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People flocking to Yellamma Hills in large numbers

Staff Correspondent

The annual fair began on February 18; it will end next Amasvasya day



WORSHIPPING SHAKTI: Jogavvas, Jogappas and Devadasis in a procession at the Sri Yellamma Devi or Sri Renuka Devi temple jatra on Yellamma Hills in Belgaum district.

Yellamma Hills (Belgaum District): Devotees in large numbers are arriving at the well-known Yellamma Temple, the shrine of Sri Yellamma Devi or Sri Renuka Devi, since the annual jatra (fair) began here on February 18.

Sources in the Sri Renuka Devi Devasthanam Trust told The Hindu on Friday that about seven lakh devotees have paid their obeisance to the goddess even as devotees in large numbers kept pouring in from all parts of the State. Also, thousands of devotees from neighbouring States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Goa are visiting this holy temple.

The sources said that the largest turnout was recorded on Thursday, which was Bharat Hunnime (Magha Pournima) day, the most important day of the annual festivities, when more than three lakh devotees arrived at the temple complex. But for a break of two hours after midnight, darshan was open round the clock at the temple. The number of visitors could cross 10 lakh during the fair, which ends on the next Amavasya (New Moon) day.

This year, the sources said, the trust had made elaborate arrangements for supply of drinking water to the devotees. Tourist cess was not collected from the devotees. But, parking fee was collected from all motor vehicles.

The significance of the annual fair is that Goddess Sri Renuka Devi is worshipped as an incarnation of Shakti. Thus, it attracts the highest number of devotees, including Jogavvas and Jogappas and Devadasis from at least four States in the South.

The devotees arrive in groups with idols of the goddess atop their heads and smeared with “haladi” (turmeric powder) and “kumkum” (vermilion).

Jogavvas or Jagatis and Jogappas and Devadasis, who have dedicated their lives in the service of god, perform rituals, sing traditional songs and dance to drum beats.

Unlike in the past, the practice of dedicating young girls as Devadasis is not in vogue now. Yet, volunteers from social organisations and staff of the Women and Child Welfare Department have kept vigil in and around the temple complex to ensure that no such dedications take place, the sources said.

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