GUWAHATI, June 17 - As the spiritual aura has started filling up the Nilachal Hill ahead of the Ambubachi festival, sensitive matters like the entry of Naga sadhus, the naked ascetics, into the main venue on the temple premises, and inclement weather conditions, are posing a challenge to the administration.
Amid the mammoth task to make arrangements for lakhs of devotees thronging the Kamakhya Temple on the occasion of the fest starting from June 22, the administration is looking for an amicable solution to the issue after a rider from the Kamakhya Devalaya authorities to restrict movement of the group of Shaivaite Naga sadhus, usually stark naked with ash smeared on their bodies.
Last year nearly 400 Naga sadhus were part of the festival, and this year, more than 1,000 such sadhus are expected at the event.
�The matter is a sensitive one, where the tradition followed in Assam has to be kept intact along with respecting the spiritualism followed by the Naga sadhus. Some people have also expressed their displeasure at the procession taken out by this group. We would sit for talks with the sadhus and the temple authorities to find a way that is acceptable to all,� Kamrup (Metro) DC M Angamuthu told The Assam Tribune. �With only four days left for the fest, the standoff has to be resolved very soon,� he added.
Head priest of the Kamakhya Devalaya Kabindra Sarma Doloi has sought the help of the administration in this matter. The temple administration has arranged a designated camp at the Abhayananda Ashram in the western part of the temple for the Naga sadhus. Sarma also said that last year, the procession taken out by the group created some chaos.
�This time we are not allowing any procession in and around the temple premises. This is to ensure that the Mela is smooth and peaceful and that the visitors do not face any inconvenience,� he added.
Mahant Govind Giri, a representative of the Naga sadhus, however, resented the decision of the temple authorities. �We are discussing the issue with different akharas. We will take a call on the issue on June 20,� he told this newspaper.
However, appreciating the other the facilities provided by the temple, he said that around 75 Naga sadhus from Punjab, Haryana, Nepal, etc., have already arrived and another 1,000 are expected on the eve of the Mela.
�Ambubachi festival is a very local concept and it is not a mini Kumbh Mela as portrayed by many. Earlier also, the Naga sadhus arrived at the venue, but their number was very small. For the past three years, they have been coming in very large numbers in an organised format. We have received the feedback from the common people visiting the Kamakhya Devalaya regarding their discomfort in the presence of Naga sadhus,� sources at the Ambubachi Mela Parichalana Samity said.
Continuous rainfall for the past few days is also affecting the preparations, with some hoardings and banners being torn by the wind, and camping areas getting affected. �We hope to complete the preparations by June 20,� Angamuthu added.