Alterations made to Athi Varadar darshan after 4 suffocate to death

Four persons died in separate incidents on Thursday after visiting the Sri Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram for a darshan of Athi Varadar.

District Collector K Ponniah refuted reports that the deaths occured as a result of a stampede. “They died at different places and during different times,” he said. Also, from today, the district administration has made changes to the darshan pattern and security has been tightened.

The four were standing in the queue since early morning on Thursday to have a glimpse of the Lord Athi Varadar, who gives darshan only once in 40 years. They fainted while standing in the queue and were taken to the government hospital where they were declared brought dead.

The deceased have been identified as Anandavel (50) from Salem, Narayani (55) from Avadi near Chennai, Gangalakshmi (60) from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and Nataraj (61) from Triplicane in Chennai.

Sources said that a huge crowd had gathered to have a glimpse of the Athi Varadar and the eagerness to have a darshan led to pushing and jostling among the devotees.

The idol of Athi Varadar is 12-foot long and it is made out of fig tree. The idol was lying in a silver casket underwater in the temple tank for the past 40 years and was taken out on June 28 in order to allow the devotees to have a glimpse at it.

Making a detailed statement in the Assembly on the facilities provided at the shrine and elsewhere in the temple town, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said the four persons who died despite medical attention at the Kancheepuram government hospital, already had various ailments such as blood pressure and diabetes. One of them had a history of seizures and suffered a bout while attempting to reach the Lord.

DMK president and Opposition leader MK Stalin alleged that the security and other arrangements, such as water and toilets, were grossly inadequate to handle the massive inflow of devotees to the temple.