Andhra Pradesh: Ancient Lord Vishnu Temple’s Chariot Razed In Fire, State Government Orders CBI Probe As Devotees Suspect Sabotage

Andhra Pradesh: Ancient Lord Vishnu Temple’s Chariot Razed In Fire, State Government Orders CBI Probe As Devotees Suspect Sabotage

by M R Subramani - Sep 17, 2020 03:52 PM +05:30 IST
Andhra Pradesh: Ancient Lord Vishnu Temple’s Chariot Razed In Fire, State Government Orders CBI Probe As Devotees Suspect Sabotage Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple chariot being pulled by devotees during a festival.
  • The Andhra Pradesh government has ordered a CBI probe into the chariot fire incident as angry devotees reject electrical short-circuit claim, and say it’s a sabotage.

A fire that razed a 62-year-old wooden chariot of the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at Antarvedi town in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district has put the Y S Jaganmohan Reddy government in the state in a spot of bother.

The chariot, used for special occasions and festivals, caught fire in the wee hours of 6 September.

The chariot figures prominently in the centuries-old temple’s Kalyanostavam, one of the most-celebrated religious events in Andhra Pradesh.

According to the locals, the prime deity of the temple, Lord Lakshmi Narasimha, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, is carried in the chariot across the town during these festivals.

It is considered as a sort of rath yatra that is believed to bring prosperity to the people of the region.

Though no key religious event is around the corner, the burning of the chariot has angered the locals as they suspect sabotage.

“It has been set on fire by some unknown people,” claims a local resident, Yashwanth Reddy.

What makes the locals suspect sabotage is that close circuit television (CCTV) cameras kept for surveillance at the chariot’s shed had stopped working. They were reported to have developed a snag six months ago.

The chariot engulfed by flames.
The chariot engulfed by flames.

The locals have been irked by state government officials claiming that the chariot caught fire due to electrical short-circuit.

There are no electrical wires in the shed or near about, according to the locals.

Various Hindu organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and locals, who staged protests leading to a tense situation in the area for a couple of days, suspect this to be more than a mere accident as clashes had erupted between three groups ahead of Kalayanostavam in February this year.

Devotees and opposition parties led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) do not see the incident as an isolated one.

They allege that ever since the Reddy government took over, a series of communally-sensitive incidents have occurred leading to controversial allegations.

Former chief minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu said: “We are demanding investigation by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) not only in this case but also in 20 others since this government took over as continuous attacks on religious places and also on priests have taken place.''

The charred chariot.
The charred chariot.

Two people, suspected to be involved in the incident, were reportedly taken into custody on 6 September but nothing has been heard after that.

Under pressure after the incident, the Andhra Pradesh government ordered a CBI inquiry on 11 September.

The TDP-led opposition also wants the investigation to cover the fire that occurred at the 850-year-old Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Konda Bitragunta in Nellore district in February this year.

In that incident, too, the temple chariot was gutted. The case was closed saying that a mentally imbalanced person was responsible for it.

To buy peace, for now, the state government has said that a wooden chariot would be got ready before the Kalyanostavam on a war-footing at a cost of Rs 84 lakh.

The Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at Antarvedhi is situated some 260 km from Vizag at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and river Vashishta Godavari, a tributary of the Godavari.

The temple is believed to have been built in 300 BCE after Lord Narasimha along with Goddess Lakshmi killed demon king Rakta Vilochana.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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