IIT-B’s lightweight palkis to ferry pilgrims to Vaishno Devi temple

Lending a shoulder: The prototype of a lightweight palki getting tested at IIT-Bombay.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Lightweight, aesthetic and ergonomic palkis (open palanquins) conceptualised by the Industrial Design Centre of the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay (IIT-B) will now be used to carry pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi temple at Katra in Jammu and Kashmir.

On Friday, 53 of these newly designed palkis will be distributed among the porters by the J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik.

While most pilgrims cover the 13-km-long treacherous hilly path from Katra up to the temple on foot, some opt for a helicopter ride. However, for those who cannot sit in the chopper or walk up to the shrine, palanquins have been the only means of transport. The existing palkis, made by welding galvanised iron pipes, are heavy, easily damaged and cumbersome for the porters.

IIT-B researchers said they have tackled these issues in their design.

More durable

“The main advantage of our palki is its light weight We have used stainless steel which is lightweight and durable,” IDC’s head B.K. Chakravarthy told The Hindu. He said that seven prototypes were made until the team got it right.

The palki is carried by four porters. The palkis in use currently are fabricated locally and weigh about 45 kg. The porters take about four hours to trek up to the temple, carrying a pilgrim and their luggage. Sometimes, pilgrims insist on carrying a child as well. The load comes to about 100 to 120 kg, causing extreme musculoskeletal discomfort for the porters.

IIT-B’s palkis weigh 34 kg and offer better support and balance. The wooden logs used by the porters to carry the palki were retained in the new design as wood was found to be best for load carrying.

The palki project at IDC began in 2017 when the then principal scientific advisor R. Chidambaram saw the palanquins designed for Ajanta Caves. “He told us about the porters’ struggle and we immediately began work on the project,” said Prof. Chakravarthy. Four porters from Katra were brought to the IIT-B campus to review the design, weight and overall comfort by using the prototypes while the National Institute of Industrial Engineering closely studied ergonomics.

One of the porters, Kakuram, who only uses his first name, told The Hindu that the new palki feels very light and easy. “Every day is a battle for us. Using the new palki will add at least 10 years to our life as it is comfortable on the body.”

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 8:51:44 PM |

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