Former Union Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju and his family members who skipped darshan of Goddess Pydimamba last year had a darshan of the deity in a traditional manner on Monday, ahead of Sirimanotsavam on Tuesday.
Mr. Ashok, who was reportedly offended with the removal as chairperson of the temple and MANSAS Trust, did not come for darshan in 2020 but offered prayers from his home.
The temple executive officer B.H.V.S. Kishore Kumar and others welcomed him with Poorna Kumbam as Mr. Ashok is the hereditary trustee of the temple. He interacted with the officials and discussed the arrangements for Sirimanotsavam.
Later speaking to the media, he urged everyone to wear masks as per the COVID-19 protocol.
The temple premises wore a festive look with the celebration of Tholellu, a festival celebrated on Monday ahead of Sirimanotsavam.
Local artists showcased their talent with different paintings on the road between Three Lamp junction and Fort junction.
Temple priest Bantupalli Venkata Rao would sit on the Sirimanu and offer blessings on behalf of Sri Pydimamba who was believed to have sacrificed her life by jumping into Pedda Cheruvu after hearing about the death of her brother on January 24, 1757. Her idol was believed to be identified by local fishermen and she is being worshipped as deity of Vizianagaram.
Normally, two lakh people participate in Sirimanotsavam every year. But the government has restricted the direct participation of the public in the festival to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Collector A. Surya Kumari, who offered prayers in the temple on Monday morning, urged the devotees to cooperate with the district administration since the step was taken to protect them from the coronavirus.
Visakhapatnam DIG L.K.V. Ranga Rao, Vizianagaram SP Deepika M. Patil and other senior officials reviewed the security arrangements.
Vehicular traffic would be diverted to outskirts and barricades have been set up on the roads leading to the temple and fort premises. A control room has been set up near the temple to monitor security on all routes.
Mr. Ranga Rao said there should be perfect coordination between all the teams deployed in 21 sectors. He directed them not to be rude with the people and temple staff during the procession.