Kurnool: 2,000 cops deployed to stop Banni festival

A poster displayed cancelling the Banni festival in view of corona pandimic in Devaragattu village
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A poster displayed cancelling the Banni festival in view of corona pandimic in Devaragattu village

Highlights

  • District collector G Veera Pandiyan cancels the Banni festival this year in view of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic
  • Administration also conducted several awareness programmes creating awareness among the villagers about the infection if they participate in the mock stick fight

Kurnool: Tense situation prevailed at Devaragattu village with the district administration mobilising heavy posse of police personnel to prevent the celebration of 'Banni Utsavam' popularly known as 'Mock stick fight' observed on the occasion of Dasara festival. In view of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic, the district collector G Veera Pandiyan cancelled the Banni festival this year.

The administration has also conducted several awareness programmes creating awareness among the villagers about the infection if they participate in the mock stick fight. It also asked the people to celebrate the festival in their houses and allowed offering prayers to Mala Malleshwara Swamy.

Despite the orders of cancellation, the people of 11 villages, Kothapeta, Neraniki, Neraniki Thanda, Suluvai and the adjacent villages, that actively participate in the mock stick fight, are known to be adamant to celebrate the age old tradition.

The police department, however, well aware of the villagers, as a precautionary measure, has deployed around 2,000 personnel besides installing CCTVs at every junction and also imposed Section 144 at Devaragattu, Alur, Halaharvi and Holagunda villages. Even check posts were also set up at every road that leads towards Devaragattu village.

According to police, the villagers are only allowed to offer prayers to Mala Malleshwara Swamy located on the hilltop. The villagers are strictly ordered to adhere to the instructions of police department. They also instructed the villagers that Banni Utsavam would not be allowed to organise under any circumstances. According to sources, the people of hillock villages are fully prepared to observe Banni Utsavam after midnight and people from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other states were reportedly reached Devaragattu through shortcuts to take part in Banni Utsavam and witness the eye-catching event. The locals tell a story of two demons, Mani and Mallasura, who lived in nearby hillocks and tortured saints. The saints, in turn, prayed to Lord Parameswara and Parvati to rescue them.

The Lord is then said to have appeared on a stone atop the hillock in the form of Kumaravatharam and eliminated the demons on the night of Dasara. Before dying at Rakshapada, the demons prayed to the Lord to give them human sacrifice every year. But the Lord refused their request and assured a fistful blood at the place where they died.

Since then, the villagers offer prayers to Sri Mala Malleswara Swamy and Parvati Devi and carry the idols down the hillock.

Lakhs of people throng Devaragattu from Rayalaseema, Karnataka and other places to watch Banni fete. As three rounds of crackers would be burst, after the third burst of crackers, people would run as the programmed robots with the cries of 'Durru and Goparak'.

The stickholders surge ahead in frenzied inebriated state to stop 'Aswavahanam' from moving forward with a belief that people of that particular village who stop for a while will prosper for the year long.

In this connection, a fierce struggle is observed and several people sustain injuries on their head and limbs. The blood that spills to ground in the stick fight is considered an offering to God. They apply 'Bandaru' on the injured part which is made of Sandalwood and turmeric paste filled with healing effect.

Collector G Veera Pandiyan issuing orders to police at Devaragattu village on Monday



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