VIJAYAWADA: On day 2 of the Krishna Pushkarams, pilgrim rush in this riverside city nearly doubled over first day's number, it being a second Saturday. Also, the authorities eased up from being ultra uptight about traffic movement.
Braving the summer-like sun, 7,21,334 -- the authorities were that exact -- had a holy dip in the Krishna across Andhra Pradesh by evening. The number was expected to increase to 1.5 lakh by night.
Criticised for the tight restrictions on traffic on roads leading to the bathing ghats in Vijayawada, the authorities eased up and even allowed two wheelers -- in limited numbers, though -- near the ghats.
Facilitated by easier access, pilgrims thronged the Padmavathi and Krishnaveni ghats downstream of the Prakasam Barrage and the Durga Ghat, Punnami Ghat, Bhavani Ghat and Sangamam Ghat (at Ferry near Ibrahimpatnam) in large numbers, starting in the small hours of the day.
With the Prakasam barrage opened to the two wheelers, the rush at the Sitanagaram Ghat on the other bank of the river also increased gradually.
On day two, 2,32,257 pilgrims did the dip by 10 am Saturday. On day one, it had been only 17,745. And as the day progressed and the temperature rose to 36 degrees C, the rush slackened a bit but picked up again in the evening.
Spurred by complaints about the lack of shelter from the sun, particularly for those performing panda pradanam (ancestor worship) rituals, chief minister Chandrababu Naidu ordered more tents erected at the ghats. Water and buttermilk was supplied to pilgrims at ghat and in the queues leading to the ghats and up to the temple of Kanakadurga.
Taken aback by the death of a six-year-old child at the Padmavathi Ghat on the inaugural day, the authorities increased vigil along the river and appealed to parents not to allow the children to go to the ghats without supervision. Swimmers deployed for the event were asked to watch the water between the ghat and the barricades in the river.
Cavorting children were warned not to jump into the water as the water level is just 4 feet at some places. Ministers, higher officials, the mayor of Vijayawada and others inspected different ghats, pushkar nagars and interacted with pilgrims to get their feedback.
Later in the evening, pavitra harathi was offered to the Krishna at Sangamam Ghat, at the confluence of the Godavari and the Krishna with the chief minister and other dignitaries present. This was followed by cultural activities and a seminar on 'Capital City Amaravati'.
Pilgrim rush also picked up in Guntur and Kurnool, the other two districts through which the Krishna flows. At Amaravati, pilgrim influx to the town's iconic temples crossed the one lakh mark. It is expected to increase further on Sunday and Monday, both holidays.
Pilgrim Turnout, Day 2 (till 5 p.m.)
Vijayawada - 3,78,839
Krishna Rural - 1,23,995
Guntur Urban - 50,041
Guntur Rural - 1,29,095
Kurnool - 39,364