Godavari Maha Pushkaram 2015 on the lines of Kumbh Mela
The newly formed Andhra Pradesh is going to witness a grand spectacle of religious, spiritual and cultural significance in the form of Godavari Pushkaram in July. The great congregation of people of all ages come together to bow before the mighty River Godavari, the fount of sustenance of life and spiritual solace, for an auspicious period of 12 days across the banks of the River. Being dubbed as the Kumbh- Mela of the South, the Godavari Pushkaram is expected to attract nearly 3 crore people over the next month, commencing on July 12, in the twin districts of West and East Godavari, mainly centred around the historical city of Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.
The AP State Government has taken upon itself the task of conducting this prestigious event and making it as a memorable one for the fledgling state. The last Godavari Pushkaram was held in 2003, when the current Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was at the helm. He was largely credited with making the event a grand success through pro-active involvement of Government agencies. After bifurcation of the state, the Chief Minister is all the more keen to showcase the spiritual and cultural richness of Andhra Pradesh to the entire world through homage to this river that contributed to the making of Telugu way of life for hundreds of years. No wonder, the Chief Minister has deployed the entire administration well in advance to plan and execute Pushkaram works.
Keeping in tune with the prestigious event, the government sanctioned Rs 1,470 crore for infrastructure including construction of Pushkarghats, renovation of temples, road connectivity to the main pushkarghats at Rajahmundry, Narasapur and Kovvur. Naidu Godavari is the lifeline of both the Telugu States and about 3.5 crore people would come to Andhra Pradesh from across the country. Apart from its spiritual significance, Pushkaralu, to be celebrated from July 14 to 25 is an occasion for people to worship the river that gave them sustenance and also bring to fore the cultural heritage of the State to the visiting pilgrims, he said. The State government is gearing up to showcase the cultural heritage and the richness of folk arts during the ensuing Godavari Pushkarams.
Godavari Pushkarams Committee Chairman, Parakala Prabhakar, said that cultural extravaganza would mark the 12- day festival on the Godavari bank. Meanwhile, works are being completed at a brisk pace for the event. “We are expecting about 20 to 25 lakh people daily and have made arrangements accordingly”, said Special Officer of Pushkarams, K Dhanamjaya Reddy. Stating that the government had sanctioned nearly Rs 1,500 crore for various Pushkaram related works in East and West Godavari districts, he added that 90 per cent of works had been completed so far. Principal Secretary JSV Prasad and Commissioner for Endowments Y V Anuradha explained that as ‘Pinda Pradanam’, ‘Tirdha Vidhulu’ (rituals associated with Pushkaram) and holy dip in river Godavari were considered as priority rituals to be performed by the pilgrims during these 12-days, the government had allotted 50,000 square feet for the construction of platforms in Rajahmundry and 41,000 square feet for the same purpose in West Godavari district for the pilgrims to perform the rituals. In this connection, they said that the Government had fixed the rates for the various rituals and appointed 4,000 priests for the conduct of the rituals. Identity cards would be issued to the priests.
According to officials, the 10.5- km road between Rajahmundry and the airport was being developed as a four-lane road, with greenery, central lighting, etc., for the Pushkaram. The work at different bathing Ghats along the river Godavari in both East and West Godavari districts is progressing at a brisk pace as hundreds of labourers; contractors are engaged in improvement works. Machines are working round the- clock to complete the construction before the deadline. A large idol of Siva with water sprinklers will also be constructed in the middle of the Ghats. Meanwhile the 176-metre long Saraswatighat is being spruced up to cater to the needs of VVIPs. A Saraswati temple is being constructed at a cost of Rs 4 crore. The irrigation department is constructing 250 bathing Ghats in the twin Godavari districts for ensuing Pushkarams at a cost of Rs 94 crore. The length of Ghats varies from 5 meters to 1,200 meters.
The APSRTC would operate 1,500 special buses to transport pilgrims from across the state, 300 city buses would also be pressed into service to ferry them to various places in the city free of cost during the Pushkarams. Meanwhile, the South Central Railway is also making arrangements to operate special trains along with setting up additional booking counters at various places. “Every one should have hassle free passage to bathing Ghats and should not face any problem with administration,” emphasized IYR Krishna Rao, Chief Secretary of AP State Government. The administration is ensuring that that there are entry and exit lines for every road that leads to bathing Ghats, taking care of senior citizens. Officials are making arrangements to deploy battery operated golf cars to the old-aged people to take them up to different Ghats from road point.
NGC to document Pushkaram
The State Government is making efforts to document the once-in-a-decade occurrence. National Geographic Channel is going to film entire Godavari Pushkarams and telecast all over the world. The Andhra Pradesh government is also taking steps to make use of social media in order to give Godavari Pushkarams wide range of publicity all over India and the government has also prepared a website for Pushkarams. Chief Minister ChandrababuNaidu will launch Godavari Harathi programme in Rajahmundry on June 1st and it will continue daily from then (a Harathis a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It’s usually made in the form of a lit lamp and offered to River Godavari). The government is also planning
Laser Shows for half an hour every day after the launch of Godavari Harathi and firecracker show will be conducted every day and Rs 1 lakh would be presented to the winners of the show every day. Akhanda Jyothi programme would be launched from Rajahmundry on June 25 and this programme will be held from four places in twin Godavari districts to create awareness among masses.
The Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) and Savetemples.org together announced a photography contest on ‘Godavari Pushkaralu’ to be celebrated between July 14 and 25. The first, second and third prizes will get cash awards of Rs 50,000, Rs 30,000 and Rs 25,000, respectively, apart from 10 consolation prizes with Rs 5,000 each and citations. The photographs should reflect the glory of the Godavari, activities of devotees at temples and around the ‘Pushkar’ Ghats on the banks of the river, according to the organisers.
Arrangements have been made for devotees to get Godavari water in bottles across the country. The Department of Posts will sell seven lakh bottles of water drawn from River Godavari during the 12 daylong Pushkaralu. The bottles priced at Rs 20 each will contain 500 ml of water that the Postal Department has named, GOD-JAL after Godavari Jalam. The department started the booking process. Chief Post Master General, AP and Telangana Circle B. V. Sudhakar said that going by the initial feedback from general public, the Department will have to produce more bottles as the demand was expected to go over 20 lakh by July 14, the last date for placing bookings.
A local ISI-certified water purification and bottling company, Sapphire, from Rajahmundry, will manufacture the water bottles through reverse osmosis. The water drawn from Godavari during Pushkaram period that extends from July 14 to July 25 will undergo an 18 stage purification process that complies with Bureau of Indian Standards before it gets bottled. Those interested can purchase the bottles from any of the 16,150 post offices that are located in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Believers from across the country and those residing in other countries can also place online orders on www.appost.in/eshop.
More transport options
The South Central Railway will operate several services from Hyderabad for the convenience of pilgrims attending Godavari Pushkaram at Rajahmundry from July. Booking for the trains will begin from 8 a.m. on June 28. The GMR Hyderabad International Airport authorities said Jet Airways and Spice- Jet would shortly increase the number of their services to Rajahmundry by one more flight. Jet Airways, which has been operating two flights a day, will increase it to three, while SpiceJet, which has been operating one, will raise it to two.