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Devotees offer special prayers on `ashada shukravara'

By Our Staff Correspondent



Devotees waiting in a queue atop the Chamundi Hills on Friday for the darshan of Chamundeshwari (left); and `prasada' being distributed to the people.

MYSORE, JULY 2. A large number of devotees thronged the Chamundeshwari Temple atop the Chamundi Hills near here today to offer special prayers to mark "ashada shukravara'', reckoned to be auspicious.

The crowd was unprecedented and a separate queue for "special darshan'' for which pilgrims had to pay Rs. 10 and gain entry through the side doors was as lengthy as the one for "dharma darshan''. For many pilgrims, the wait extended to almost three hours.

Though the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) arranged special services, the increasing number of tourists and pilgrims made it difficult for the authorities to clear the rush on time.

Voluntary organisations made arrangements to serve food and "prasadam" for pilgrims.

Crisis in the making

The increasing number of tourists and pilgrims visiting the Chamundi Hills, however, has masked a crisis in the making at this famous pilgrim centre. Though it is a source of income and joy for the vendors atop the hills, there is a downside to the scenario. For, the fragile ecosystem of the Chamundi Hills cannot cope with such a large crowd and the resultant adverse impact. Though such turnouts are witnessed only during special days such as the four Fridays of the "ashada masa'', Dasara and Deepavali, the average turnout at the Chamundi Hills has increased over the years. As a result, its ecosystem has come under pressure.

The Chamundi Hills may present a picture of peace and tranquillity, but environmentalists aver that the scenario is far from ideal. For, the issue of drinking water scarcity and lack of sanitation and toilet facilities remains to be addressed.

But the primary issue is to create awareness among the people on the conservation of the hills.

Located at 12 km from the city, the Chamundi Hills is 1,074 metres above the sea level and is reckoned to be among the eight sacred hills in South India. Given the growing popularity of the pilgrimage centre, the authorities decided to "develop'' it, which seems to be nothing but promoting urbanisation and commercialisation of the area. The authorities view the Chamundi Hills as a source of revenue from pilgrims and tourists whose number is increasing each day.

Likewise, the elected representatives talk of "developing'' the Chamundi Hills only from the human perspective in terms of providing comforts and infrastructure to cater to the visitors.

The issue of protecting the ecological integrity of the hills is never a priority as a result of which there is rampant urbanisation atop the hills.

At the foothills, there are threats from realtors who, in the absence of a well-defined buffer zone chalked out in tune with its environmental requirements to conserve the hills, have begun encroaching the land. As a result, residential areas have come up around the Chamundi Hills. Though environmentalists have urged the Government to declare a buffer zone, their pleas have been ignored.

In the absence of Government support, the environmentalists now have a challenge to tap the religious sentiments and attachment of the people towards the pilgrim centre and make use of them to conserve the Chamundi Hills.

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