TURA, June 23 - The 50-year-old Charantala Kali Temple at Babedpara is all set to get a major facelift. The temple attracts lakhs of devotees, especially during a three-day period in April, and has been one of the hubs of religious tourism in Meghalaya.
Despite the wide attraction, the temple itself has not been paid any due attention by the State Government so far. �The planning and design for the new temple is ready and we are set to start the new construction,� said Ram Singh, member of the management committee of the temple.
An architect from Mumbai, Chandra Shekar Rao, has already prepared a design for the temple.
�We have not received any funds from the Government so far, but have received an assurance that the Government is willing to provide assistance. We have received generous donations from devotees and managed to gather funds to begin our new construction,� Singh added.
Narsing Shah, a trader from Tura, has donated a new stone idol, which is ready and will be brought from Rajasthan after the existing temple is dismantled, which is likely next month.
�The present temple is not spacious enough to house the new idol. Next year, the puja will be held with the permanent stone structure of Goddess Kali,� he said.
According to Singh, in May this year, activist Prashant Bhusan visited the temple and assured to raise the issue in New Delhi so that necessary assistance could be provided to the temple.
The Charantala Temple attracts over 10-15 lakh devotees from the length and breadth of the country during April-May. The temple is located at Babedpara village in Selsella, about 55 km from Tura in West Garo Hills. The existing temple was built in 1965 and holds immense significance to the Hindu community in the Garo Hills, especially the Koch and Hajong tribes.
According to legend, the temple was built after an epidemic had struck the village, leading to the loss of many lives. Puja to Goddess Kali began after a fortune-teller, who had migrated from Bangladesh during the liberation war, made the suggestion. This miraculously ended the epidemic, it is said.
In the last five decades, the temple was built brick by brick and brought to its present shape with generous donations from devotees. The three-day annual puja rituals are held during the end of April or May as per the Hindu calendar, depending on the date of amavashya.
Devotees believe that wishes are fulfilled if one offers prayers at the temple. In the subsequent years, devotees, whose wishes were fulfilled, offered sacrifices of goats, pigeons and bulls.
�Initially, only the local Hindu population offered puja here but slowly the temple rose to prominence and devotees from different parts of the country starting to flock here,� said Jibendro Narayan Koch, secretary, Charantala Kali Puja Welfare Society. Pujas are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout the year.
For Hindu devotees from Meghalaya, Assam, West Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh, the temple is considered a �must-visit� to offer puja to Goddess Kali as the locals believe that Goddess Kali had appeared to the people at the time when an epidemic had struck many villages in Selsella, which is now populated mostly by the Garo tribe.
Many devotees cover the entire distance to the temple on foot during the annual puja. �It is an irony that this temple attracts so many visitors and the Government has not provided us much assistance,� said a member of the puja committee. The Government has provided assistance under the BRGF for a community hall and the Tourism Department has provided a community toilet at the temple site.