Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh: If one climbs the ridge overlooking this erstwhile capital of Mughal emperor Akbar and looks beyond, the sea of humanity around appears like a long march of the Red Army, a red-flagged rally without an end or a beginning.
Hundreds of devotees of Goddess Kaila Devi have begun their annual trek to the shrine of the deity, the Ma Raj Rajeshwari Kaila Devi temple, set amid the Aravalli hills in southeast Rajasthan’s Karauli district, 250 km west of Agra. Hordes of pilgrims from all over Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and the Braj region districts of Agra, Aligarh, Firozabad and Mathura are travelling to the shrine, which draws one of the biggest crowds of faithfuls in this part of India.
Men, women and children, decked in red and white scarves and dhotis and carrying loads of their basic necessities over their heads, walk singing hymns and folk songs in praise of Karauli Mata. Many pilgrims offer ‘dandauti parikrama’, rolling over the ground to cover the distance.
The fair in honour of Kaila Devi began on March 16. The pilgrims will continue to reach Karauli till Friday, the day the Navratras of the Hindu month of Chaitra start. The celebrations in the temple shrine will continue till the first week of April, according to an official of the trust that runs the shrine affairs.