Welcome to Gautameshwar Mahadev Paapmochan Teertha, a Shiva temple in Pratapgarh district. This temple offers a `paapmukti' certificate to anyone who takes a dip in its `kund' and pays Rs 11. Hindu pilgrims traditionally believe that bathing in holy waters washes away their sins, but the solace so gained is purely psychological with nothing tangible to show. But a Shiva temple in Rajasthan is different. Here, redemption comes with a certificate that qualifies one duly purged of all sin, or `paap-mukt'.
The temple claims to have maintained a record since Independence of all those who bathed in its Mandakini Kund and got certified. A body of priests called Aminat Kachhari charges Re 1 for each certificate, while Rs 10 is for `dosh-nivaran' (removal of obstacles). "People ostracised in their villages come here to take a dip and go back with `paap-mukti' certificates," said priest Nandkishore Sharma.
The shrine which has been popular for centuries is referred to as the `Haridwar of tribals.' "For centuries, it has been a famous pilgrimage held in great reverence, specially by the tribal community. Lakhs of devotees gather here for Gautameshwar fair held in May ," said Sharma.
The number of visitors has increased in recent years, but not many seek the certificate these days. During the eight-day fair held this May, over two lakh devotees bathed in the `kund', but only three certificates were issued. According to a legend, Gautam Rishi, a sage, was cursed for causing the death of an animal. He punished himself, took a holy dip in the `kund' and was freed from the curse. This started off a long tradition. "When people do farming, they inadvertently kill insects and other creatures, damage eggs of birds and reptiles. This fills them with guilt. They come here with a heavy heart, but go back relieved," said another priest Kanhaiyalal Sharma