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Religious hymns silence Maoist guns on Bihar-J’khand border

Footfalls to Kauleshwari hills, a pilgrimage site for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists in Chatra district of Jharkhand, have increased after development schemes forced Maoists to shift base from there.

india Updated: May 19, 2017 09:53 IST
Anil Kumar Ojha
Devotees at a temple atop Kauleshwari hills in Jharkhand’s Chatra district.
Devotees at a temple atop Kauleshwari hills in Jharkhand’s Chatra district.(HT photo)

GAYA Once known as a ‘Maoist liberated zone’ where Left wing extremists held sway, a development initiative has brought about peace and increased footfalls of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain devotees to Kauleshwari hills, also known as Kolhua and Kolahal, in Chatra district of Jharkhand, bordering Bihar.

The initiative to make Kauleshwari hills - 60km south of Bihar’s Gaya district and 10km from Chatra town - a tourist hub, came two years back from people’s representatives of the two states. The Chatra administration implemented the development schemes with the active support of the locals, forcing the Maoists to shift their hideouts to the adjoining jungles. The chanting of religious hymns has replaced the booms of the Maoist guns.

Mainly famous for a temple dedicated to Goddess Kauleshwari, an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga, Jain pilgrims are now frequenting a shrine dedicated to their 23rd Tirthankar, atop the hill.

Buddhist devotees also flock the place round-the-year to see a rock where Buddha is believed to have rested. Footfalls increase heavily during Navratra when Durga is worshipped across India, with a large number of devotees from neighbouring Bihar and West Bengal visiting the shrine located at a height of 1575 feet.

Although the history of the Kauleshwari shrine is still uncovered and lie in the many sculptures lying around, local legends ascribe it to the Mahabharat period.

The drive to cleanse the Kauleshwari hills of Reds began two years ago when Gaya MP Hari Manjhi, wrote to Jharkhand tourism department and sought development projects for the area, contending that 75% of pilgrims were from Bihar.

Manjhi said his efforts found support from Chatra MP Sunil Kumar Singh and his Aurangabad counterpart, Sushil Kumar Singh, following which a temple management committee, headed by the Chatra sadar subdivisional officer,was formed in 2015. It organised the first Kauleshwari Mahotsav the same year.

Since then, Maoists of Koluha zone, who had earlier carried out a series of massacres in Bihar, have been keeping a low profile, the Gaya MP said.

The extremists, then members of the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre’s Kolhua zone, had killed 54 persons at Dalelchak-Baghaura in Aurangabad on May 29, 1987; 35 at Bara in Gaya on February 12, 1999 and 34 others at Senari in Jehanabad on March 18, 1999, he said.

In 2004, the MCC merged with the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War to form CPI (Maoist).

”The temple management committee has launched renovation and beautification projects to develop the place into a tourist spot. Two ponds on the hill top, which remain full of water throughout the year, are being beautified with the cooperation of the forest department,” an elated Chatra MP said, adding that a ropeway and a safari had also been planned there.

“We are happy and hope that development initiatives will ensure that Maoists do not return here,” said Abhay Singh, Bhavani Singh, Jaydrath Singh and Borendra Tiwari of Hunterganj, 10km from Chatra.

DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE

BLURB

The drive to cleanse Kauleshwari hills of Reds began two years ago when Gaya MP Hari Manjhi wrote to Jharkhand tourism deptt for development of the area, contending 75% pilgrims were from Bihar