Vijayawada: A moderate crowd turned out to take a holy dip in river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, where the 12-day 'Pushkaram' festival began on Friday with traditional gaiety and religious fervour, even as a 6-year-old boy and a head constable died during the festivity.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his wife Bhuvaneswari joined Kanchi seer Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswati in taking the holy dip in the river Krishna at Durga Ghat in Vijayawada.
Though everything appeared to be going smoothly, tragedy struck late in the evening when a six-year-old boy drowned in the river at Padmavati bathing ghat in the city.
"The boy accidentally drowned in the river and died," Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang told PTI.
The state government has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakhs and construction of a new house for the boy's family.
No other untoward incident was reported at the bathing ghats but a Head Constable deployed for Pushkaram bandobust duties was fatally knocked down by a car at Gudavalli village near in Vijayawada.
'Krishna Pushkaram' is a river festival that comes once in 12 years and celebrated with traditional gaiety for 12 days.
Though the government estimated that about 15 lakh pilgrims would take a holy dip in the Vijayawada city alone on day one, only a moderate crowd of over six lakh actually turned up, said an official overseeing the festival.
With three consecutive holidays from Saturday, authorities hope the numbers would swell considerably.
Mr Naidu and his wife later performed "gau puja" for the "prosperity of the state" and took the blessings of the Kanchi seer.
Having faced the blame for the stampede incident on the opening day of the Godavari Pushkaram at Rajamahendravaram last year, the Chief Minister stayed away from any fanfare this time and the Durga Ghat was closed for common people for the supposed 'inaugural' event early in the morning.
Deputy Chief Minister N China Rajappa and a host of other ministers also took a holy dip on the occasion.
Vijayawada wore a festive look as lakhs of pilgrims arrived in the city and headed for various bathing ghats to take the holy dip.
The hill shrine of Goddess Kanaka Durga, presiding deity of Vijayawada, swarmed with devotees, who offered special pujas.
Today being an auspicious Friday in the month of Sravana, women conducted 'Varalakshmi vratam', a traditional ritual, with devotion.
The replica temple of Lord Venkateswara at Swarajya Maidan also attracted scores of devotees.