Police said that the group took advantage of a prevailing myth in the region and sold ordinary bottle gourds for several lakh rupees each.

A bottle gourd growing in the ground as a hand wearing a glove is seen above itYouTube/Medicinal Plants
news Crime Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 20:22

A group of people who had allegedly been cheating devotees visiting the Srisailam temple in Andhra Pradesh were arrested on Friday. Police said that the accused had been cheating people by selling them curved bottle gourds, and claiming that they had special powers. The accused, who had been working at an ‘ashram’, have confessed to having collected lakhs of rupees from gullible devotees in exchange for the simple vegetable, police said. 

Atmakur Sub-Inspector of police Nagendra said that there is a myth prevailing among many people in the Telugu states about bottle gourds of a certain shape, with multiple balloon-like protrusions. “Many people believe that it is only grown in the Nallamala Hills, and that bringing it into the house will bring good fortune. None of this is true,” SI Nagendra said. He said that the accused would find Hindu devotees visiting Srisailam who believed in this myth, and extract lakhs of rupees for a gourd, depending on the devotee’s financial status. “In some cases, the gourd has been sold for up to Rs 1 or 2 crore,” he added.  

The vegetable is called ‘naga sorakaya’ or ‘snake bottle gourd’, and is shaped similar to the wind instrument played by snake charmers. Several Telugu videos on YouTube urge people not to fall for the scam. 

The 21 persons who were arrested hailed from different places in Telangana and were associated with one Annapurna Devi Ashramam in Srisailam. The police said that the people running the ashram, including a man named Aravind Reddy, are absconding. A case has been registered under Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

The Srisailam Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna temple in Andhra’s Kurnool district is one of most popular temples in the state, located in the Nallamala Hills. 

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