AP officials dissuade Ugadi pilgrimage from Karnataka

COVID-19: AP officials write to Karnataka collectors to dissuade Ugadi pilgrimage

PTI file photo for representation

The temple officials and authorities of Kurnool district, where Srisailam is located in Andhra Pradesh, are dissuading the Ugadi pilgrimage of lakhs of devotees especially from Karnataka due to the COVID-19 situation this year.

In his letter of March 17 to the collectors of Raichur, Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Bidar, Yadgir, Bellary and Dharwad, collector of Kurnool G Veerapandian has informed that events like Sparshadarshanam, Arjitha Sevas, VIP darshanams, public gatherings like Gramotsavam (processions of god and goddess), Prabhotsavam, Veerachara Vinyasam, Agnigunda-pravesam as cancelled. Even the finale event where lakhs take part – the Rathotsavam (temple car fest) on March 25 Ugadi day has been cancelled to prevent mass contact.

Ugadi utsavam is one of the biggest events at Srisailam Devasthanam, among the holiest Shaivaite shrines in the country. Besides the Telugus, about six lakh people from Karnataka visit the temple every year trekking through the dense Nallamala Hills. Kannadigas consider Goddess Brahmaramba, the consort of Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy, as their daughter and come with an offering of vodi-biyyam (new saree, bangles, rice etc. items). Devotees from Maharashtra also arrive in large numbers.

“The decision was taken in a meeting of temple officials with padayatra groups and Karnataka voluntary organisations. Temple authorities are taking all necessary precautions to avoid gatherings and stagnation in queue lines,” Veerapandian said.    

Kurnool district Superintendent of Police Dr Fakeerappa Kaginelli told DH that the Karnataka pilgrims are still coming in walking though in lesser numbers.

“Seven round the clock health screening points with a medical officer and staff are set up along the Karnataka and Telangana border. Suspected COVID-19 symptom persons would not be allowed in. Pilgrims rejecting to turn back would be handed over to the police,” said Dr Kaginelli.    

Officials who every year plan for the stay of lakhs of pilgrims, say that the devotees must return on the same day since accommodation avenues would not be available this time.

The collector letter mentioning the invoking of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, which allows district authorities to take all necessary steps to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, was also sent to the collectors of south Telangana districts like Mahbubnagar.

Temple rituals like homam, anustanam, vahanaseva, not involving public would be performed as usual during the five festive days from 22 to 26 March, temple officials said.

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