Thousands take holy dip in Godavari

Khammam/Rajahmundry, July 25 (IANS) Tens of thousands thronged the banks of the Godavari in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to take a holy dip on Saturday, the last day of Godavari maha pushkaralu, a de facto Kumbh mela.

People queued up at the ghats along the river as the 12-day event is set to conclude.

Authorities have taken extra measures for the safety of the pilgrims in view of the massive rush on the last day.

The administration is on high alert in Rajahmundry in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh where 27 pilgrims were killed in a stampede on the first day of the festival on July 14.

Policemen, fire fighters and expert divers have been deployed at Pushkar Ghat, where the stampede had occurred and five other ghats in Rajahmundry.

In Telangana, the authorities were on high alert in view of the rise in water level. Additional precautionary measures were taken in temple towns of Bhadrachalam, Dharampuri and Kaleshwaram.

Pilgrims were cautioned against crossing the barricades at the ghats.

Officials claimed that nearly 10 crore people have so far taken the dip.

While 5.12 crore people took a dip in the river in the five districts of Telangana till Friday, this number crossed 4.50 crore in East Godavari and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday morning.

More than one crore people are expected to participate in the event in the two states on the last day.

The festival will end on Saturday evening with rituals including ‘pushkar jyothi’ and grand ‘arathi’ at various pilgrim centres.

Though pushkaralu take place once in 12 years, this time it is considered very auspicious. Priests say such an event comes once in 144 years.

People from across the country took the holy dip in the Godavari, known as the southern Ganga. Naga Sadhus had ‘shahi snan’ or royal bath in the temple town of Bhadrachalam in Khammam district of Telangana.

While Telangana constructed 106 bathing ghats in five districts, Andhra made elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims at 280 ghats in the two districts.

The chief ministers of the two states had flagged off the festival by taking the dip along with their family members in their respective states on July 14.

In Rajahmundry, the event began on a tragic note as minutes after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.Chandrababu Naidu took the dip at Pushkar ghat, a stampede broke out killing two pilgrims.

Shaken by the tragedy, Naidu decided to camp in the town for the entire duration of the festival to monitor the proceedings.

The authorities subsequently improved the crowd management and ensured smooth conduct of the festival.

Telangana Chief Minister K.Chandrasekhar Rao also directed his cabinet colleagues and top officials to stay in the towns assigned to them till the last pilgrim takes the dip.

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