Godavari pushkaram, the Kumbh mela of the south, would begin on Tuesday for which the Andhra Pradesh government has made elaborate arrangements in anticipation of over three crore pilgrims to arrive from all over the country to take a holy dip in the sacred river.
East and West Godavari districts, which are named after the largest river south of the Vindhyas, are decked up for the twelve day event called Mahapushkaram this time, like the Maha Kumbh, as the event occurs once in 144 years.
Rajahmundry, which is known as the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh is where the pushkaram activities are concentrated. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who was also the CM during the last pushkarams in 2003, inaugurated the festivities on Monday evening here with a grand spectacle of lights and fireworks.
Photo of Godavari river. Godavari pushakaram would begin on Tuesday. (HT Photo)
In the run up to the pushkarams, the government had initiated the Godavari harati on the river bank, much similar to the Ganga aarti at Haridwar and Varanasi, which became popular with the pilgrims.
Arrangements for the dip are made at about 275 ghats in the twin districts with the most prominent one being the 1.5 KM ghat at Kotilingala in Rajahmundry. Pushkarnagars with amenities for pilgrim stay are built.
Sources said that in all the government has spent about Rs 1500 crore (including the regular development works of the municipal etc departments) to make the pushkaram a grand event.
While the railways has put 13 special trains in addition to the regular 37 to meet the pushkaram rush, 1927 buses are also pressed into service to ferry lakhs of devotees every day. The state is also using technology – CCTVs for security, a mobile app for information and grievance addressal, wifi connectivity etc for safe and soft conduct of the affair.
Authorities are maintaining the river at the required levels at Rajahmundry by controlling the outflow at the Dhowleshwaram barrage a few KMs downstream. Telangana, conducting the pushkarams for the first time, also made wide arrangements for the event. The state though is faced with the challenge of maintaining the water levels at the main pilgrimage centres like Basara as the river dried up there due to scanty rains. A sacred dip here depends on water release from dams in Maharashtra.
Early morning on Tuesday, Naidu would take a dip in Godavari at Rajahmundry while Telangana CM Chandrasekhar Rao would do that at Dharmapuri.