The century-old wooden chariot of the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Antarvedi in East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, was destroyed in a fire on Sunday.
According to the reports, some miscreants had set fire to the holy chariot on Sunday that was parked outside the temple premises. The temple is located near the confluence point of Vasista Godavari, a branch of river Godavari, with the Bay of Bengal.
62-yr-old #chariot of #Antarvedi #temple in #EastGodavari dist of #AndhraPradesh, caught #fire in the midnight of #Saturday. Reason yet to be known.@NewIndianXpress #devotion #mishap #fireaccident pic.twitter.com/tiquYrRfuo— TNIE Andhra Pradesh (@xpressandhra) September 6, 2020
The chariot, which was kept under a shed was gutted completely after miscreants had reportedly set fire to it. The chariot made of teak wood used to carry the main deity during the annual Kalyanotsav celebrated in April.
“At least two persons, believed to be involved in the destruction of the chariot by setting fire to it, have been taken into custody for the investigation by the police,” Assistant Commissioner K Prasad said.
Widespread protests by Hindu groups
The fire has now sparked widespread condemnations across the state as opposition parties and Hindu organisations have staged a protest agaibst the YSR Congress-led government.
Following the incident, the leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Jana Sena Party have demanded the suspension of the temple executive officer and called for strict action against the culprits. The Hindu activists have also alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the burning of the temple chariot.
The protestors also gheraoed and raised slogans against Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas and others senior ministers P Viswaroop and Chelluboina Venugopala Krishna, who had visited the spot to carry out an inspection to the incident.
Several religious personalities such as Kamalananda Bharati, Dr CS Rangarajan of Chilkur Balaji temple in Hyderabad have condemned the incident.
The Hindu seers and the activists accused the government of providing lame excuses whenever a Hindu worship place was attacked.
Dr Rangarajan said that last time, when the chariot was similarly targetted in Nellore district, the police had said that some mentally unstable persons were responsible it and now they are saying short-circuit as the reason. There is an organised attempt to attack Hindu temples in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, he added.
Andhra Pradesh government orders CBI, to rebuild the chariot gutted in the fire
Following the widespread protest, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has decided to hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
According to a statement released by the government, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Reddy has taken the issue seriously and has instructed the DGP to hand over the case to the CBI.
Meanwhile, the state government has placed the temple executive officer under suspension over the incident and also constituted an inquiry committee headed by the Endowments Additional Commissioner.
The Endowment department has also decided to build a new chariot spending Rs 84 lakh. The chariot was also insured by the department for that amount. The Minister also added that the new wooden chariot will be built on a war-footing for the annual Kalyanotsavam.