All roads led to Barashahid Dargah on the banks of the Swarnala Cheruvu here as the five-day Rottela Panduga (bread festival) began on a grand note amid religious fervour coinciding with Muharrum.
After having missed the festival for two years due to COVID-induced restrictions, people from across the State and also from neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana came in huge numbers and exchanged rotis with fellow believers in the Swarala Cheruvu on the first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar.
They later offered prayers at the Dargah to seek the blessings of the 12 martyred warriors in whose memory Urs is being celebrated. The Urs, in memory of the 12 warriors who died in a battle with the British troops in the 18th century, stands as a symbol of communal amity with devotees cutting across religious lines making a beeline to the Dargah over a period.
The first-timers exchange rotis with those whose wishes came true, hoping to return on fulfilment of their wishes next year. Thus the unbroken chain of visitors continue year after year in geometric proportion, explains the festival committee chairman Syed Shahjahan. As per the practice, an unemployed person exchanges roti only with a person who has secured a job after visiting the Dargah earlier, and a bachelor exchanges it with a person who got married after visiting the holy place.
Vendors make a brisk business
Vendors selling rotis to those who could not come with home-made ones did a brisk business.
Overseeing the elaborate arrangements put in place from the make-shift control room set up on the premises, State Agriculture Minister Kakani Govardhan Reddy said: “We are fully geared up to manage up to one lakh devotees on each day of the festival.”
On a plea by Nellore Rural MLA Kottamreddy Sridhar Reddy, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy earmarked ₹15 crore for providing improved facilities for the pilgrims, he added.
Superintendent of Police Ch. Vijaya Rao said more than 2,100 police personnel had been deployed and movement of people was closely watched from the control room through a network of CCTVs installed on the premises of the dargah.
He said 13 major and 12 minor parking places had been arranged at various places in the city and traffic diversions were enforced to regulate the vehicular movement towards Vijayawada, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.