Dumka, Feb. 16: Jharkhand is planning to introduce helicopter services between Sultanganj in Bihar and Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar during the month-long Shravani Mela, and as an added attraction, gliders could be pressed into service to provide thrill-seekers some adventure during the annual religious fair.
Secretary of the state civil aviation department Sajal Chakravarti, who was in Deoghar to review the ongoing land acquisition process for the expansion of the airport, said that the idea had been taken up with his Bihar counterpart.
“Deoghar is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations of the country with lakhs visiting Baidyanath Dham every year. We want to introduce chopper services to ferry pilgrims from Sultanganj to Deoghar from this year’s Shravani Mela itself,” Chakravarti told The Telegraph.
Notably, around 50 lakh pilgrims throng the temple town during the mela in July–August to offer Ganga jal at the Baidyanath Dham temple, one of the dwadash jyotirlingams. Most collect the holy water from the Ganga at Sultanganj, and then carry it on foot to Deoghar, 100km away.
Chakravarti said pilgrims who weren’t in a position to undertake the padyatra from Sultanganj and Deoghar owing, may be, to physical disability or old age, could avail of the helicopter service.
“Others who can afford it can also take the helicopter to complete their pilgrimage in less time and in more comfort,” Chakravarti said. A 20-seater chopper would be hired for the purpose and modalities like schedule and cost were being worked out.
Helicopter services were also likely to be introduced for pilgrims headed for Parasnath in Giridih, he said.
This apart, the state aviation department will start single-seater glider rides over Deoghar during the fair to enable pilgrims enjoy an aerial view of the mela. The planes, which will take two rounds of the temple town after taking off from Deoghar airport, would charge Rs 500 for a 10-minute sortie.
“All the three gliders owned by the state civil aviation department will be pressed into service at Deoghar during Shravani Mela so that pilgrims arriving here can also take part in adventure tourism,” Chakravarti said.
But the aviation secretary was unhappy with the poor maintenance of the Deoghar airport and emphasised the need for proper upkeep to avoid accidents during taking off and landing of planes. At present, the airport is used by air ambulances and VIP aircraft.