In Jan 2021, Maharashtra will get its second Funicular Rail at the famed Goddess Jivdani Mata Temple, perched on a steep 1,500-feet tall hill, near Virar town, officials said here on Thursday.
The estimated Rs 35-crore project is fully funded by the Shree Jivdani Devi Sansthan (SJDS) trust, through its own resources, loans and donations.
It will be a boon for the 300,000-plus devotees who throng there on every month, and around 50,000-plus during weekends and festivals, besides tourists, who have to trudge up the gruelling 1,400 steps to reach the summit.
"This will be a blessing of Goddess Jivdani Mata to the pilgrims and tourists and catapult it on the state tourism map in a big way. Presently, successful trial runs are being conducted and we plan to make it operational in early-Jan. 2021," an excited SJDS trust Vice-President Pankaj Thakur said.
Thakur said that the unique aspect of the Funicular Rail here is the twin-car operation, unlike the single-car project implemented at Saptashringi Devi Temple in Nashik.
"There are two inter-dependent cars, one will come up and other go down simultaneously within barely 7 minutes, allowing more pilgrims to ascend and descend at the same time," Thakur said.
The entire project has advanced security systems to prevent any kind of disasters, breakdown in the supporting cables, CCTVs, etc.
Promising it to be a 'pocket-friendly ride,' SJDS President Hitendra Thakur said each trip can carry 104 devotees, with a dozen services planned every hour for 12-14 hours daily.
Another SJDS Trustee Rajiv Patil said that a few years ago, a ropeway was constructed, but with the Funicular Rail ready, it was dismantled just before the nationwide pandemic lockdown which started in March 2020.
"In fact, the Funicular Rail trials were also delayed on account of the pandemic lockdown. But, now they are on in full swing and devotees are again returning to the temple," Patil said.
Hitendra Thakur is pleased with the project and said it will immensely benefit the local people in Vasai-Virar region and Palghar district, boost the multitudes of small enterprises that thrive in religious tourism, which are raring to go after the nine month long lockdown.
"We are planning package tours for pilgrims since there are many other important religious and tourism sites in this region," he added.
The revered idol of the Goddess Jivdani Mata has been worshipped here since the days of Pandavas, and the current hilltop temple is around 150 years old, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding hills, Vasai-Virar twin towns and the coastal areas.
Incidentally, the SJDS Funicular Rail is first in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, with another planned for the hilltop Dargah of Baba Haji Malang, at a height of 790 metres in Malanggad, Raigad district.
However, it (SJDS Funicular Rail) is the second in Maharashtra after the first Funicular Rail was launched at the 1,440-feet tall Saptashringi Devi Temple, Nashik, in March 2018 by former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.