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Trekkers everywhere ... all the way to Ambaji Tuesday, September 4, 2001

MEHSANA: If you happen to drive on any highway or any interior part of North Gujarat this time around you will be required to invoke your reserved driving skills to meander through the slogan shouting crowds of thousands of devotees on their way to Ambaji.

Be it Ahmedabad- Mehsana-Visnagar-Kheralu route or Palanpur-Danta Road or Vijapur-Himmatnagar-Khedbrahma state highway. All of them lead to Ambaji in the laps of the Arravali ranges. Every year 12 to 15 lakh people gather there on Bhadarvi poonam which fell on Sunday this year.

Religious fervour is at its peak for the past ten days as padyatris began to foot it out. Some carry colourful buntings and banners, some push along a model of the shrine fixed on a wheel barrow which they call rath with loudspeaker blaring bhajans. Some devotees forming a mandal could be seen dancing on the road to the rhythm of manjira (cymbals) and dhols while others trudge along shouting Jai Ambe or Ambaji door hai/per jana jaroor hai often expecting others on the road or in vehicles to respond.

People of the roadside villages, societies off the highway have raised temporary speed breakers in front of the stalls and camps they have pitched for the relief of the pilgrims. Most of these stalls fitted with loudspeakers play cassettes of bhajans from early morning to late night.

Relief is provided at these camps round the clock on all the routes. At some visamas (shelters) the pilgrims are offered steaming cup of tea, others provide packets of refreshment whereas at some camps the pilgrims could have meals. All sorts of relief are free.

On his way to Kheralu this reporter came across a vehicle with cans of fresh buttermilk being distributed by some youngsters. When spoken to Bharat Jam one of the crew said he and his friend do something or the other for the Ambaji pilgrims every year. This time they were supplying buttermilk to renew the pilgrims' strength and stamina.

Near Kheralu a good medical camp has been set up by the people of Kathlal near Ahmedabad where some volunteers could be seen rubbing and pressing the feet of the pilgrims and others were applying balm besides giving medicines. The pilgrims who included old women and men were also provided cots with mattresses at a visama called Rain Basera. Many private medical vans could be seen on the route besides a few government ones.

The reporter also noticed the van of the mobile library of university granth nirman board on the PWD (stores) grounds at Kheralu cross roads and found that it was a part of the Lok Jagruti Pradarshan arranged there by the information department of Mehsana and Kheralu college.

Cutting across castes, communities, social status pilgrims from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan visit the temple of Ambaji which is known as aadya shakti peeth on Bhadarvi Poonam. Often women outnumber men in their zeal and a large number of children also join the yatra. The practice of paying their obeisance to the goddess on this day is only a few decades old. But the increasing faith of the people in the spiritual powers of the goddess has turned the Bhadarvi Poonam a day of fulfilment for thousands of pilgrims who complete their badha (vow) once their wishes wee fulfilled. There is an interesting variety of vows. Some take a vow to crawl to the temple on the fulfilment of their wish. Every year one or two pilgrims could be seen crawling or rolling on the roads on their way to what they described as the holy place of fulfilment. Thousands could be seen barefooted. Many would refuse to eat anything until they offer their prayers to the goddess.

Does the ever increasing number of pilgrims reflect their increasing faith or their religiousness? R B Patel, a local journalist, observes that the number of visitors from backward and poor classes is on the rise every year. The reason, Patel guessed was perhaps that for them this was an occasion for a free junket and merry making. Vikas Desai who has covered the event for ten years feels that for most the occasion is a diversion from the stress and strain of their routine life. However, he agreed that some people of the deprived sections have made if a routine to enjoy free and have fun.

But an officer in the revenue department who did not want to be named called it madness for it involved huge waste of time, money and energy. He complained that all offices, schools, colleges, banks remain deserted during these padyatras of Ambaji, Dakore, Ramapeer and others.

Another citizen said that one could see people indulging in drinking, gambling and even whoring during these padyatras. He observed that the holy town of Ambaji is the den of all sorts of anti-socials indulging in all the evils. People thrive on these evils, he said.

News Source : Times News Network [ Lightning News ]

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