Zeethyar: A house of worship is for the faithful often a doorway into the spiritual world, but when a land is caught in the devastation of terrible floods, a religious shrine can sometimes be all that stands between death and physical preservation, as was proved by the Zeashta Devi temple here.
Set at the cross-section of Shankaracharya mountain and Zabarvan hills and overlooking the famous Dal Lake, the holy shrine of Zeashta Devi has turned into one of the biggest camps for evacuated people in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
As the Army and IAF carried out rescue operations in the city's Indranagar, Shivpura, Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar and Batwara localities, they took some of the evacuated persons to the Zeashta Devi temple, which is situated close to the governor's residence here.
An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 people have found shelter at the shrine and the relief camp which sprang up there is now one of biggest in the city, said Arvind Kumar, one of the many who were forced to move to the camp as the city went under water.
The Zeashta Devi Prabandhak Committee (ZDPC) swung into action as the evacuees started pouring in and took steps to provide food and shelter to the flood-hit people.
"They gave us food and shelter. It is perhaps the biggest camp that has saved the lives of hundreds," Kumar said. He added that Bharat Bhushan Bhat, who is the president of ZDPC, has taken a lead in putting in place all the relief arrangements at the camp.
But running a relief camp in the time of a calamity of unprecedented magnitude has its own challenges and thus the Zeashta Devi camp found itself running out of food supplies a few days into the crisis.
That saw the people along with the ZDPC management hold a protest in front of the Governor's residence demanding ration supplies for the community kitchen at the camp. J-K Governor NN Vohra met the protesters and promised them food and ration.
However, people at the camp claimed that IAF choppers had airdropped only some dry food packets and biscuits, which was not enough to feed 4,000 people.
The Kashmiri Pandit leadership in Jammu has, meanwhile, demanded more supplies for the Zeashta Devi shrine camp.