Nearly 1.5 lakh devotees are estimated to have attended the festival in Kadiri town of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.

Despite COVID-19 thousands from Ktaka and TN attend temple festival in AndhraImage: Facebook
Coronavirus Health Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 08:26

At a time when large public gatherings have been advised against or restricted to control the spread of the COVID-19 disease, thousands of people participated in an annual religious procession in Kadiri town of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.

The festival is attended every year by thousands of devotees from Andhra Pradesh, as well as the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This year, nearly 1.5 lakh people are believed to have attended the festival. 

Visuals show hundreds of people wedged together on narrow roads, where the 'rathotsavam' is taking place. The chariot is pulled with huge ropes, which people are trying to grab on to, as it is considered a form of service to the deity.

The Kadiri Narasimha Swamy Brahmotsavam is an annual festival that culminates in the ‘rathotsavam’ or chariot ceremony, where the deity is carried in a chariot in a procession with thousands of devotees.

This year, the festival began on March 4, and the chariot procession was held on Sunday. A temple official told a media outlet that many devotees from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu visit the temple during the festival. “A lot of visitors, particularly from Karnataka, visit the temple during the festival. Many of our donors are from Karnataka, who carry out the ‘annadanam’ (food offering) and other activities,” the official said. 

The temple official also said that the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) has arranged special services to facilitate travel to the festival from various parts of Andhra and Karnataka.

Videos of the chariot ceremony being shared on social media show massive crowds in a procession going around the town.

Kadiri Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) T Ajaya Kumar told TNM that people in the town have been advised by health officials to take various precautions, like wearing masks. “There are no suspected or positive cases of coronavirus-affected persons here yet. Visitors from other states like Karnataka have also reduced lately,” he said. 

Though the festival will end on Tuesday, the main event was the chariot procession. “Since the ‘rathotsavam’ ended on Sunday, almost all visitors have already left. Around 1.5 lakh people have attended the festival in total. Many of the visitors are floating crowds who do not stay back, they only visit for an hour or so and go back to their hometown,” the RDO said. 

The festival is known for having a huge number of attendees. In 2017, a stampede was reported in a procession of nearly 4 lakh devotees. Three people were injured.

Meanwhile, in a similar incident in Telangana, Peddapur in Jagtial district also witnessed an annual jatara at the famed Mallanna temple, which saw thousands of devotees attend the event. 

However, in an effort to reduce the footfall of devotees this year due to the coronavirus, authorities carried a campaign in tune with the advisory by the state government. This resulted in a steep fall in the number of people who attended the jatara. 

Speaking to TNM, District Collector G Ravi Kumar said, "We have conducted campaigns in neighbouring villages from where devotees usually come. Only one-third of the regular visitors came due to awareness on coronavirus, as we urged them to avoid public gatherings."

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