Haridwar: 5 November, 2015
Ahead of the Ardh Kumbh mela scheduled to begin in January next year, many pandas (priests) of Haridwar are divided into opposite groups over the proposed construction of a bathing ghat opposite the iconic Har-ki-Pauri, the main ghat of the temple town. The proposed Chandi Ghat is set to come up on the left bank of the Ganga facing the Har-ki-Pauri with a view to ease the pressure on the main ghat when crores of pilgrims descend on Haridwar during the mela. A budget of Rs 70 crore has already been allocated for the construction of the ghat under various Central and state sponsored schemes.
Those who are opposing it say that religious texts do not mandate rites to be performed in places other than Har-ki-Pauri while those who support it say that the real reason for the protest is that many priests fear their business would be split if another prominent ghat comes up in the vicinity of Har-ki-Pauri. "Movement of people is severely restricted during the kumbh mela. If devotees who are coming from Bijnore or Moradabad, are diverted to perform their pooja at Chandi ghat, what is the harm in it? The opposition is simply from those who fear their authority will get undermined if devotees perform pooja elsehwhere," said Sanjay Chaturvedi of Divya Prem Sewa Mission (DPSM), an ashram situated near the proposed ghat.
However, Tirth Panda Samaj, an association of priests who perform rituals at the Har-ki-Pauri area, is vehemently opposing the move, claiming that "it is an effort to create a parallel Har-ki-Pauri by ahrams situated on the left bank of the Ganga." "Skand Purana underlines the base of Braham Kund at Har-ki-Pauri only. The nectar of immortality or amrit dropped at this spot only. Therefore, it is mandatory that all Hindu religious rites are done on different ghats of Braham Kund area and not somewhere else," said Virendra Kirtipal, a senior priest who is also a member of the Shri Ganga Sabha that manages the activities of the Har-ki-Pauri area.
Adds Ujjal Pandit, another priest, "Many of the ashrams situated on the left side of the Ganga have, through their influence with politicians, got this move approved so that they can get more devotees, but we will oppose this move since it goes against what our religious texts prescribe." Tapan Susheel