An estimated one lakh devotees, including Governor Banwarilal Purohit, dropped in at the Sri Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram on Monday to take a look at the idol of Athi Varadar .
Made of wood, the idol is brought out for public viewing once every 40 years from the Ananthasaras tank. The idol will be on display for 48 days.
Crowds gathered on Sunday and devotees like senior citizen M. Kala from Chennai spent the entire night queueing up to get an early glimpse. “I didn’t want to stay at a hotel, so I slept outside the temple. We came as a group, so safety was not an issue,” she said.
There were families that came at 3 a.m. and waited till the public darshan was opened at 6.25 a.m. after Governor Purohit and Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Minister Sevvoor S. Ramachandran finished their visit.
“Though several devotees grumbled about the ticket price, almost two-thirds of visitors opted for the tickets,” an official source in the HR&CE said. Devotees were disappointed that the ₹500 special darshan ticket was only available online, at www.tnhrce.tn.gov.in, from July 4. Many devotees, among them Chandrasekar, said the few seconds in front of the idol was hardly enough. “I hardly remember anything of the idol and can only recall seeing the floral arrangements before being asked to move on,” he said.
There were complaints that police were not admitting devotees and temple employees, even those with passes issued by the district administration. “There was nobody to guide people at entry points,” said K. Sarathy from Chennai.
Later in the evening, after reviewing the day’s issues, the Kancheepuram district administration, police and HR&CE officials decided to do away with tickets for a few days until the initial rush is over. “This move, we hope, will enable us to manage the crowd better,” an official source said. Facilities for the smooth conduct of the festival have been created by various agencies at an expenditure of ₹29 crore.