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.
This Holi I visited the temple again after a very longtime. The temple can now be accessed through a new four lane road (under construction), for easy access during major festivals, as the state government is trying to promote it as a tourist center. The temple premises looked a little changed with some new construction. However the spirit remains the same, as it has been for all the years people have flocked to this place with a divine faith. A small pond, where we used to do boating in our earlier visits, is still there. Colourful bird shaped pedal boats stood next to the platform made on one of the edges of the pond. An array of shops, with vibrant colours of red and saffron, sold Prasad as always. As I boarded the trolley a sense of nostalgia kicked in as it was seven years ago when I had come here with the relief of having a job, nine years since I came here elated with a seat in MBA and more than a decade since I used to have carefree trips to this place along with my friends. This I think is the point of having these places of worship, so strongly adulated, they keep you going as you latch on to the next big thing in your life.