– Ronik Sharma
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to put several restrictions and regulations on the pilgrimage this year.
Every year from June to August lakhs of pilgrims from different parts of the country visit and pay their obeisance to Holy Shrines of Shri Amarnath Ji in Kashmir and Shri Budha Amarnath Ji in Poonch. In the prevailing situation, with the cases of COVID-19 increasing day by day, the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory administration has taken various steps to stop the spread. Accordingly, the Union territory Administration in consultation with Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine board has decided to allow only 500 pilgrims per day by road to reach the holy cave of Amarnath Ji this year. They are also mandated to follow all the regulations as per the SOPs issued by the Administration.
Every year, thousands of devotees from across the country visit Shri Budha Amarnath ji to pay their obeisance at the holy Shrine Situated at Village Mandi in district Poonch. The Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Yatra is organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang dal during the period of Raksha Bandhan every year.
Taking the prevailing situation into consideration and for the first time ever, the Aarti at Amarnath Ji’s cave shrine will be streamed live for the benefit of millions of devotees across the country and the world. The special arrangements have been made by Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board and the Union Territory administration for the first time. Aarti, Poojan and darshan of the Natural Shiv ling will be telecast live from 8 am to 10 am on DD Bharti and will continue from 5:30 pm to 6 pm on Doordarshan National.
Devotees request similar arrangements for Shri Budha Amarnath Ji shrine
However, the Union Territory Administration has not taken any decision over the annual pilgrimage of Shri Budha Amarnath Ji and Chhari Yatra which are supposed to happen two days before Raksha Bandhan every year. The annual pilgrimage of the Shri Budha Amarnath ji starts in the last week of July or first week of the August every year till the Raksha Bandhan. The Raksha Bandhan ‘Chhari yatra’ leaves from Dashnami Akhara in Poonch town to the holy place of the Shri Budha Amarnath ji every year two days before the Raksha Bandha day. Last year, due to Security reasons the annual pilgrimage of Shri Budha Amarnath Ji was canceled and Chhari Yatra was also limited due to restrictions enforced by the district administration.
It is pertinent to mention here that thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the Jammu and Kashmir and all over India visit Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine during the holy month of Shrawan to celebrate the auspicious festival of Raksha Bandhan. However, this year due to the restrictions over movement all across the Country due Corona pandemic, devotees may not be able to reach the Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine.
Hence, devotees are urging the Union Territory Administration to hold consultations with District Administration of Poonch, the heads of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Dashnami Akahada Committee, Budha Amarnath Mandir Committe and Mahant Dashnami Akahada Poonch Shri Shri 1008 Rajguru Mahamandleshwar Swami Vishwatma Nand Saraswati Ji Maharaj, and make similar arrangments like that of Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra in Kashmir for the Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine located at Rajpura in Mandi of Poonch district.
Administration can ensure limited presence of devotees who are interested to come for this holy pilgrimage at Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine and pay their respects. Special transportation facilities can be arranged by following the guidelines and the SOPs laid down by the Administration. The Poonch District administration and particularly the department of information and broadcasting may be directed to arrange for the live telecast of the Poojan, Aarati and Darshan from the sacred Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine everyday in the morning and evening.
Millions of devotees all over the country as well as elsewhere in the world are sentimentally attached to the holy Shrine of Budha Amarnath Ji. Lieutenant Governor is further appealed to facilitate necessary arrangements for the Chhari yatra which is to take place two days prior to Shrawan Purnima i.e Raksha Bandhan.
In view of the pandemic and prevailing situation District administration of Poonch should also make necessary arrangements for live telecast of Chhari Mubarak and Sharwan Purnima festival from Budha Amarnath temple in Mandi. Security related arrangments coupled with necessary facilities may also be provided to the pilgrims who will be coming from far off places all across India. Deputy Commissioner of Poonch should also provide and install sanitization tunnels at Dashnami Akahada Poonch and Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Shrine. A Health Care system for Pilgrims with immunity boosting medicines, disinfectants, masks, sanitizers should also be ensured for making this Yatra safe for everyone.
(The writer is an Advocate in J&K)