| Devotees take a dip in the Ganga at Sultanganj on Tuesday before leaving for Deoghar to offer prayers to Lord Baidyanath. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Sultanganj (Bhagalpur), July 3: Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi today pledged to introduce more facilities for the saffron- clad kanwariyas who walk from Sultanganj to Deoghar during the month-long Shravani Mela.
Modi was addressing devotees present on the banks of the Ganga at Sultanganj, around 28km west of Bhagalpur, during the inauguration of this year’s Shravani Mela. He said while the NDA government in the state has initiated several welfare measures for the kanwariyas, it would also introduce several innovative measures to give a facelift to the festival that continues for a month.
The deputy chief minister said the state government was determined to take care of the kanwariyas and provide them better infrastructure during their month-long pilgrimage.
Every Shravani Mela, the kanwariyas fetch water from the Ganga at the banks at Sultanganj and proceed towards Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar, 84km through the kanwariya path. Naresh Thapa, a pilgrim from Pokhara in Nepal who fetched water from the Ganga today, said: “We will reach Deoghar by Friday evening and worship Lord Baidhyanath.”
Modi said: “We have successfully constructed a 84km-long kaccha kanwariya path (non-metallic path for the pilgrims) from Sultanganj to Dumma gate (on the Jharkhand border) at the cost of Rs 9.7 crore. The project reduced a 26km-distance from the old route to reach Dumma gate near Deoghar.”
Recalling a Shravani Mela inauguration in the late 1990s, Modi said former state minister Shakuni Choudhary could not arrive at Sultanganj from Tarapur (he represented the Tarapur Assembly segment) on time. “The minister was trapped in a traffic snarl because of the rush of other vehicles and kanwariyas who were on their way to Deoghar through Tarapur by the same road. Our government had decided to construct a separate kaccha kanwariya path so that the pilgrims did not face the traffic on the main road (Sultanganj-Tarapur) while going to Deoghar,” said Modi.
He added that the state government also plans to develop the kanwariya path with modern accommodation facilities, food plazas and other necessary amenities at every 3km for the convenience of the pilgrims.
Taking a dig at the Centre, Modi said: “We are struggling for coal blocks and coal linkage for improving the power scenario in the state. But we have decided to initiate some special movement for pressuring the Centre to fulfil our demands.”
State health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey, who was chief guest at the inauguration of the Shravani Mela, urged the people to save the Ganga. He also said that the government has decided to develop the Sultanganj-Deoghar-Basukinath-Mandar Hills-Gonubaba Dham stretch under the kanwariya circuit.
Tourism minster Sunil Kumar Pintu said this year, the department has constructed a makeshift pandal at Dhandhi Belhari village, around 12km south of Sultanganj, on the kanwariya path for the pilgrims. “Local artists will entertain the pilgrims with musical programmes every evening for two hours. The tourism department will also arrange Ganga aarti every evening on the banks at Sultanganj,” said Pintu.
Banka MP Putul Kumari and state ministers Narendra Singh (agriculture) and Prem Kumar (urban development), local MLAs, and members of Sultanganj Nagar Parisad and Bhagalpur Municipal Corporation also attended the inauguration of the festival.