Devotees told to stay away from Srisailam Ugadi event

Devotees told to stay away from Srisailam Ugadi event

The Srisaila Mallikarjuna temple officials and the Kurnool district administration are dissuading lakhs of devotees from taking the Ugadi pilgrimage, especially from Karnataka, following the Covid-19 outbreak.

In his letter, dated March 17, to the deputy commissioners of Raichur, Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Bidar, Yadgir, Ballari and Dharwad, Collector of Kurnool G Veerapandian has informed that events like Sparshadarshana, Arjitha Sevas, VIP darshana, public gatherings like Gramotsava (processions of God and Goddess), Prabhotsava, Veerachara Vinyasa, Agnigunda-pravesa are cancelled. Even the finale event where lakhs take part – the Rathotsava (temple car fest) on Ugadi, which falls on March 25 this year, 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 devotees from undivided Andhra Pradesh, about six lakh people from Karnataka visit the temple every year trekking through the dense Nallamala Hills. Devotees from Karnataka consider Goddess Brahmaramba, the consort of Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy, as their daughter and come with an offering of vodi-biyyam (new saree, bangles, rice items among others). 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 queues,” Veerapandian said.    

Kurnool district Superintendent of Police Dr Fakeerappa Kaginelli told DH that the Karnataka pilgrims are still coming to Srisailam in padayatra, 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. Persons with flu-like symptoms would not be allowed in. Pilgrims refusing to return would be handed over to the police,” said Dr Kaginelli.  

Officials say that the devotees must return on the same day since accommodation 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 homa, anustana, 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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