ANDHRA PRADESH

22 lakh pilgrims take dip at Rajahmundry on last day

Rajahmundry Aug. 10. On the last of the Pushkarams on Sunday, more than 22 lakh pilgrims had a dip at the various ghats here as the event, which comes once in 12 years, drew to a close. The belief of Hindus is that a dip in the Godavari during the Pushkarams would absolve one of all sins and performing the `Pindapradanam' ritual would ensure salvation to ancestors.

It is the first Pushkaram of the new millennium as well as the the 21st century. The entire city seemed sanctified and reverberated with spiritual activities for 12 days. It gave immense satisfaction to all concerned because there was no unsavoury incident, not even a minor one, on all the 12 days during which an estimated 2.20 crore pilgrims visited the ancient city of Rajahmundry in tens of thousands of vehicles and special trains.

The rain god was favourable on almost all the 12 days, since barring a downpour a few times which was natural during this season, the sky was clear and the water level in the Godavari stood at a very comfortable level for the pilgrims to have the holy dip.

Fifteen State Government departments and three Central Government departments participated in the Pushkarams and all of them acquitted themselves well. However, special mention must be made for the service rendered by the 5000 sanitary staff who kept the city clean on all the 12 days and ensured that there was no epidemic. NGOs and others like NCC, NSS, Scouts and Guides also did yeoman service and this has been recognized by the Chief Minister, N.Chandrababu Naidu.

The cynosure of all eyes at the Pushkarams was the shower at the giant Siva Lingam near the Pushkar ghat. It was an innovation and lakhs of pilgrims thronged this place, causing concern to officials. Although there were 13 ghats in the city, for reasons of sentiment, more than half the pilgrims thronged to the Pushkaram and Kotilimngala ghats alone.

The other place that a majority of pilgrims visited was the group of temple replicas in the premises of the Government Degree College for Women and the TTD temple at the Gowthami ghat. Pilgrims had the feeling of visiting all important temples--Annavaram, Simhachanlam, Srisailam, Srikalahasti, Yadagiriguta, Vijayawada Kanaka Durga, etc at one place.

Cultural activities were also organised in a big way and top stars like Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna gave performances. Then there were yagnams, continuous religious discourses and other spiritual activities.

"It was a challenging task and we have done our best. The result is very satisfying and I congratulate all concerned. All is well that ends well," said the District Collector, K.S.Jawahar Reddy, under whose leadership the entire show was organised in East Godavari district. The Collector made a special mention of the sanitary staff, the Corporation, the Mayor, the Corporators and the Commissioner, T.S.R. Anjaneyulu, for their role in making the Pushkarams a memorable event. The Collector was congratulated by the Chief Minister, N.Chandrababu Naidu, and the Chief Secretary, Mohan Kanda.