They have all gathered here for Krishna Pushkaram, a 12-day river festival that comes once in 12 years, which has this time seen nearly one-and-a-half crore devotees take a holy dip with two days remaining for the auspicious bath. Durga Ghat is one of the over 170 enclosures built by the Andhra Pradesh government along the river spread across three districts of the state.

 

Andhra Pradesh is using the government machinery and technology to the hilt to make Krishna Pushkaram, which ends on August 23, a smooth and successful affair and to avert a disaster like the stampede on the opening day of Godavari Pushkaram last year when 27 people were killed. Krishna Pushkaram is being celebrated in three districts of Andhra Pradesh - Kurnool, Guntur and Krishna. Simultaneously, the festival is taking place in Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar districts of neighbouring Telangana through which the holy river flows.

 

Vijayawada, the hub of the river festival every time, has been bubbling with activities as lakhs of pilgrims descended in the city every day from various parts of the state. The ghats here have been made wider this time to avoid over-crowding and are guarded by volunteers on canoes. Roads leading to the ghats have been divided into separate lanes for pedestrians and vehicles. An army of sanitation workers has been deployed in the city to maintain cleanliness.
 

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who has been leading the celebrations and personally monitoring every aspect of the festival - from cleanliness to traffic management and crowd control, said, "I want to inspire the people to associate (themselves) with the river, worship the nature. The river has given us wealth all these years. Now, it's time for us to give back."

    
Devotees also swarmed the hill shrine of Kanaka Durga, the presiding deity of Vijayawada, and other temples. The replica temple of Lord Venkateswara at Swarajya Maidan too attracted scores of devotees.