For the past three months, a number of airlines have been transporting pilgrims to Phungling Bazaar, which serves as the district headquarters of Taplejung. Pilgrims from Dharan, Ilam, and Kathmandu are being transported by helicopter to the world-renowned Pathibhara temple for worship.
Since Dashainyata, there have been a total of 70 flights from Bhedetar of Dhara. It was reported by Pawin Shrestha, market manager of a travel and tour company, that 450 devotees from Bhedetar traveled to Taplejung and offered prayers at the Pathibhara temple, according to Shrestha. Chiten Limbu, a resident of Taplejung, stated that the people of Phungling Bazaar are developing the habit of getting up in the morning when the sound of helicopters can be heard overhead.
Those who visited the Pathibhara temple came from as far as Bhedetar in the district headquarters of Phungling, Panchthar, Dharan, and Dhankuta, according to Manmani Kafle of the Pavibhara Area Development Committee. Customers fly from Dharan for Rs. 32,000, according to Shrestha, a market manager for a travel and tour company, according to Shrestha. Dharan Holiday Travel and Tour reports that the number of passengers traveling by helicopter to Pathibhara this year was significant, but the weather was not conducive to their travels. Helicopters transporting five passengers at a time earn Rs. 160,000 per flight from Dharan International Airport.
They charge Rs. 10,000 from Phungling, which serves as the district headquarters of Taplejung, Rs. 22,000 from Phidim in Panchthar, and Rs. 35,000 from Kanyam in Ilam, according to Suresh Limbu, the manager of a resort in Taplejung. “There is a significant increase in the number of passengers arriving directly from Kathmandu,” Dilli Acharya, a priest from Pathibhara, said. The Area Development Committee, on the other hand, has stated that it has not kept track of the number of pilgrims who have arrived by helicopter in the past. According to Kafle, “we keep track of the number of people walking rather than the number of helicopters.”
Pathibhara has been visited by more than 55,000 people, according to the committee, between September 7 and November 30, 2010. Approximately 17,000 people visited Chaitra on a single day two years ago, according to statistics provided by the committee.
Pilgrims in Pathibhara have donated a total of Rs. 80 million to the bank, which is currently at zero. With a bank balance of Rs. 32.7 million, the Pathibhara Area Development Committee (a committee formed by the government) is in good shape. There is a budget of Rs. 33.33 million allocated to the Pathibhara Devi Temple Area Conservation and Promotion Committee (a committee established at the community level). It has been reported by the Area Development Committee that a total of Rs. 80 million has been deposited into the bank accounts of both the government and community level committees.