Unpleasant end to divine event

S Madhusudhana Rao

Think big is the mantra of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew for the success of the island nation, a friend told me some time ago. The 750 sq.km island with just about 55 lakh population corroborates his observation. It was not just Lee who thought big about his small country but hundreds of others around the world think similar way.

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S Madhusudhana Rao

While Lee succeeded in transforming a backwater slum into a world class city in his lifetime, others try to do things in a big way either for earning credit in Guinness Records or for own satisfaction. If Dubai is known for setting records all the time – longest gold chain, longest cake, tallest building, biggest shopping mall, the largest man-made island, to mention a few of superlatives – we too try to set records not just to please mortals but divine elements as well.

A classic example is Khairatabad Ganesh idol. Since the celebration began 61 years ago, the God for all reasons and seasons has been growing both in size and stature, attaining a cult status not only in Hyderabad but all over the region. The idol – 59 feet tall this year – was awe-inspiring. The size could have been bigger than the previous year when it was 60 feet. Made to mark the 60th year of Khairatabad Ganesh festival, it posed logistic problems for organizers and police to transport the idol for immersion in Hussain Sagar on 11th day of the event. So, this year, organizers had decided to peg the idol height at 59 feet, which was the same as in 2013.

Befitting the giant gentle Lord was the offering of a massive laddu weighing 5,600kg, kept at the venue for distribution as prasadam to devotees after the immersion ceremony was over. However, this year’s laddu was 1,600kg more than that of last year. Earlier, the enormous laddu was used to be auctioned and the highest bidder had distributed chunks of the sweet ball to devotees. But now, the auction process was discontinued and the laddu prasadam given free of charge to the devout on Friday morning.

Indeed, it was a noble idea until chaos broke out when thousands of worshippers standing in the queue started jostling and pushing each other to get a small piece of the divine offering. According to eyewitness accounts, when the situation went out of control, police had to use force to disperse the crowd. What followed later – chasing of the truck carrying a portion of the laddu for distribution in the donor’s town Tapeswaram in AP, rumours of selling prasadam, cops and some VIPs claiming their share – had made a mockery of sanctity of Ganesh festival.

For many, Khairatabad laddu prasadam is as divine as Tirupati laddus. Leaving without getting a piece of it was distressing. Probably, the prasadam distribution could have been managed and organized in a better manner by giving away pre-packed laddu sachets. But given the rush for laddu prasadam – one could witness it in Tirupati also – there is no guarantee that people would collect it in an orderly manner.

Their irrational behavior is born out of the belief that if they don’t receive prasadam, the devout will incur divine wrath. Since the conviction is ingrained in the people’s minds, no amount of persuasion will change their mindset. Better preparation is the only way to avoid ugly incidents at the end of an otherwise a divine spectacle.

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