New Delhi: Ram Navami was celebrated across the country on Thursday with grand processions and special pujas, but the festivities were marred in Madhya Pradesh where 11 devotees died after falling into a well at a temple, and in Maharashtra where a clash left 12 injured.
In Delhi, a large number of people defied a police order and took out a procession in Jahangirpuri, which witnessed riots last year during Hanuman Jayanti celebrations, while stones were pelted at a march in Gujarat’s Vadodara too.
The celebrations remained largely incident-free in the rest of the country with people coming out on the streets with religious fervour and enthusiasm and law-enforcement agencies on the watch.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished people on the auspicious occasion and said the life of Lord Ram will be an inspiration for humanity in every era. “‘Maryada Purushottam’ Lord Ram’s life was based on sacrifice, tapasya, restraint and resolve,” he tweeted.
Ten women and a man died after the roof of a well collapsed during a havan, a fire ritual, at Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal temple in Indore’s Patel Nagar, a senior official said.
Nearly 30-35 devotees fell into the well after the accident, Indore Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar said, citing eyewitness accounts. An eyewitness said the roof of the well caved-in as a huge huge crowd of devotees gathered on it.
In the Aurangabad city of neighbouring Maharashtra, at least 12 people, including 10 policemen, were injured after a mob of around 500 people went berserk and hurled stones and petrol-filled bottles when the personnel tried to control the situation following a clash between two groups near a Ram temple, officials said on Thursday.
The incident, in which 13 vehicles were torched by the miscreants, occurred during the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday in the city’s Kiradpura locality that houses the famous Ram temple, they said.
The police used tear gas and fired some plastic bullets as well as live rounds to control the mob, the officials said, adding that eight teams have been formed to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
Elsewhere, leaders of the BJP and RSS led processions in different parts of West Bengal where the RSS organised about 1,000 small and large rallies across the state.
Chanting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, thousands of people took part in those processions in Howrah, Kharagpur, Barrackpore, Bhadreswar, Siliguri and Asansol. Drumbeats, saffron flags and large cutouts of Lord Ram featured prominently in these processions. Some of those participating in the processions were carrying swords and trishulas.
BJP leader Sajal Ghosh, who participated in one such rally in Howrah’s Ramrajatala, said there was a need to use such weapons against the evil. “Lord Rama had used weapons to vanquish the demons,” said Ghosh, a corporator of Kolkata.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh performed puja at the 300-year-old Ram Mandir in Ramrajatala. TMC leader Arjun Singh also took part in a Ram Navami procession organised by a religious outfit in Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district.
The festival was celebrated with fervour and enthusiasm across Telangana with devotees offering prayers and also attending the celestial wedding of Lord Ram and Sita performed in temples.
Hundreds of devotees witnessed the ‘Sri Sita Rama Kalyanam’ at the famous Lord Ram temple at Bhadrachalam, about 300 kms from Hyderabad. Police made elaborate security arrangements for the ‘sobha yatras’ (processions) on the occasion of Ram Navami in Hyderabad.
But in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, a fire broke out at Venugopala Swamy temple in West Godavari district, but nobody was injured. “It was a short-circuit and there was no loss of life or injury,” West Superintendent of Police (SP) U Ravi Prakash said.
The small Hindu population in Srinagar also celebrated the festival by taking out a Shobha Yatra amid tight security. “We have been taking out this yatra and ‘Jhanki’ every year for the past 16 years. Earlier, it was stopped due to turmoil in the valley,” said Pawan Chetanyadas, the organiser of the Yatra, said.
In poll-bound Karnataka, political parties used the occasion to catch the attention of voters by setting up ‘Prasad’ counters in various parts of the state.
The festival was celebrated in Jharkhand amid elaborate security arrangements including drone surveillance. Saffron flags and banners depicting Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman were displayed in many parts of the state, while devotees sang bhajans, chanted mantras and read Ramcharitamanas and Hanuman Chalisa to commemorate the birth of Lord Ram.
Speaking at a conclave in Delhi on the occasion, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “Lord Ram is not merely an embodiment in stone, wood or soil, he is the centre of our culture and faith. Lord Ram is our identity as well as that of our country.”
The Delhi Police said they deployed riots controls personnel in Jahangirpuri after a group took out ”Shree Ram Bhagwan Pratima Yatra” as part of the Ramnavami Mahotsav despite it being denied permission.
“We also conducted Aman committee meetings in the area and patrolling was being done by the police. The organisers were advised to cut down their route to 100 metres from the park where it was started and they agreed, and the programme went peacefully,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (northwest) Jitendra Meena said.
Stones were hurled at a procession in Fatehpura area of Gujarat’s Vadodara city, police said. While some vehicles got damaged, no one was injured in the incident and the procession passed along its planned route under police protection, said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Yashpal Jaganiya.
Jaganiya and other senior police officials rushed to the spot upon learning about the incident.
A local Bajrang Dal leader alleged that despite knowing that such an incident had taken place in the past, police were nowhere to be seen when the procession, taken out every year along the same route, came under attack.