News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » Amarnath Yatra langars: Fuel to pilgrims

Amarnath Yatra langars: Fuel to pilgrims

By Sameer C Mohindru in Amarnath
August 11, 2003 14:54 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

Amarnath Yatra is all about devotion.

But devotion, in this case, involves a long, arduous and tiring journey.

This is where the community kitchens (langars) step in, providing succour and tasty food to tired pilgrims.

But unlike traditional langars, where simple food is the order of the day, these langars provide dessert and ice-cream to round off a meal.

From dosas, noodles, rajmah, curry-rice, icecream, kheer to a variety of sweetmeats, the langars provide for all.

"It is astonishing to find in these icy-heights of the Himalayas, the most delectable of cuisines providing much succour and relief to the tired and hungry pilgrims," says 65-year-old Nirmal, an English teacher from Mussoorie.

Travelling at 14,000 feet to have darshan of 14 feet high naturally formed ice-lingam makes for a tough 32-km trek.

Traditionally langars are known to provide food to the devotees, but the ones in the yatra route have altered the concept and give additional services from arranging accommodation to medical relief within their premises.

Minta Narang, member of the Delhi-based Shiv Shakti Samiti, which has a langar in Paushpatri, nine km from the holy cave, says pilgrims have the option of choosing from 110 culinary delights.

But many of those associated with the 100-odd langars complain of increased official restrictions. Organisers rue having to obey a 27-point list of instructions or run the risk of having their licence cancelled.

"The number of langars are being brought down and we are not being allowed to give free accommodation to the yatris," says Prem Kumar Garg, a sewadar (langar volunteer) from Budladda in Punjab.

Langar organisers allege the curbs are imposed on facilities provided by them to give a boost to the earnings of the State Tourism Development Corporation.

While this may be one of the reasons, government officials say security has to be accounted for and langars cannot be given a carte blanche in their operations.

Administrative hassles apart, langars add fun and colour in a pilgrimage, which is otherwise known for unprecedented security and the lurking danger of terrorist attacks.

To set up langars at places ranging from 9,000 to 14,000 feet, is an onerous task and organisers plan well in advance.

Rations, LPG gas stoves and blankets are laden on horses and ponies and tenements put up in the run up to the yatra.

The langar in Paushpatri, its organisers claim gets contributions of over Rs one crore annually and this ensures the high quality and wide range of its cuisines.

Narang who hails from Saharanpur says fund collectors are spread over a number of towns and cities and their 'devotion to Lord Shiva keeps them moving'.

"If security personnel manning the heights are the backbone to the yatra, its lifeline is the langars," says Nirmal.

Trek-wise, she adds, this is one of the toughest yatras to be undertaken, but langars ensure it is also one of the cheapest.

In 1996 when bad weather led to thousands of deaths, food and stay on the way was a problem. Even though locals did a yeoman's service that year saving numerous lives, others were found exploiting the situation.

The langar regime changed all that and this has been particularly a boon for the sparsely clad sadhus, who are otherwise used to frugal meals.

Shankerji Prasad, a sadhu from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, says the langars help them travel light and ensure they can make night halts on the way without incurring any expenses.

Even the security officials concede these langars are a good complement to the arrangements made by the government and when the rush becomes unmanageable, administration can always fall back upon them.

"It is a good and unique service inherent in the Indian genius of yore, our only concern is that terrorists do not infiltrate the area in guise of pilgrims and use langar sites to launch an attack on the soft targets", officials say.

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Sameer C Mohindru in Amarnath
Source: PTI© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.