trying to make the Mela tobacco-free for the past several years. VVIP accommodation
“With the present government identifying tourism as a major focus area, the ATDC has for the first time organised high-cost accommodation for tourists,” ASTDC chairman Jayanta Malla Barua said. These include nine star-category tents with air-conditioners and Class 1 furnishing, apart from the ATDC’s Prasanti Lodge up on Nilachal Hills. “We have also placed a luxury cruise called Mahabahu on the Brahmaputra just below the Nilachal Hills, where all 23 suites are already fully booked,” Barua said. Separate cruises on the Brahmaputra have been also organised for other tourists and pilgrims, he added.
The authorities have set up nine camps in and around the Nilachal Hills, with at least 80,000 pilgrims to be accommodated there.
The Northeast Frontier Railway has put extra coaches in all trains running between Guwahati and various places in Tripura, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. “We have also placed our doctors and other medical staff, as well as several ambulances for any kind of assistance required for the pilgrims,” NF Railway CPRO Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.