No holy dip, only shower bath for pilgrims at Pushkaram mega ritual

Pushkaram (a ritual to worship rivers) for Tungabhadra river began on Friday, amidst stringent restrictions for pilgrims due to Covid-19 pandemic, along the river course in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The mega ritual takes places once in 12 years.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy formally inaugurated the commencement of ‘Tungabhadra pusharams’ at Sankalbagh ghat in Kurnool town at 1.21 pm amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns by the priests.

Wearing the traditional attire of dhoti and sporting a silk turban, Jagan walked up to the river barefooted, presented ‘aarti’ and offered flowers to the river which is worshipped as a deity. Later, he took part in the Yagnam held at the Yaga mandap and offered Purnahuti to the fire.

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The “pushakarams,” celebrated on the lines of Kumbh Mela at river Ganga, draw millions of people. For Tungabhadra pushkarams, to be celebrated till December 1, the officials have imposed stringent restrictions for pilgrims – like online registration with a Covid-free certificate, compulsory wearing of masks and maintenance of social distance at ghats.

While taking a holy dip is part of the mandatory ritual as part of any pushkaram, the authorities have banned it for Tungabhadra pushkaram in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Steps have been taken to prevent pilgrims to enter the premises and take a holy dip. We have arranged a row of bath showers at every ghat where river water is drawn through pumps and pilgrims are allowed to take bath only under these showers between 6 am to 6 pm,” state minister for endowments Vellampalli Srinivas said.

In all, 23 ghats have been arranged along the river in Kurnool district, including seven in Kurnool, eight in Mantralayam, five in Kodumuru, two in Yemmiganuru and one in Nandikotkuru.

“We have also made 350 priests available at the ghats so that pilgrims can perform rituals like “pinda pradan” (offering food to the departed souls of family members),” the minister said.

Special teams have been formed to monitor the arrangements and facilities during the pushkaram period. Special tents, dressing rooms, toilets and bathrooms have been installed to ensure cleanliness and sanitation.

“We have also made medical facilities at all the ghats so that if anybody falls sick, immediate treatment could be provided. Arrangements have also been made for food and water,” Srinivas said.

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