GUWAHATI, April 23 - For the first time in its recorded history, the annual Ambubachi Mela organised at the Kamakhya Temple atop the Neelachal Hill, has been called off. The annual festival witnesses footfalls of 20 to 25 lakh pilgrims and tourists from all over the country and abroad.
The five-day festival which is usually organised from June 22 to 26 every year, marks the annual menstruation cycle of the Mother Goddess Kamakhya and is considered to be among the biggest religious congregations in eastern India.
While the management of Maa Kamakhya Devalaya has confirmed that no festival will be organised during the Ambubachi period, it added that the rituals performed during the festival will continue as usual from June 22 to 26.
In a notification issued to the residents and land owners of Kamakhya and adjoining areas, the devalaya committee has asked them not to rent out their houses to the pilgrims for the festival.
�Ambubachi is one of the biggest events in the annual tourism calendar of Assam. For the residents also, it is a source of income as a good number of pilgrims come here and reside with the locals to soak in the spiritual ambience surrounding the temple. It was a tough decision for us. However, considering the threat perception due to the pandemic, we have decided not to hold the festival and restrict entry of devotees into the temple premises,� bor doloi of the temple Mohit Chandra Sarma told The Assam Tribune.
In normal circumstances, the temple doors remain closed on the festival days. However, owing to the outbreak of COVID-19, the temple management committee had decided to keep the doors of the shrine closed from March 20 itself.
�As the lockdown is supposed to ease after May 3, and people will start enquiring for room rents, etc., for the festival, we took a decision well in advance for convenience of the residents as well as the pilgrims,� Sarma further added.
Neelachal Hill is home to nearly 500 to 600 local families, mostly associated with the religious activities of the temple. More than 90 per cent of the residents offer rooms on rent to the pilgrims for the Ambubachi Mela.
Besides, the hotels, lodges, homestays, etc., that also witness significant occupancy during that time of the year, will suffer financial losses because of the pandemic.