Varanasi, Jan 28 : Ravidas Jayanti on February 16 will be celebrated on a much grander scale this year in Varanasi which is the birthplace of 15th century mystic poet-saint and Dalit icon Sant Ravidas.
The importance of the event can be gauged from the fact that the Election Commission had rescheduled Punjab polling date from February 14 to 20 as lakhs of devotees come to pay obeisance on Ravidas Jayanti and would not have been able to cast their votes.
The temple in Seer Govardhanpur is, meanwhile, being prepared for grand celebrations on February 16 amid Covid protocol and a huge footfall is expected this year.
Kishanlal Saroa of the Shri Guru Ravidas Janam Sthal Charitable Trust and temple manager Ranvir Singh said: "Trust chairman Sant Niranjan Das will arrive in a special train with pilgrims on February 14 after which Ravidas Jayanti celebrations will start. We have not invited any political leader, though they are free to come and offer prayers on their own." A tent city comes up near the temple every year to accommodate the pilgrims.
District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said: "Just as in Magh Mela at Prayagraj, tent city has been permitted for Ravidas Jayanti celebrations. It will have capacity of accommodating 30,000 persons but only 15,000 will be allowed due to Covid norms. Social distancing will be ensured, and sanitisation would be done round-the-clock." Sharma said there is no restriction on politicians and they can visit the temple on Ravidas Jayanti to offer prayers and seek blessings of Sant Niranjan Das, but they cannot deliver speech.
Due to Covid-19, devotees in Punjab had been urged to visit in small groups before birth anniversary and celebrate the occasion in the temples of their villages.
This year, too, pilgrims will be provided food in temporary Langar Hall.
"We will perform some rituals in the new Langar Hall during celebrations but will run community kitchen in it from next year," Saroa added.
Divisional CCommissioner Deepak Agrawal said the project of developing Sant Ravidas birthplace area has a budget of over Rs 90 crore and land acquisition for the park has been completed.
The political significance of Ravidas temple had increased when, as Chief Minister, Mayawati had tried to develop a grand park at birthplace in Seer Govardhanpur in 1997, but the bid was foiled by Yadav-dominated local population.
The BSP chief had attended Ravidas Jayanti celebrations as Chief Minister in 2008 and had gifted a golden palanquin to the temple.
Later, leaders of all parties started frequenting Ravidas temple as a part of their Dalit outreach agenda.
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