ANDHRA PRADESH

Memorable event for Bhadrachalam

BHADRACHALAM Aug. 10. The Godavari Pushkarams have turned out to be the biggest event in the history of the temple town. Over 48 lakh pilgrims had their dip in the river here during the 12-day religious carnival, considered the largest gathering the pilgrim centre ever witnessed.

About 13 lakh pilgrims had their dip in other pilgrim centres in the district. Kunavaram, the confluence of the Godavari and Sabari river, could draw more crowds after Bhadrachalam, while nearly two lakh people visited Parnasala temple, about 35 km away.

As far as the congregation at the temple town is concerned, it has been much beyond the expectations. The daily turnout was initially estimated to be less than 50,000. The gathering for Sriramanavami, the most important annual feature in the temple town, was never more than 1.5 lakh.

The gathering this time was many times bigger than the turnout for the Srirama Maha Pattabhisekham - a once in 60-year event - held in 1987. The arrangements would have been totally different if this kind of an overwhelming response from the pilgrims was expected well in advance. The pilgrims were hard pressed for bathing space.

The administration rose to the occasion promptly. The facilities were augmented almost overnight by engaging thousands men drafted from within and outside the district. Over 4,000 special bus services were operated from different places in the State by the AP State Road Transport Corporation.

Another 640 services were added to the festival operations in the last phase to meet the ever-increasing pilgrim rush. The RTC could run a few free services in aid of elderly pilgrims. Free transportation was provided within the temple town. The elderly and the physically challenged were also given free transportation.

Almost all the school vans available in good condition were put to the use of pilgrims on the occasion. Singareni Collieries also provided its vans for the free transportation of devotees to the bathing ghats. In addition to the police and revenue officials, over 1,000 school teachers were engaged in crowd management at the ghats and temples.

Lack of sufficient parking place for the vehicles forced the officials to look for parking places outside the town. Over 50,000 vehicles reached the town only on Saturday. Despite initial hassles, the police adopted the best traffic management methods. Despite the congestion felt on the river bridge and in some parts of the temple town, the occasion remained incident-free.

The queues in the temple were managed equally well and the darshan time could be brought down to less than four hours even on the important days of darshan. The temple is expected to net an income of Rs 1. 5 crores on the occasion.

The temple's executive officer, Muralidhar Reddy, said the temple had an income of Rs 75 lakhs from the sale of darshan tickets, Rs 30 lakhs from the sale of laddus and about Rs 25 lakhs from the offerings in hundis. The beautification of the temple town and facilities provided for the devotees helped boost the image of the town as a tourist centre.

The electricity arrangements were made on a massive scale. The devotees preferred to spend their time even on the river bank as every nook and corner were illuminated. A 100 kv generator provided by the Manuguru Heavywater Plant was installed to avoid breakdowns in supply during nights.