No sanctuary status for Girnar, say priests
Indian Express By Sibte Husain Bukhari
Junagadh, June 25 The sadhus and the temple heads of the Girnar region have opposed all moves to declare the 200 sq kms Girnar forest near Junagadh into a sanctuary. The Girnar area accommodates dozens of religious places and the sadhus have expressed fear that the presence of a sanctuary will jeopardise the pilgrimage.
The increasing lion population in Gir had forced the state government and the Forest Department to expand the present area covered, under the sanctuary status. The Forest Department's proposal to convert the Girnar forest into a sanctuary was also sanctioned by the state government, and according to forest sources, a notification in this regard was to be issued shortly.
The sadhus have now written a letter to the Chief Minister and highlighted the problems and threats posed as a result of this move. "A sanctuary status to the area means that religious activities carried out here throughout the year will be automatically stopped. Lakhs of people pay their visit here particularly during the two big melas, namely Shivratri and Parikrama, which will also be stopped," the letter said
The letter signed by Mahant Gopalanand, Mahant Tansukhgiri, Mahant VasantGiri said that in the event the forest is turned into a sanctuary, devotees and pilgrims will have to seek legal permission to enter the area. Besides, night halt will also be prohibited in the area, which will mean that the centuries-old tradition will come to an end.
"Lakhs of peoples stay for four days and nights in the forest during the Parikrama mela. But no such things will be allowed once it becomes a sanctuary. The melas will not take place here," they said in their letter. The letter further said that that the state government's move will also reduce the religious tradition and 'ashmita' to zero. As such, the government should seriously consider these issues before taking any decision, they said.
All India Sadhu Samaj (Gujarat chapter) president and head of the Girnar Sadhu Mandal- Mahant Gopalanand, said: "The state government's decision is not fair. The future of the all-important religious places particularly Bordevi temple, Bhavnath, Sarkadiya Hanuman temple, Indreshwar Mahadev temple is at stake. The government should first clarify our doubts. Using our right to information-we have sought details from the Forest Department as to how many temples and religious places will be affected by this move."
A forest officer said: "Girnar is a reserved forest and state government has issued a notification whereby any person who has objection to the plan can put forward their view."