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Gods forbid ski resort

The Gods seem not so happy with the ambitious $150 million-worth project supposed to come up near Manali.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 16:24 IST

The Oracles spoke. As teeming hundreds waited, their heads reverentially bowed, some 100-plus gurs (oracles) gave the “verdict” of their Gods and Goddesses on the Alfred Ford-promoted, $150 million-worth Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) project. The Gods, they said, were not happy with the ambitious project supposed to come up near Manali.

The Badi Jagati Puch (Gods' conclave), held after 35 long years, had all the makings of a grand spectacle. While some gurs reached Naggar's Jagati Pat Temple on Wednesday afternoon, others trickled in by Thursday morning.

As the clock struck 11, Jagati Puch started. One by one, the gurs, long-maned, clad in pristine white, with flowers wedged in their pagdis, went into a trance. As Maheshwar Singh, caretaker of Raghunathji Temple, went to each oracle, they spoke, staccato, shoot ing down the HSV proposal. In the local dialect, the Gods "warned against the project".

From being ambitious to contentious, the HSV project has hogged headlines for a couple of months now. It started with fanfare, celebrating Ford's interest in the Manali slopes, but digressed to issues like rights of villagers to water from the canals in the area, environmental degradation, felling of trees and apprehension about the use of chemicals to preserve snow on the slopes.

While HSV’s Iqbal Sharma is non-committal about the Jagati Puch's verdict, Maheshwar Singh of the erstwhile royal family of Kullu has been unsuccessfully evading allegations of giving a political tinge to the controversy.

A former BJP MP from Mandi, he said "the deities have rejected the project in its present form". So, will the Gods accept if changes are introduced? Now, Maheshwar Singh is non-committal.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 16:24 IST