The picturesque ‘Swarnala Cheruvu’ in Nellore was a hive of activity on the ‘Rottela Panduga’, the roti festival, as people of all faiths exchanged rotis on Saturday at the Bara Shaheed Dargah.
Tens of thousands of devotees waited in a serpentine queue to offer prayers, observing the annual ‘Urs’ in the month of Muharram in memory of the 12 martyrs who were killed in a battle with the British troops in the 18th century.
YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) MPs Adala Prabhakar Reddy and Vemuri Prabhakar Reddy were honoured by members of the festival committee.
The festival committee made elaborate arrangements for the State festival in coordination with the district administration led by District Collector M. Harinarayanan.
As per tradition, devotees visit the dargah for the first time to make their wishes and upon fulfilment of the wishes, they visit again next to give thanks. Thus the devotees’ rush goes up yearly, with more people visiting the dargah as their wishes are fulfilled.
The Swarnala Chervuvu and the dargah were put under electronic surveillance and CCTVs were installed for this purpose. A command control centre is set up specially for this festival. The police also deployed service drones to intensify the surveillance, said Superintendent of Police K. Tirumaleswara Reddy.
More than 2,500 police personnel from south coastal Andhra Pradesh were deployed for security even as devotees from different parts of the State and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka thronged the dargah.
A battery of civic body personnel led by Municipal Commissioner Vikas Murmat created elaborate pilgrim amenities for the festival, which is likely to have a footfall of over 15 lakh during the festival, with the congregation peaking during the ‘Gandha Mahotsavam‘ ritual.
A blood donation camp was organised on the occasion to enable the pilgrims to donate the gift of life to patients facing medical emergencies and contribute their mite to ease blood shortage.