With only four days left for devotees to have a darshan of Athi Varadar, more than 5 lakh devotees are expected to visit the Sri Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram daily.
The police and the district administration, along with Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and other line agencies, have made elaborate arrangements to avoid any untoward incident.
The devotees have been requested to come prepared to spend two days or more in town as the crowds are expected to swell. Facilities to make their wait comfortable have been created in hold-up areas and traffic diversions have been effected.
Eleven thousand police personnel, including four IGPs, half a dozen DIGs and 30 SPs, are regulating the crowd and doing bandobust duty in the temple town. ADGP Law and Order K. Jayanth Murali is camping in the town and monitoring the security arrangements on a daily basis. Interestingly, in 1979, the entire bandobust was managed by one Sub-Inspector.
Mr. Murali told The Hindu, “Initially, the HRCE officials expected 15,000 to 20,000 devotees every day. The police expected 50,000 to 70,000 devotees. After an assessment, we were prepared for over a lakh of devotees as a precautionary measure at the start of the vaibhavam.”
“Last month, about two lakh devotees were visiting. Now over 2.5 lakh are arriving for the darshan. It is unprecedented. We have been doing course-correction constantly in regulating the crowd,” the ADGP said.
Elaborating on the steps taken to avoid a stampede, the ADGP said: “We have rectified shortcomings noticed in the security arrangements and have taken all precautions. We try to help the devotees get a good darshan and return home satisfied. We will ensure the event is incident-free [till August 17].”
“Stampede happens when people are allowed to congregate in large numbers near the temple. To prevent the congregation around the temple, we have created massive hold-up areas at eight places, a little away from the temple, and each one can accommodate around 10,000 people. Free food, water and free toilets are available to devotees here. Doctors are available here and LED screens display live darshan of Athi Varadar,” Mr. Murali said.
Mini buses have been arranged to drop devotees near the temple queue. “We will keep them in shelters comfortably and then let them inside the queue, and finish darshan without standing for long hours in the queue,” he said.
The electronic and social media have triggered the unprecedented crowd this time.
Apart from devotion, many people are visiting as the event happens only once in 40 years, police said. There is no VIP darshan on the last two days, to enable the general public to get darshan without a hitch.