2023 Shravan Ashtami Fair at Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple
Every year, the 10-day Shravan Ashtami Mela at the Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple attracts a daily influx of between 30,000 – 35,000 pilgrims. This year’s heavy monsoon rainfall affected the turnout, with attendance decreasing to 10,000 – 15,000 pilgrims per day. Inspite of the reduced turnout, the Shravan Ashtami Mela remains a large scale event that is carefully managed to ensure smooth operations and crowd management. To avoid straining the local support system, medical facilities and transportation services are arranged in coordination with local authorities.
Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) was approached by Sh. Dharampal (HAS) SDM-cum-Chairman-cum-Joint Commissioner, Temple Trust Shri Naina Devi Ji, Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh to organize a medical camp and provide an ambulance for the devotees visiting the Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple during the Shravan Ashtami Mela from August 17 – 27, 2023. VMRK gratefully appreciated the opportunity and coordinated with the local authorities to organize the medical camp.
Right after receiving permission from the Chief Medical Officer, VMRK volunteers started preparing the medical equipment and supplies needed for the medical camp. All the necessary items were procured and packed into 45 boxes that were clearly labeled. Then, the medicines, oxygen cylinders, multipara monitors, suction machines, two-fold stretchers, blankets, bed sheets, and other indispensable supplies were loaded into a pick-up truck.
On August 15, VMRK volunteers deep-cleaned the ambulance as it had just returned from serving the pilgrims during the Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra. All the life-saving equipment was serviced and ensured to be in working order. In the ambulance, our volunteers carefully arranged emergency medications and injections alongside the other life saving equipment such as the portable ventilator, multipara monitor, defibrillator, fire extinguisher, infusion pump, and stretcher.
In the morning of August 16, 2023, the ambulance and pick-up truck set off for Bilaspur and arrived safely in the evening.
Road access to the Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple curves round the hill, followed by walking up approximately 100 concrete steps to get to the top. Devotees use various modes of transport to reach the temple. Many drive or take public transport and walk from the Naina Devi bus stand located 1.5 kilometers from the temple. Some opt to take the cable car facility from the base of the hill to the temple at the top but many devotees start their pilgrimage about a kilometer from the bus stand and walk the remaining 2.5 kilometers to the temple. Some pilgrims even undertake the pilgrimage on foot from their home to the temple.
VMRK organized two medical camps during the Shravan Ashtami Mela at Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple. The first camp was set up at Naina Devi bus stand and commenced on August 17, 2023. The ambulance with a driver and an ICU ambulatory technician was also stationed at this medical camp. The second medical camp was organized at Ghanauli village, in Rupnagar district, Punjab on August 21, 2023. This campsite was 45 kilometers away from Shri Naina Devi Ji Temple, and this route sees a daily influx of between 400 – 500 pilgrims using various modes of travel, some on foot or bicycles, and in cars.
The pilgrims traveling on foot or by bicycle often needed medical attention during their journey. VMRK’s medical team of 4 doctors, 6 nurses, 4 pharmacists, and 20 additional volunteers served at these medical camps. Together they provided free medical consultations and medicines to more than 4,400 patients suffering from dehydration, foot blisters, loose motions, vomiting, and body pain.
The ambulance transported patients from the temple and the medical camp to the Civil Hospital in Gavanal, District Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh.
Sh. Abhishek Kumar Garg, IAS, SDM Bilaspur visited the medical camp and wrote the following comment in the visitor book: “This charitable institution is providing selfless service to the needy pilgrims and thereby providing assistance to the district administration in the wellbeing of all the guest pilgrims. They are making great contributions for mankind and humanity. Best wishes for their noble initiative and work.“
After the event, VMRK received the following certificate from the chairman of the temple trust.