As the Kamakhya Temple near Guwahati,the most important centre of Tantrism in the world,shuts its doors to lock the Mother Goddess in for her annual menstrual period and begin the Ambubachi Mela Saturday,officials have a tough task at hand: to ensure the place remains clean and smoking of bhang and tobacco is restricted to a minimum.
We are expecting at least five lakh visitors to the temple in the next five days. Our priority is to ensure pilgrims get safe drinking water and clean toilets, Assam tourism secretary Dhruba Hazarika said.
About two lakh pilgrims,mostly poor people,are expected to put up at the temple complex for the annual fair.
We have put up tents to accommodate about 30,000 pilgrims, Ashutosh Agnihotri,deputy commissioner of Kamrup,said. The administration has also set up 500 temporary toilets in addition to the 200 permanent toilets in the temple complex.
Consumption of bhang and tobacco is very high among some pilgrims,especially sadhus and sanyasis who come from all over the country. Since these substances have been associated with such religious melas since time immemorial,we will have to make a systematic intervention aimed at reducing the consumption level in a phase manner, Hazarika said.
The government has asked police and intelligence personnel and NGO workers more than 5,000 of them have been roped in to keep an eye on the sale of bhang and tobacco. Several surveillance teams have been already put to work to keep an eye on the health and hygiene aspects, Agnihotri said.
We have also deployed 500 medical and para-medical personnel who will be available round the clock.