About one lakh devotees throng shrine
SAMBA, June 23: The annual fair at the Baba Chamliyal shrine along the International Border (IB) in Samba district saw a huge rush of devotees today as it was being held after a gap of two years due to COVID.
According to a police official, nearly one lakh devotees from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir and neighbouring States visited the shrine today.
About 25,000 devotees visited the shrine by this afternoon but the rush of devotees increased after that and continued up to evening. The Management Committee of the Mela, district administration Samba and Border Security Force (BSF) had made elaborate arrangements for the devotees visiting the shrine to pay their obeisance.
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As the annual fair was not held during last two years due to COVID pandemic there was lot of enthusiasm among the people to participate in the annual fair this year.
As the shrine is located very close to IB, the BSF and local police had also made elaborate security arrangements in the area to ensure safety and security of devotees.
The shrine of Baba Dalip Singh Manhas, known as the symbol of the Indo-Pakistan bonhomie in the past, did not see any visitors from the neighbouring country for the fifth straight year even as the ceasefire agreement was renewed in February last year.
The Pakistani officials were not invited to offer Chadar this time as has been a tradition earlier. The practice was stopped in 2018 after the killing of some BSF personnel by Pak Rangers in the area.
Officials said there was no traditional exchange of ‘Chadar’ and ‘Shakkar/Sharbat’, believed to have powers to heal various skin diseases, between the two sides at the shrine.
“The fair is being held with traditional fervour and enthusiasm… After a gap of two years,” BSF’s Deputy Inspector General, Surjit Singh Sekhon told reporters after offering a ‘Chadar’ on behalf of the force at the shrine.
The fair became popular in November 2003 following a ceasefire and parallel peace initiatives by both India and Pakistan. While it is held for three days on the Indian side, it is also held for a week in Saidanwali village in Pakistan’s Sialkot district.
“Elaborate security and other arrangements have been put in place for the devotees who have been thronging the shrine since early this morning amid improved weather conditions,” said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy Commissioner of Samba.
“We have also offered a Chadar at the shrine on behalf of the district administration and the police, and prayed for peace and progress in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country,” she said.
Ashanand, SHO Ramgarh said about one thousand devotees paid their obeisance at the shrine by this evening.
Hundreds of stalls were installed by the devotees in the area serving eatables, cold water and juice to the people visiting the shrine to pay their respects. The children also enjoyed fun and frolic during the fair.
Baba Chamliyal is revered by the people of both India and Pakistan alike and lakhs of people throng his shrine from Indian side while equal number of devotees participate in the annual fair held on Pakistani side every year.
However, some devotees expressed their dismay over the failure of the Management Committee in renovation of the roads in the area which are in dilapidated condition. The Management Committee which has lot of funds should utilize that for the facilities of pilgrims visiting the shrine, said Mohan Singh one of the local residents.