TIRUVANNAMALAI: The Karthigai Deepam festival in the Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai this year has turned into a show for politicians, bureaucrats and others in the echelons of power.
The entry passes reportedly distributed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) put those who bought the passes at a lower price range in trouble as they were restricted from having darshan at the festival. Adding to the ir woes, fake passes were also doing the rounds. Devotees were upset on the disparity over getting a darshan on the day, especially when those travelling from far were restricted over some others.
Several pilgrims said the festival was losing its tradition and spirituality, as they alleged abuse of power and position by certain devotees. And, ultimately, it was the common man who was affected the most.
Devotees from across the globe, who throng the temple on this auspicious day to offer prayers, were put to lots of hardship.
“We plead with the bureaucrats and other creamy layer of society to stop coming to this festival from next year. The festival is not about using clout to get front row seats in the quadrangle of the temple to witness the rituals,” said president of Hindu Munnani, Tiruvannamalai, T S Shankarr.
Though the Madras High Court had directed the HR & CE to not issue VIPs and VVIPs passes for temple festival, the department continued the practice, he charged.
The department had distributed passes to politicians and most of them were sold for `2,000 or more, but the devotees who purchased ` 500 and `1,000 passes were restricted from entry. “Several fake passes were also in circulation and they were seized, but no action was taken by officials,” said Shankarr.
Most of the devotees who were allowed inside the temple were people occupying top posts, complained a devotee requesting anonymity.
“Even a man living next to the temple couldn’t enter it. We have to only see the rituals on channels,” said a resident of the town.
An official in the district administration said although the arrangements were made well, the only concern left to be addressed was that of sending the VIPs back safely after the festival.
Collector A Gnanasekaran said, “This year, a huge crowd of devotees was allowed into the temple, so much so, that it took me 15 minutes to enter the place of worship.”
The Collector, however, said that he would inquire into the issue of sale of fake passes and restrictions on the public.
Meanwhile, when contacted, a top HR&CE official claimed that he was not aware of the pass issue.