The 200-metre stretch between Rajagopuram and Ranga Ranga Gopuram of Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple is gradually becoming a fracas-ridden road disturbing the peace and harmony of one of the most popular shrines of South India, thanks to the innumerable two-wheelers that traverse the stretch virtually 18 hours a day.
According to official sources, at least 15,000 pilgrims, more than half of them from outside the State, visit Srirangam everyday. On Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays the number goes up. At least 90 per cent of them walk up to the Ranga Ranga Gopuram, the fourth gopuram and the main entrance for the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine as no vehicle is permitted to go beyond that.
Both Chithirai Street and Utthirai Street, that abet the third Gopuram and Ranga Ranga Gopuram respectively, are quite broad and there is no problem for vehicular traffic whatsoever.
The width of Rajagopuram-Ranga Ranga Gopuram stretch, which has many shops on either side, is hardly 15 metres. Even that narrow space is populated by encroachers of all hues from flower vendors to fruit vendors, from alms seekers to those selling knick-knacks. Apart from baskets, even wheelbarrows occupy that passage. It is not only scooters, motorcycles, and mopeds, but also autorickshaws and cycle rickshaws that criss-cross the stretch.
Despite two speed breakers, considerably bigger than the normal ones , two-wheelers manage considerable speed. Most of them go invariably with pillion riders.
When the vehicles go up and down the stretch, that too at considerable speed, many times they tend to ride close to pilgrims, a large number of them walking with their children in tow. Occasionally, that results in a minor accident or at least the vehicles brush against the handbags\luggage of temple-goers triggering a verbal duel and frayed nerves.
While this is the normal scene in the morning, evenings on days like Saturday and Sunday, it becomes worse.
Most of the shopkeepers watch the scenes with deadpan expressions as they have become immune to such quarrels.
According to official sources, even four-wheelers were allowed through the rajagopuram till mid-2010, but it was banned only after the government issued an order in June 2010 to protect the structure of the Rajagopuram.
The only solace is that make-shift barricades have been set up at two places – Rajagopuram and Ranga Ranga gopuram. The barricades, acting as a median, divide the available area and come in handy in regulating the movement of traffic on either side. Unless there is a sustained drive by law enforcers to ensure slow movement of vehicles on this stretch, the day is not far off for some unpleasant news to emerge.