Visakhapatnam: Over one lakh devotees from North Andhra region, Odisha and Chhattisgarh converged at Simhachalam on Tuesday to witness the annual Chandanotsavam festival of Lord Varaha Lakshmi Nrusimha Swamy.
In spite of pressing additional buses into service, the devotees suffered in jam packed vehicles.
Anticipating a huge crowd like every year, the district collector had directed APSRTC officials to deploy 150 special buses from various parts of the district to Simhachalam. The number of buses from Goshala and Adavivaram stops to Simhachalam hill was also increased from 30 to 56.
Though this decision was taken by the district administration for the comfort of passengers, they faced problems due to lack of space at the hilltop. Moreover, the traffic police had allowed protocol vehicles, cars with VIP passes and two-wheelers of on-duty staff up the hill. This led to congestion at the hill shrine.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sarvadarshan queue line was extended with devotees up to ghat road bus stand area, where there was no carpet or tent to protect them from hot sun.
Fortunately, no one suffered sunstroke, thanks to the volunteers who distributed buttermilk packets and prasadam to each devotee.
Meanwhile, the vehicles jammed the ghat road leaving no space to move on either side. It took some time to clear the traffic. There was no balance between the vehicles moving up the hill and down. “Devasthanam officials have not learnt anything from the past. They can’t handle a large crowd for an annual festival for one day,” said K Raju, a devotee from Araku.
Simhachalam temple executive officer K. Ramachandra Mohan claims that they provided facilities to ensure quick darshan for all devotees. As soon as temple trustee P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju presented silk clothes and chandan (sandal) to the Lord at 3 am, the devotees were allowed nija rupa darshan of the deity.
Along with free buses, special arrangements were made for physically-challenged persons. CCTVs were installed in all key locations to monitor the movement of the devotees. VIPs and VVIPs were allowed to have darshan in specific time slots only. Private vehicles were strictly not allowed to the hilltop, the EO informed.