Janmastami, the festival marking birthday of Lord Krishna, was celebrated on Wednesday at the ashrams established by VHP leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati on the occasion of his fifth death anniversary.
Various rituals like ‘Sankirtan’ and ‘Nama Yagna’ were observed to commemorate the occasion amid tight security. The day was celebrated peacefully across Kandhamal.
The VHP leader along with his four associates were gunned down by unidentified miscreants, while they were celebrating Janmastami at Jalespeta ashram on August 23, 2008. Saraswati’s killing sparked large-scale ethno-communal violence in Kandhamal leaving 44 people dead and burning of thousands of houses, 229 churches and prayer cottages in 2008 and 2009 rendering 25,000 people homeless.
Several platoons of armed forces were deployed in and around the ashrams and vehicles frisked at entry and exit points of Phulbani. Saraswati had set up two ashrams at Jalespeta and Chakapada where he was imparting education to tribals till his killing. Collector N Thirumala Naik, Sub-Collector of Balliguda Prem Chand Choudhury, SDPO Kanwar Visal Singh oversaw the security arrangements.