48-day festival ends; Athi Varadar placed inside temple tankPTI | Kancheepuram | Updated: 18-08-2019 12:01 IST | Created: 18-08-2019 11:57 IST
Amid religious fervor, the fig wood idol of Lord Athi Varadar was immersed in the temple tank of Sri Devarajaswamy shrine here early on Sunday after being kept for 48-day darshan, a once-in-40 year event that drew over one crore devotees since July 1. After completion of special rituals and applying of traditional herbal paste, the life-size idol was brought to the holy "Anantasaras" tank by the priests and immersed into a special underground chamber to the chanting of Vedic hymns.
The return of the deity to its permanent underwater abode marked the culmination of the 48-day long festival which began on July 1 and saw lakhs of devotees thronging the temple town, over 50 km from Chennai, every day. On Saturday evening, the processional idol of the presiding deity Sri Devarajaswamywas brought to the Vasantha Mandapam, where Lord Athi Varadar had been kept for public darshan, ahead of the immersion ceremony and special poojas were performed.
The event had commenced with the centuries-old idol of Athivaradar being taken out of the tank last month. From July 1 to July 31, the idol was in "sayana kolam" (lying down posture) and from August 1 in "nindra kolam" (standing). On August 17, there was no public darshan.
The festival witnessed a daily rush of over one lakh devotees with the crowd exceeding three lakhs on several days, especially on weekends. According to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, more than one crore devotees offered prayers to the deity during the festival.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Palaniswami, former prime minister Deve Gowda, former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrasekara Rao, Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth were among those who offered their prayers to the idol during the festival. On the eve of end of public darshan, Palaniswami had lauded and thanked the district administration, police and officials of all departments, particularly the revenue, for their hard work in facilitating darshan for devotees.
However, there were widespread complaints about the lack of adequate amenities for devotees and poor management of the crowd. Visitors had a tough time navigating through serpentine queues, which took several hours, at times over 12 hours, to have darshan of the deity.
Last month, four devotees who had visited the temple died in separate incidents after offering prayers, leading to anxious moments. The government, however, said they died due to pre-existing health conditions. Attempts were made in the Madras High Court to seek an extension of the festival period beyond the 48 days, but the court dismissed the petitions after the state government said it cannot be done. The last time the festival was held in 1979 and the next would be in 2059.