The Madhya Pradesh government banned liquor sale in Ujjain during the month-long Simhastha but allowed two shops in front of Kaal Bhairav temple to sell alcohol.
Devotees offer liquor to Kaal Bhairav, the guardian deity of Ujjain. “People line up for hours to offer alcohol to the deity,” said a CISF personnel deputed at the shrine.
With a surge in pilgrims coming for the kumbh mela, liquor offerings to Kaal Bhairav have gone up. Shop owners said they sold liquor worth Rs 6 lakh in daytime on Saturday. On other days, the shops record a sale of `3 lakh or less. One shop sells country liquor and the other India-made foreign liquor.
“Within an hour after a shop opened, the sale touched about Rs 50,000. The sale will cross Rs 10 lakh by late night because for tourists and pilgrims this place is unique,” said Mahesh Kachway, a constable posted at the foreign liquor shop.
Apart from the two registered shops, all 14 kiosk owners, who sell flower and ‘prasad’ in front of the temple, include liquor in baskets to cash in on the devotees’ rush. The mela administration erected iron barricades in front of the temple to control the crowd.
“People also buy alcohol for them in the name of offering to Kaal Bhairav. I supplied more than 30 litres of liquor since morning to middlemen. This is the place of Bhairav baba; no one can stop liquor here,” said a kiosk owner.
Kachway said, “We sell liquor to people, it is not our concern if they are consuming it themselves or offering it to Bhairav.”
Devotees offer liquor bottles costing Rs 50 to Rs 4,000. “I came from Itarsi with my friends to offer prayers and alcohol to Baba Bhairavnath. I will offer a bottle worth Rs 2,000 because Baba had blessed me last time. I got huge profit in my business,” said Sumit Gupta. “I sell a country-made liquor bottle, which costs Rs 50, at `75 in the night because thousands of devotees will start coming from the evening and a long queue will be formed in front of the shops here,” kiosk owner Rajesh Bhati told Hindustan Times.