Visitors increasing in Sworgadwari but the place lacks infrastructure (Feature)

Sworgdwari TempleKumar Chaulagain / Pyuthan, March 30: Sworgadwari, one of the major pilgrimage sites and also a place of tourist attraction in the country, is witnessing an increasing number of visitors every year but the place lacks adequate facilities.

Lack of infrastructures at the Sworgadwari Tapobhumi means that the pilgrims are facing difficulties. There is shortage of accommodation, transport and in the availability of offerings for long.

The ashram trust, the body responsible for governing the ashram’s properties, has not allowed hotels and other shops catering to the needs of the tourists to open around the ashram premises. There is only one store run by the ashram trust that sells various items of offerings as flowers in the premises. This means that the pilgrims have no choice but to buy only from this store at an exorbitant price.

Similarly, pilgrims have to make a tiring and difficult travel for 13 kilometres from Bhingri Bazaar to the ashram as the dirt road in this section is not blacktopped. “It is really a matter of regret that this road leading to an important pilgrimage site is not upgraded and blacktopped,” said Dadhiram Bhandari, a local hotel entrepreneur.

“Millions of rupees budget is allocated for this road every year. But the road is as it was. Pilgrims have been facing the difficulty in travel,” he added.

Pilgrims reaching the ashram in the late afternoon or evening face problem in accommodation as there are no hotels nearby. They have to spend the night in the only dharmasala run by the ashram and accept whatever food is provided there communally on payment of a certain amount fixed by the temple trust.

Although the local businessmen and entrepreneurs have shown interest in building lodges and hotels to serve the domestic and foreign visitors, the temple management has not allowed them to build and operate these facilities. The ashram owns all the land property around the ashram.

The entrepreneurs say that they are not only thinking of business motive when they are proposing to open and operate hotels and lodges around the ashram area but would also want to contribute to the social, religious and cultural causes. They say that although they wanted to protect and promote the cultural heritages here, they are not getting that opportunity.

But officials associated with the ashram management trust have their own arguments for not allowing the operation of hotels and businesses around the ashram. “The decision not to allow hotels and lodges around the ashram and tapobhumi site has been made taking into account the historical, archaeological and cultural significance of the site and to protect its sanctity,” Shalikram Rijal, a teacher at the Bal Tapaswi Ved Bidyalaya Gurukulam, the Sanskrit and Vedic school, said.

Rijal explained that allowing hotels and lodges to operate around the ashram and the temple would diminish the historical and religious value of the place and moreover it would increase pollution of various sorts.

Central president of the Hotel Entrepreneurs’ Association, Amrit Bhujel said they are conscious of the historical, cultural and religious significance of the place and would operate their business without causing any harm to these aspects if they were allowed to open and run hotels and lodges. “Rather it would boost the tourism in the area which would ultimately for the benefit of the ashram and the local community,” he said.

Local hotel entrepreneur Dadhiram Bhandari said they have been supporting the promotion of tourism in Sworgadwari and were ready to cooperate with the government bodies. He demanded that they should be allowed to operate their business around the ashram area.

“We are ready to offer any kind of assistance for the promotion of religious tourism in Sworgadwari area, provided that there is appropriate business environment,” said Chandralal Neupane, president of the Hotel Association Nepal, Pyuthan district chapter.

Local intellectuals, representatives of different political parties and journalists pointed out the need of integrated approach for the development of Sworgadwari and emphasized on implementation of the master plan that was formulated in the past. In their views, the problem remains where it was because of the lack of effective implementation of the master plan.

They suggested formation of a Sworgadwari Tourism Development Board and implementation of the master plan. They stressed on building a systematic and modern pilgrims guesthouse, upgrading the Bhingri-Sworgadwari road, proper management and utilisation of the land property in the name of Sworgadwari ashram that are located in various places of the country and developing the cow shelter at the place into a cow protection centre, which are all mentioned in the master plan. RSS

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