VIJAYAWADA: Just when everyone thought that the Krishna Pushkarams were being conducted without any trouble, objections are being raised over the offering of ‘Pavitra Harathi’ to River Krishna by priests facing the bathing ghats where all the VIPs including the Chief Minister are present. They are stating that the Harathi should be offered to the river but not to the ghat. But the organisers/ choreographers including film director Boyapati Sreenu are claiming that they have organised the event only after consulting the appropriate vedic scholars and pandits.

“Unlike Ganga Harathi, here priests are offering the harathi by facing towards public but not towards the river, which is against the tradition. We should not show our back towards the river while offering Pavitra Harathi,” said Yerrapragada Ramakrishna, an eminent scholar and poet from Rajamahendravaram. According to some Sanskrit pandits, tradition of offering harathi to a river is a means of showing our rspect to the Mother Nature for its contribution to the mankind. Many scholars felt that harathi is not being offered as per the tradition and those (priests) who are conducting the rituals are not in a position to understand.

It is also being alleged that the government was taking cinematic liberties in a bid to attract public to a holy event. “What is the need to organise the harathi to fit the convinience of the public attending it? Is this an attempt to showcase the grandeur of this state or a means to pay respects to the river? Though it might be an attempt to popularise our rituals, altering such holy rituals to suite one’s convinience is not advisable,” stated Viswanatha Gopala Krishna, a Sanskrit scholar and principal of Government Vedic School in Rajamahendravaram.

During Ganga harathi, devotees use to see pandits offering harathi from ghats by sitting on boats in the river. But during both Godavari and Krishna Pushkarams, the priests are offering harathi by facing towards the spectators by standing inside the river. But the organisers and other priests differ over the argument and said that they were not altering the rituals. “By standing in the middle of the river, we are  offering harathi to all directions. So there is no question of offering harathi by facing in one specific direction where VIPs are sitting. Priests are turning to all directions while offering the Harathi and ending it by facing towards the river,” Vishnubhotla Siva Prasad Sarma, head priest of Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada said. Film director Boyapati Srinivas who is overseeing the harathi rituals, too feels the same. “I have team of 27 priests and scholars including some elderly priests of Durga temple and the entire programme was organised as per their guidance.

We did not compromise when it came to following the traditions. I dont want to comment against some critics as I respect all learned men,” he said. he also added that the harathi is being offered to all corners of the Earth but urged that all rituals cannot be compared to Ganga Harathi. Though  offering ‘Harathi’ to the river is nothing new, the state government has started organising it in a large scale since Godavari Maha Pushkaralu in 2015. The tradition which originated from Varanasi, comprises priests oferring the harathi from the ghats of Varanasi to River Ganga. Inspired by it, an NGO Sri Buddhavarapu Charitable Trust has started offering the Harathi to Godavari river at Rajamahendravaram. As the event received good response from the public, the state government has decided to conduct it in a large scale on the occasion of Godavari Maha Pushkaram.

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