Hyderabad/Vijayawada: Krishna Pushkaralu, the once in 12 years river festival of Krishna, began in two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Friday with fanfare and religious fervour.
Thousands took holy dip in the Krishna in the two states and offered prayers in temples located along the banks of the river.
`Pushkar ghats,` constructed by the authorities along the river course, were teeming with thousands of devotees since the early hours of the day.
Both the states have made elaborate arrangements and provided amenities to the devotees for the 12-day long festival. More than six crore people are expected to take dip in the river in the two states.
The governments in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are organising cultural shows and religious events at different places near the ghats.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, his wife Shoba Rao, Endowments Minister Indrakaran Reddy and other public representatives took the holy dip at Gondimalla ghat in Alampur mandal of Mahabubnagar district.
Authorities in Telangana have built 90 bathing ghats for the convenience of devotees in Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda districts.
Over 13,000 policemen have been deployed in the two districts and as part of the elaborate security arrangements 555 CCTV cameras have been installed around bathing ghats.
The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) is plying 1,365 special buses from various parts of the state to the bathing ghats for transporting pilgrims.
The South Central Railway is operating 655 special trains for the convenience of the devotees in the two states.
The state government has made elaborate arrangements for the river festival at a cost of Rs 852 crore. A 12-day holiday has been declared for schools and colleges in the two districts of Telangana as the staff has been assigned for Pushkaram duties.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his cabinet colleagues took a holy bath at Durga Ghat in Vijayawada. Naidu along with his wife Bhuvaneshwari performed puja.
Authorities have made elaborate arrangements for smooth conduct of the festival in Kurnool, Krishna and Guntur districts by building 178 bathing ghats.
The festivities began on Thursday night with `Nava Harathi` at Pavitra Sangamam, the confluence of Godavari and Krishna rivers, in Krishna district.
Priests performed the rituals at 9.28 p.m., which was presumed to be the time of entry of Pushkar into Krishna river. However, as no holy dip can be taken after sunset as per `shastras`, the devotees started taking the dip on Friday.
In Andhra Pradesh, about 30,000 policemen have been deployed as part of the massive security arrangements for the festival.
The authorities are taking extra security measures to prevent any untoward incident. A stampede at a ghat in Rajahmundry during Godavari Pushkaralu last year had claimed 29 lives.