'Ratha Sapthami' draws thousands of devotees

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Tirupati, Feb 19 (PTI) After a nearly 11 month gap due to COVID-19 induced restrictions, thousands of devotees from across the country on Friday took part in the sacred processions of the annual 'Ratha Sapthami' festival at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at nearby Tirumala on the occasion of 'Surya Jayanthi.' The devotees were allowed to congregate in large numbers at all open places around the complex of the shrine today after nearly 11 months due to the cornavirus induced restrictions, a temple official told PTI.

After the lockdown, the hill shrine was reopened for devotees from June 11 last, but with very limited numbers per day and slowly but steadily, the numbers were increased following requests from devotees, the official said.

The recently held 'Navaratri Brahmotsavam' was also observed without the participation of devotees, he said.

The official said the Rathasapthami festival is observed as one of the most sacred events at the over two millennia old shrine on the occasion of 'Jayanthi of Lord Surya (Sun) annually for the last several centuries.

As part of the festivity today, the centuries old 'utsav' idol of Lord Venkateswara, adorned with several gem-set ornaments, was taken out in a procession around the temple mounted on seven sacred golden 'vahanas' (carriers) at different intervals from dawn to night.

The holy spectacle began just before the crack of dawn with the idol of Lord being carried on the majestic golden 'Surya' (Sun) 'vahana', followed by the other six carriers -- 'Chinna Sesha, Garuda, Hanuman, Kalpavriksha, Sarvabhupala and Chandra' separately at different intervals. PTI COR APR ADMINISTRATOR ADMINISTRATOR