TURA, April 23 - The Charantala Mela, devoted to Goddess Kali, saw the convergence of thousands of devotees at Babedpara, Selsella, in West Garo Hills district. The annual festival is not only the biggest congregation of Hindus in the Garo Hills, but it also witnesses visits by people from other States seeking blessings from the Goddess.
The three-day festival got under way on Monday. The principal religious rituals were held today. The Mela will conclude tomorrow.
The queues to pay obeisance to the Goddess began early this morning with the puja continuing throughout the day. Crowds of devotees will be seen till the end of the puja tomorrow as a large number of devotees are camping in the nearby fields.
�I have been coming to the Mela every year since I can remember to pray to Maa Kali. It is a special day in our lives every year and we will continue to come till our legs can carry us,� said Biju Saha, a resident of Tura.
Many devotees today visited the puja venue on foot beginning as early as 4 am to reach Babedpara. They comprised both men and women.
According to folklore, the Charantala Mela began at the site after Goddess Kali appeared in a dream and promised to rid the village of a small pox epidemic that afflicted the people in 1965. The village saw about 20 deaths due to the disease that year.
In the same year, after the epidemic abated, local residents made a makeshift temple from where prayers were offered to the Goddess for her blessings. The word spread far and wide, leading to a huge number of devotees queuing up to offer their prayers.
The number of devotees, according to the latest estimates available to the committee, has been increasing every year.
The makeshift temple has transformed into a full-fledged structure, with idols brought in from places as far as Rajasthan, through donations made by devotees. Support from the State Government has also helped in improving amenities at the site, with a fully functional transit site catering to the needs of religious tourists.