The government on Thursday conceded that it did not anticipate such a large turnout at the Sri Devarajaswamy temple, Kancheepuram.
As per the Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Department’s original assessment, ekadasi days, considered auspicious to visit Vishnu temples, would attract the maximum of 70,000 devotees for the Athi Varadar festival. On weekends, the estimated figure would be around 50,000 and on weekdays, 20,000-30,000. But, going by the turnout that the temple is experiencing since July 1, all these calculations have gone haywire, acknowledges a senior official.
“On an average, 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh devotees are visiting the temple daily and about two lakh people on holidays,” Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami told the Assembly. Between July 1 and 17, approximately 22 lakh devotees had visited the temple. He pointed out that even at Tirupati, the average number of devotees was 75,000 per day. Mr. Palaniswami said that despite the rush, “adequate arrangements” had been made to enable darshan for those visiting the temple. He was responding to observations of Leader of the Opposition M.K. Stalin who wanted to know what arrangements had been made for the festival. Mr. Stalin demanded compensation for the deceased.
The HRCE official conceded that the turnout had been causing “enormous stress” on those — priests, staff of the temple and other officials — associated with the conduct of the festival. Consequently, the department was thinking of introducing measures that could keep the number of devotees at a “manageable level”. The authorities were planning to shift the Varadar idol from the Vasantha Mandapam to Noorkaal Mandapam, where the crowd management, the department believed, could be done in a better way.