Thousands of pilgrims from all over north India flocked to Tatapani in Karsog subdivision on Tuesday to take a dip - apparently for the last time - in a natural hot spring on the banks of the Sutlej river on 'Makar Sakranti' (a Hindu harvest festival) in a traditional ritual that is observed every year.
Locals said this year the number was at a record high, attributing it to apprehensions over the proposed merger of the river waters in the area with the Kol Dam hydropower project reservoir. As a precautionary measure, the project authorities have closed the floodgates of the reservoir and started filling the reservoir and as soon as the water level would touch the heights, the backflow of the water will submerge this place under water.
Every year when pilgrims perform the traditional rituals on the right bank of the Sutlej the customary process of 'tooladaan' (donating mixture of at least seven kinds of grains including rice and wheat equal to the pilgrim's weight) to appease the gods is also held in Tatapani despite the intense cold and snow on the surrounding hills.
Every year pilgrims take a dip in the river in on 'Makar Sakranti' (commonly known as 'Lohri') when they also offer grains to the 'pandits' (Hindu temple priests) who perform the religious ceremony. This year too, hundreds of 'pandits' with their big scales (a balance with two big pans) and materials for 'puja' (a ritual prayer) to perform 'tooladaan' have assembled in Tatapani and people from all over the northern region of the country have started arriving here from early on Tuesday morning to pacify their bad stars.
Pandit Khem Ram hails from Chauhar valley under Karsog subdivision informed that the process of customarily 'tooladaan' and the dip will start early in the morning and it will continue for three days and the same ritual will be repeated on the eve of 'Baisakhi' (another harvest festival) in April, that is if the river waters have not been merged with the Koldam project reservoir by then.
Khushi Ram, an elderly 'pandit' said: “Tatapani has been recognized historically but will be obliterated from the scene after the reservoir of the Koldam project is completed. Which can be any time this year.”