The Krishna Pushkaram river festival that comes once in 12 years began with traditional gaiety in Vijaywada on Friday.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his wife Bhuvaneswari joined Kanchi seer Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswati in taking a holy dip in river Krishna at Durga ghat in Vijaywada at the start of the 12-day festival.
After the stampede on the opening day of Godavari Pushkaram at Rajamahendravaram last year, the chief minister stayed away from any fanfare this time and the Durga ghat was closed for common people for the inaugural event.
Deputy Chief Minister N China Rajappa and a host of other ministers also took a holy dip on the occasion.
Vijayawada wore a festive look as lakhs of pilgrims arrived in the city and headed for various Pushkar ghats to take the holy dip.
Devotees swarmed the hill shrine of Goddess Kanaka Durga, the presiding deity of Vijayawada, and offered special prayers.
This being an auspicious Friday in the month of Sravana, women conducted Varalakshmi vratam, a traditional ritual, with devotion.
The replica temple of Lord Venkateswara at Swarajya Maidan also attracted scores of devotees.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and Akshaya Patra Foundation have made arrangements for free food supply to four lakh pilgrims in all every day.
Police deployed drones to keep a vigil at all Pushkar ghats while the government administration is using mobile applications to monitor every aspect, including crowd management, related to the event.
Krishna Pushkaram is conducted in Srisailam, Guntur and Krishna districts of AP where the river flows.
In all, 170 bathing ghats have been readied for the event in which a total of 3.5 crore devotees are expected to take part over the 12 days.
Vijayawada city alone is expected to witness a crowd of about 25 lakh per day.
IMAGE: M Chandrababu Naidu and his wife pay obeisance at the river Krishna as part of the 12-day festival. Photograph: ANI/Twitter