The idol of Dhari Devi that had gone missing from Shrinagar, Uttarakhand, has now been found. The idol was found in a makeshift room, beside which will be Dhari Devi’s final seat.
The Dhari Devi temple in Shrinagar is one of the famous religious sites en route to Rudraprayag. It is deserted now after floods ravaged the region, and only security personnel of infrastructure major GVK remain in the area. The temple was being relocated by raising it on a platform to make way for the expansion of GVK’s Shrinagar hydro-electric project; the move had triggered a major controversy with various religious and local groups vehemently opposing the project.
Officials of Alaknanda Hydro Power Co Ltd (AHPCL), developers of the Shrinagar hydropower project, had shifted the idol on Sunday at 7.30 pm. Three priests and two local residents lifted the idol after it was cut off from its base on a rocky hill by AHPCL employees. The idol was taken to an elevated platform that was constructed by the AHPCL as the deity's new seat. But after two pillars of the structure gave way, the idol was hurriedly taken to an undisclosed location, after which its whereabouts remained unknown.
After some local channels started broadcasting news that the Dhari Devi idol is missing, AHPCL authorities kept it at a temporary shelter on an elevated structure above the original site, says Suman Nautiyal, one of the members of Dhari Sewa Samity (DSS).
Ranjan, owner of a shop near the Dhari Devi temple, says the Dhari pilgrimage has now lost its charm. The temple and the hill on which it stood were considered holy and were worshipped. Now there is no contact between the idol and the hill, he says. A pillar had been constructed to keep contact between the hill and the idol, but it was washed away in the flood.
When to move the idol
V P Pandey, a Dhari Devi priest and the president of Pujari Nyas, says they have been thinking of shifting the idol for a year now. The date was decided as July 14. But with the rising water levels after heavy rains, company officials moved the idol earlier than scheduled. The shuddhikaran or purification of the idol at its new seat will be done on June 28.
A security guard at the temple who prefers to remain anonymous says the temple was to be shifted later; the rising waters were just an excuse.
Who will move the idol
Pandey says that on June 17, he requested the district magistrate for police protection after 200 people of the Kewat community crowded near the temple. Their demand was that people from their community be allowed to handle the idol in the event of its being moved. The Kewats claim that one of their forefathers, Konju Lal, had first sighted the idol, and given it to a priest Brihaspat to install as an idol.
Pandey however, did not allow the Kewats to move the idol because they were Harijans or backward caste. The argument between Pandey and the Kewats delayed the shifting of the idol till 7.30 pm.
“The water level was rising from late afternoon onwards. The pujari and the officials are just claiming the idol was removed due to floods,” says Birbal Lal, the great-grandson of Konju Lal.
Pandey ealier had said the priests had no plans to shift the idol till evening, but later admitted that if the Kewats had not protested, the idol would have been moved long ago. He also claimed the district management had wanted the idol to be shifted, but had refused to provide it as a written notice or order.
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