The century-old wooden chariot of the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Antarvedi area in Sakhinetipalli Mandal in East Godavari district was gutted early on Sunday.
It was allegedly set on fire by miscreants between 1.30 a.m. and 3 a.m. in the chariot shed outside the main temple premises.
The temple is located near the confluence point of Vasista Godavari, a branch of river Godavari, with the Bay of Bengal.
Assistant Commissioner (Endowment Department-Rajamahendravaram) K. Prasad told The Hindu: “Some miscreants have reportedly set fire to the century-old wooden chariot, which is 50-foot high. It is made of teak wood and meant to take the standing deity in a procession during the annual Kalyanotsav celebrated in April".
“At least two persons, believed to be involved in the destruction of the chariot by setting fire to it, have been taken into custody for the investigation by the police,” he said.
The Amalapuram police have rushed to the spot and investigation is on.
Meanwhile, the Endowment authorities have decided to build a new chariot by spending ₹84 lakh as the chariot has been insured by the department for that amount.
Endowments Minister orders probe
Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Velampalli Srinivas on Sunday ordered an inquiry, to be headed by the Additional Commissioner, Endowments Department, K. Ramachandra Mohan, into the fire incident, in which a century-old wooden chariot of Lakshmi Narasimha Swami temple was completely gutted in a shed outside the temple at Antarvedi area in East Godavri district.
"A probe under the supervision of Mr Ramachandra Mohan has started. The East Godavari Superintendent of Police Adnan Nayeem Asmi and Fire Department officials will also be a part of the inquiry team that has been asked to submit a preliminary report by Monday", Mr. Srinivas told The Hindu on phone.
The Minister said efforts were on to ensure that a new wooden chariot was built on a war-footing for the annual Kalyanotsavam, the annual religious carnival in which the standing deity is taken through the streets in a procession on the chariot in early summer.
“A new wooden chariot will be made available on a war-footing for use during the annual kalyanotsavam,” Mr. Srinivas said.
It is a tradition to take the deity mounted on the chariot in standing posture in a procession during the annual festival celebrated during summer.
Meanwhile, hundreds of devotees and members of various religious groups gathered at the temple and raised slogans against the incident.
“Local residents and devotees have staged a protest at Antarvedi peacefully,” the SP said.