Devotees say that the district administration is unprepared to deal with the crowds and has not taken suggestions from those who have waited for long hours for darshan.

Lack of water improper facilities Devotees slam Athi Varadar fest arrangementsPTI
news Temple Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - 10:01

The temple town of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu is being thronged by lakhs of devotees from every nook and corner of India for a darshan of the Athi Varadar deity after a long gap of 40 years at the Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple. However, the poor facilities and crowd mismanagement have made what was to be a pleasant experience into a severe inconvenience for the elderly, pregnant women and persons with disabilities. 

According to reports, the district administration was unprepared for the crowds and did not heed to suggestions by devotees and residents of the area to deploy more personnel for management and provision of facilities. While the Kancheepuram district collector said in June that they were expecting between 30,000 - 50,000 devotees per day between July 1 and August 17, the numbers are reported to be upwards of a lakh per day. The devotees, who enter through the Kizhakku Mada Veedhi on the east and exit through the west, wait for anywhere between four to six hours to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple. 

“We had to walk a couple of kms from the parking area to reach the tail of the long-long queue. We got exhausted and dehydrated by the time we were close enough to sight the entry of the temple. We had already spent three hours in the slow-moving queue and we realised it would take another at least three hours to reach the Lord. We decided to step out of the queue and head back home,” one devotee wrote on social media. Devotees have alleged that the provision of water is not sufficient and that the bio-toilets are located only around the main campus of the temple. According to the Times of India, there are just six bio-toilets on the four mada streets around the temple and they start stinking within a couple of hours.

According to Puthiya Thalaimurai, elderly devotees pleaded with the district administration for a separate queue, but have not received a response. As of now, the wheelchair facilities for pregnant women, persons with disabilities and the elderly have been provided only in the main temple premises, which means that they have to manage a 700m distance without any assistance. Reports of nepotism and abuse have also surfaced, with devotees alleging that the police officers on duty are more concerned with ensuring a darshan for their own family members and using foul language with devotees.

The once-in-forty-years festival was last held in 1979. On July 1, 12-foot idol of Athi Varadar (made out of fig tree), lying in a silver casket underwater in the temple tank for the past 40 years, was taken out. The idol has been kept out for darshan and prayers for a period of 48 days.

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