Hyderabad: The mammoth Ganesh procession began here Wednesday amid unprecedented security with the army on standby in case of an emergency, officials said.
Thousands of idols from different parts of the state capital and its outskirts headed towards Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of the city.
There was a festive mood in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad with slogan shouting youth, wearing saffron scarves, marching towards the lake with the idols.
From a cycle to a long truck, the devotees used every mode of transport to carry the idols for immersion. More than 50 cranes have been installed at the lake for the immersion of big idols.
The main procession with huge idols in different sizes and shapes began from Balapur in the old city. It will reach the lake late in the evening after covering 20 km and passing through several communally sensitive localities.
The procession began after the auction of the traditional `laddu` at Balapur. A.G. Sridharbabu bought it for Rs.5.35 lakh. However, the auction was marred by controversy with a woman devotee Sarita accusing the organisers of cheating her.
Sarita, who had bought the laddu for Rs.5.10 lakh last year, claimed that it was given to another man though she had offered a price of Rs.5.50 lakh.
Unprecedented security arrangements have been made for the annual procession, which is attended by over a million people. About 35,000 policemen and personnel of the paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed.
Hyderabad Police Commissioner A.K. Khan hoped that the procession would pass off peacefully with the cooperation of all sections of people. He said tight vigil was being maintained at the places of worship to prevent any untoward incident.
He said the army was being asked to standby to meet any eventuality. "If necessary we will also use the anti-terrorist force Octopus," he said. With the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court set to deliver the verdict in the Ayodhya title suit on Sep 24, police have made additional security arrangements.
Security was also on high alert at the historic Mecca Masjid in the old city, where communal clashes broke out in the past.
The Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samiti has set up welcome stages at the Charminar and Moazzamjahi Market to welcome the idols.
Labour Minister Mukesh Goud and other political leaders offered prayers to Ganesh idol at Khairatabad. The tallest idol in the state attracts large number of devotees. This year it is a 50-ft, five-headed idol with 500-kg laddu in its palm.