Three-day festival will start with special prayer at 7 a.m.; COVID protocols to be strictly followed
The three-day Gunadala Matha Utsavams will be celebrated with religious fervour from February 9 to 11, at the Gunadala shrine.
Lakhs of devotees are expected to attend the festival and have darshan of Mary Matha, said Vijayawada Bishop Telagathoti Joseph Raja Rao.
The temple management has made elaborate arrangements for the festival keeping in view the threat posed by the pandemic. Devotees are requested to visit the shrine and have darshan of the Goddess only after ensuring that they abide by the COVID-19 protocols, said Gunadala Matha temple Rector Fr. Eleti William Jayaraju.
Briefing on the arrangements for the festival at a joint press conference held here on Sunday, Mr. Raja Rao said the temple premises on Gunadala Hill and the surroundings were sanitised for the utsavams. Visitors can offer prayers and seek the blessings of Mary Matha, he said.
Mr. Jayaraju said lakhs of devotees from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and other States will have darshan of the deity and celebrate the festival on a grand scale. First aid, drinking water, toilets and other facilities have been put in place for the devotees, he said.
“In the wake of COVID-19, separate beds have been arranged at St. Ann’s Hospital for those suffering from fever and other symptoms. Medical camps have been set up on the temple premises and a team of doctors and paramedical staff will screen the devotees,” the Rector said.
Mansignore Muvvala Prasad said that religious heads and Peetadipathis of various churches will attend the festivities and perform special rituals during the three-day festival.
“South Central Railway (SCR) and APSRTC are likely to provide transportation for those attending the festival,” said Mr. Prasad, who is also in charge of the publicity cell.
The utsavams will begin with ‘Divya Balipuja’ at 7 a.m. on the first day (Tuesday), followed by ‘Pavitra Nutnikarana Prardhanalu’, Gunadala Matha Teru procession and spiritual programmes, Fr. Jayaraju said.
The Bishop appealed to the pilgrims to wear masks and gloves and carry sanitisers to prevent the spread of the virus during the utsavams. Officials of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC), Medical and Health, Police, Revenue and other departments are making arrangements for the festival, Mr. Raja Rao said.
Vicar General M. Gabriel, Social Services Centre director Fr. Pasala Thomas, and Education director Fr. Kolakani Mariyanna participated in the meeting.