Ours is a country for which the clichéd phrase “Unity in Diversity” is often used and aptly so. It can challenge an entire continent of Europe in terms of its geographical expanse and its cultural diversity and definitely stands out with a huge number of religious deities people worship here. Every state seems to have its own spiritual power center, with their own mythological stories, on which the devotees have an unshakeable faith and where they believe that all their wishes would come true. One such place which I have visited since my childhood is the Bamleshwari Temple in Dongargarh, a small town in Chhattisgarh.
It is surrounded by hills which perhaps are an extension of the Satpuras and on top of one of these hills is the famous (at least in Chattisgarh) Bamleshwari temple which houses Bamba Devi, the local deity. This temple is nothing less than a pilgrimage for the residents of this state and is held in very high regards. During Navratri a huge mass of people converges here to worship the Devi and the temple premises becomes the site of a colourful “mela”. I remember, as a kid, being stuck in a huge queue during one of these Navratri festivals when it took us hours to reach the holy sanctum. In those days a flight of more than 900 stairs was the only way to reach all the way up. The convenience of a ropeway which gives you an easy ride to the top was provided much later. Once you reach the top you find yourself at a vantage point with an expansive view of the surrounding areas as you pay homage to the deity. For most people, this temple is a pilgrimage but for quite a few it is also a picnic, like it was for me and my friends during our time in engineering (at Bhilai). It was an easy getaway for sleep deprived moneyless and aspirational bachelors. I myself went there quite a few times taking one of the “Mofussil” buses or a train. Very often these trips were also a very spontaneous consequence of a late night quest for some tea which used to be available only at the Durg railway station and some of my friends will happily recall the night when they travelled with the guard of a goods train to reach Dongargarh. These nightly sojourns came to an end as we graduated and got ready for the grind ahead. All those visits I had made had perhaps instilled a fragment of the undoubtable faith people have in this temple and I did go back to the revered temple when I got through my MBA, a year full of dilemmas had come to an end with a decent outcome. With two years in Ahmedabad there were to be no frequent visits but I did make a point to offer a silent prayer whenever my train passed beneath the hill on which this temple is situated. I went back to the temple again when I got my job, highlighting how frugal we can be even when it comes to our dealing with God.