A pre-dawn ritual ‘Viswaroopam’ performed at Thathayagunta Gangamma temple

The local folk festival ‘Gangamma Jatara’ concluded amid fanfare at the Thathayagunta Gangamma temple in the city in the early hours of Wednesday.

The centuries-old fest saw lakhs of devotees flocking the temple to offer prayers during the nine-day celebrations not only from Chittoor district, but also from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

‘Viswaroopam’ was performed as a pre-dawn ritual on Wednesday, wherein the priests made an idol of Goddess Gangamma from clay and hay on a huge pedestal and painted it in black and red. As is the practice, the deity was made to look squint-eyed due to the belief that her eyes, if made to focus on one particular thing, would burn it down.

Once the mandatory rituals were over, the priests moved the eyeballs to the normal position for just a second, after which the clay deity was smashed and the smithereens hurled all over. Devotees clamoured to get the ‘sacred’ clay pieces to keep them at home as ‘a relic that brings prosperity and fortune’ in their lives. Some also dissolve the clay in water and consume it, with the belief that it rids them of all illness. As is the case with any folk festival, animal sacrifice did take place at the temple, in spite of sufficient forewarning by the government and the preventive measures taken up by the civic authorities. However, the scene was confined to a corner and the carcasses of the animals were removed immediately. To put it simply, the temple authorities tried to keep the gory scenes away from the public view.