Faith in snake god draws thousands of devotees

Puja rituals began as early as 1.30 am, and darshan for worshippers started just a few hours later at 5 am.

Inside, visitors from near and far offered prayers to the deity Lord Subrahmanya wearing the silver Nagabharana. The mask, a present from the late maharajah Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, is only brought from its secure location at the district treasury once a year for this particular festival.  

Near the temple, the smells of food vendors’ pani puri faded as heavy incense filled the air. Atop the place of worship, the statue of the snake god presided over the coconut smashing rituals through the haze of dozens of burnt offerings.

Three white-clad priests sat atop the garlanded cart bearing the procession idol, accepting offerings from clamouring devotees who disregarded the metres-long queue.

And on a section of grass behind the temple, barefoot worshippers ignored the muddy puddles as they performed puja at the anthills. Men and women wandered the area, carrying small cups of milk on small trays as part of the traditional offering. Bananas, garlands, and coconuts - all available for sale on the roadside - were set on the mound of earth as the milk was poured.

Waiting cabs and autorickshaws lined the hectic Bangalore-Mysore Road, manoeuvreing through the re-routed highway.

Authorities blocked off half of the road for the famous annual festival, during which devotees make their way to the Shasti temple to offer their prayers to the snake god.

Vendors shouted from both sides of the street as they advertised their wares, whether they sold delectable treats or children’s toys. Half carnival, half religious occasion, children ate ice cream as adults joined the queue to the temple. The line to the shrine stretched for many metres, even as police peppered the morning crowds.

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