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Faith drives millions to throng Deoghar temple

Deoghar (Jharkhand), Aug 11 (Calcutta Tube) They come in droves on foot, trekking for over 100 km to reach this town revered by Hindus for its ancient Shiv temple.

The revered Bababaidyanath temple in Deoghar, about 385 km from Jharkhand state capital Ranchi, is witnessing close to 100,000 devotees every day to offer oblations at the Shiv linga there in the month of Shravan. This year more than three million people are expected during the auspicious month.

The Deoghar temple is one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ of the country. People cover 105 km on foot to reach the temple to offer water. On Monday, for instance, the queue of devotees was 13 km long to have a ‘darshan’ (glimpse) of the revered Shiv icon. The hotels, inns and other lodging places are full. The town is awash with saffron flags and is awake round the clock, resonating to religious songs being blared from loudspeakers.

During Shravan – July 26 to Aug 24 – devotees collect Ganga water from Sultanganj in Baghalpur district of Bihar and start their 105-km journey to Deoghar on foot. The journey takes at least two days. The devotees, known as kanwariyas, carry poles across their shoulders from which hang water-pots in little cane baskets called kanwars. The kanwars carry the water from the Ganga.

There are two types of devotees — Bol Bum and Dak Bum. Dak Bum devotees have to cover the 105 km in just 24 hours.

This year, intelligence agencies alerted the Jharkhand government about a possible terrorist attack during Shravan. Heavy security arrangements are in place in the town and devotees have been asked to have some kind of identity cards.

‘It is one of the toughest tasks to handle such a large gathering. Despite deputing thousands of security personnel we (officials) keep ourselves on high alert to ensure peaceful prayers in the temple,’ a Deoghar district official told IANS, requesting that he not be named.

Deputy Commissioner M.R. Meena himself stays put in the temple from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. every day. He again comes back in the evening and stays till late night to ensure trouble-free prayers for devotees.

During Shravan the town’s economy witnesses a boost. The sale of peda sweetmeat, chura beaten rice flakes and other forms of prasad (offerings) is high. The peda, made of milk, is sold at Rs.160-Rs.240 a kg.

‘Our main source of livelihood is the income during Shravan. We earn for that one month and run our family for a year and wait for next year’s Shravan,’ said Basuki, a shop owner. Similarly, hotels, restaurants and roadside dabhas witness boom in business.

‘It is the blessing of Lord Shiv that thousands of families earn their livelihood during the Shravan month,’ said Kripal, another shop owner.

According to legend, Ravan, the demon king of Lanka, was a great devotee of Shiv and requested the divine – one of the Hindu trinity – to stay in his kingdom to make it invincible. Shiv accepted Ravan’s request and gave one of the 12 Jyotirlingas to him, but put a condition – that if the linga was placed on the ground it would get fixed there forever.

A happy Ravan started his journey from Kailash mountain. The Hindu gods saw Ravan carrying a jyotirlinga and felt threatened. They hatched a conspiracy to prevent him from taking it to Lanka. Varun, the god of water, entered the belly of Ravan and he felt the need to relieve himself. According to legend, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a lad and agreed to hold the linga while Ravan went to relieve himself. Ravan handed over the linga and when he returned he found the linga had been placed on the ground. Ravan first tried to lift the linga from the ground and when he failed he pushed it inside the ground.

According to official data, every year more than three million people offer water on the Shiv linga in the temple. On an average, every day 75,000 to 90,000 devotees have been offering water on the linga during the Shravan month. The figure goes up to 150,000 to 200,000 every Monday of Shravan.

(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at nityanand.s@ians.in)

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