VIJAYAWADA: Around 100 persons were injured, out of which 20 are said to be critical, during this year’s Banni festival at Devaragattu Hills near Neradiki village in Holagunda mandal in Kurnool district on Tuesday.
According to police, around three lakh people thronged to the hill where 4,000 revellers clashed with each other as part of the festival using sticks, resulting in a stampede. Addressing the media, Kurnool district SP Fakeerappa Kaginelli said that most of the injured were rushed to Adoni government hospital while the rest were shifted to Alur hospital.
The critically injured are receiving treatment at Adoni while many who went to Alur hospital were later discharged after receiving first aid. Cops said that around 1,000 police personnel have been deployed and several CCTV cameras have been installed to ensure that the festival is conducted without any major incident. Police sources have acknowledged they were expecting at least one or two deaths, a norm at almost every Banni festival over the last few years. No deaths were reported this year.
Each year, thousands attend the festival from neighbouring Bellary district in Karnataka on the eve of Dasara. The festival is a part of Dasara celebrations held in honour of the Mala Malleswara Swamy temple in the village and involves stick fights between participants trying to take possession of two deities. It is believed that clashes between the two sides will bring prosperity to the vilage if either deity is brought over to their side.
Local folklore relates the story of two demons—Mallasura and Mani—who lived in the hillocks near the village and caused trouble for some saints. The saints prayed to Lord Parameswara and Parvati, following which Parameswara is said to have appeared on a stone atop the hillock and eliminated the demons on the night of Dasara.