demand, we have started this new trend of offering Bhakti Yatra package of four days/three nights at a price of R15,452 on twin sharing basis. “The package comes with all three meals, aarti darshan, a boat ride and an interaction with the sadhus. The response so far is good, but since pilgrimage tourism is a new phenomenon, it will take some time to catch up,” says a representative of the agency
Other private companies, too, are offering deluxe cottages at R10,000 per cottage per person for a day. They come with an in-built boat ride, three meals, a guide and a panoramic view of the ghats. The luxury deluxe rooms come at R12,000 while the suites come at R15,000 per day. These cottages have unique surroundings, including open-air restaurants and tourist information centres.
Abhijit Tripathi, an official of a private tourism company, says people booking for exclusive Swiss cottages are evincing great interest. “Tourists, especially foreign visitors at the Maha Kumbh Mela, have praised the luxury camps that have been offered to them.”
The issue of pollution in the rivers Ganga and Yamuna is increasingly becoming worrisome. Says Mahant Ramanand Das of Ram Ghat, Ayodhya, who relocated to Allahabad in 1968, “Pollution of the Ganga has become a major thorn in the proper conduct of our pujas. Some years back, the situation was so bad that even we holy men, who consider Ganga to be our mother and rever her sacredness, could not bathe in it, let alone drink from it. The water was stinking. Our major demand was that the administration (should) stop the flow of dirty water from the sewage drains and toxic waste from industries into the Ganga, which has been addressed to a large extent this year.”
In fact, pollution of the Ganga had been a major reason for the fracas created by the sadhus some years back when they sat on a hunger strike, demanding the administration give them their right to bathe and conduct prayers in peace.
But despite the pollution and dirt in the river, there are millions who take a dip in it to wash away their sins. “Their faith in the sacredness of the Ganga is immense. I salute them for their unwavering belief,” says the mahant.
However, for the lakhs of
devouts, these issues can hardly be any deterrents. For
the awe-inspiring sense of
fulfillment and experience of
a lifetime that