GUWAHATI, June 19 - The State government is planning to turn the ensuing Ambubachi Mela at the Kamakhya shrine as a major congregation of different faiths to boost religious tourism as well as create a cohesive atmosphere sending across the message of integration.
The annual festival will begin atop the Nilachal hill with the ritual prabhrity at exactly 9.27 pm 54 seconds in the evening of June 22. The doors of the temple would remain closed till the ritual of nibhrity gets over at 7.51 am 58 seconds in the morning of June 26. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will inaugurate the festival in a grand ceremony at the Sonaram HS School playground on June 21 at 4 pm, where over 50 religious gurus, including those of ethnic communities of the entire Northeast would be present.
�The move has been planned with a view to promoting religious integration, where gurus of different sects, including the heads of 13 different akharas, heads of Vaishnavite sattras, religious preachers of Khasi, Jaintia, Bodo, Karbi, Mising and other communities, as well as the gurus of different ethnic tribes and communities of the Northeast will take part,� Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) chairman Jayanta Malla Barua told reporters here today.
�We also want to make up for the possible damage to the tourism here due to the recent incidents at Dokmoka and also in Shillong,� he mentioned.
Elaborate plans have been chalked out to ensure the smooth flow of devotees to and from the temple during the festival, including ferry services by ASTC, health camps, cleanliness measures, security and surveillance, lodging arrangements and cultural events.
The ATDC and the administration have urged people to prefer walking up to the shrine from the foothills to create minimum hassles. �Elderly, ill or physically challenged people would be ferried through the vehicles arranged for the purpose. But, if others walk up to the temple, it would be a great support in crowd management. Both the main road and the Mekhela Ujowa Path have been cleaned with proper arrangement for drinking water, rest shelters, music and other facilities so that devotees can enjoy their walk. If we can walk for miles to reach the Vaishno Devi temple, the same could be done here as well,� he said.
Five major camps by the government would host nearly one lakh devotees during the Mela. This time, the old jail land would have the biggest camp apart from camps near the Kamakhya railway station, Pandu and Naharbari. Food and water would be distributed through these camps and no such offerings would be allowed outside to ensure health and hygiene. The ATDC has planned to register the devotees coming from outside through and analyse the religious tourism pattern.
�This time, we would also be able to get the accurate data about the number of devotees visiting the temple during the festival with the help of our 10 special laser cameras installed at different entry points,� mentioned the ATDC chairman.
The Sonaram field would host a range of cultural and devotional activities, including Bhagawat Path by Daivakinandan Thakur from June 21 to 27, and cultural programmes on every evening representing the ethnic culture of Assam.
Security measures: Elaborate arrangements have been put in place by the administration in view of the Mela. Addressing media persons, City Police Commissioner Hiren Nath and Kamrup Metro Deputy Commissioner Virendra Mittal informed that all efforts have been initiated to ensure that the pilgrims do not face any hassles. To organisers have, for the first time, decided to restrict entry of the pilgrims after 12 pm till 5 am on each day.
Hiren Nath said the area of operation has been divided into 14 sectors, six of which would be looked after by an SP rank officer, which includes the entry routes to the temple. �Nearly 400 CCTV cameras have been strategically positioned. Besides, three control rooms will be positioned for the Mela,� he said.
Nath also stated that several child rescue booths, with special helpline number, has been set up for missing children with the help of childline and other NGOs. �Last year, 40 children went missing and fortunately we could trace each one of them,� he pointed out.
�Along with the men-in-uniform, police personnel in plainclothes will also be deployed,� he divulged. In addition to the security forces, more than 200 volunteers have been roped in to streamline the crowd flow.
DC Mittal said shuttle buses will be stationed to ferry the pilgrims from the main road.
�We have discouraged passes for vehicles even for VIPs and as and where necessary we would facilitate them on that particular date,� the DC said.
Mittal said use of plastic in the food and drinking water counters would be prohibited and those running the counters have been asked to use biodegradable items.