THE FIVE-DAY pranpratishtha mahotsav or the inauguration festival of a goddess Khodiyar shrine, built by Leuva Patel community in Kagvad village of Rajkot, began Tuesday as community members took out processions of idols of deities from various districts of Saurashtra. The processions coincided with Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel’s return to the state and his reception, but the organisers of both events claimed the two had no on impact each other.
The main procession of idol of goddess Khodiyar, the patron deity of the Leuva Patel community, began at 6 am from Race Course ground in Rajkot city. Former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, former Gujarat Congress chief Siddharth Patel, Gujarat Municipal Finance Board chairman and BJP leader Dhansukh Bhanderi and Congress MLA Raghavji Patel — all belonging to the Patidar community— were present when the procession was flagged off.
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Naresh Patel, president of Shree Khodaldham Trust (SKT), an organisation of Leuva Patels that has built the temple, also joined the procession. Local Patidar leaders of BJP and Congress also joined the long procession in their cars.
Hundreds of Patidars welcomed and cheered the procession on Nana Mava Road and 150 Feet Road in the city as chariots carrying idols of goddess Khodiyar and Hanuman passed by. The procession included more than 40 tableaux.
While some tableaux depicted rural life of the Patidar, a few were based on themes of saving the girl child and other social issues, besides those of gods and goddesses and Sardar Vallbhabhai Patel.
Thousands of bikers also joined the procession as mobile DJs gave them company. The enthusiasm among the youth was evident as many climbed roofs of cars and also dangled precariously from car doors to witness the event.
They also shouted “Jai Sardar,” a slogan which has become associated chiefly with the Patidar quota stir. There were also chants of “Jai Khodiyar”, invoking the goddess.
Some stretches of 150 Feet Ring Road as well as around 50 km section of National Highway 27 from Rajkot city to Kagvad village were declared one-way to manage vehicular traffic. Around 7,000 motorbikes, 3,000 cars and scores of luxury buses, trucks and tractor trailers were part of the procession, which, the organisers claimed was around 40 km long.
After around six hours, the procession culminated at Khodaldham, the temple complex developed by Shree Khodaldham Trust. The temple has been built at a cost of around Rs 60 crore, said SKT office-bearers.
Similar processions were taken out simultaneously from Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Jamnagar, Surendrana-gar and Vadodara districts. They too converged at Khodaldham, where the opening ceremony was held in the afternoon.
On Wednesday and Thursday, 21 couples will take part in havan and on Friday, they will be joined by 1,008 others as part of the pranpratishta mahotsav. The idols will be installed at their designated places inside the temple on Friday and the complex will be thrown open to devotees on Saturday morning with the hoisting of a religious flag and performance of the maiden maha aarti.
The foundation of the temple was laid in 2012 when the Gujarat Assembly elections were held, and now the complex is being inaugurated in another election year. The organisers have been claiming that mobilisation of the Leuva Patel community for the temple inauguration is apolitical.
The series of ceremonies for temple inauguration began on the same day Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti convener Hardik Patel returned to Gujarat after spending six months outside the state as directed by the Gujarat High Court while granting him bail in the sedition cases.
Lalit Vasoya, Saurashtra convener for PAAS, said the Khodaldham inauguration did not impact their plans for grand welcome of Hardik. “The pranpratishtha mahotsav is a five-day event whereas Hardik’s reception was an affair of a few hours. We had enough people from Saurashtra who accompanied us to Himmatnagar to welcome Hardik. People in 28 luxury buses, 14 mini buses and 380 cars went to Himmatnagar from Saurashtra. But from Wednesday onward, a PAAS team will start volunteering at Khodaldham,” said Vasoya.
SKT secretary Hansraj Gajera also claimed that the Hardik event had no bearing on the pranpratishtha mahotsav. “So, far we have not received any report of Hardik’s return affecting our events. Ours is not a government programme, but a religious and social event. Not only the procession from Rajkot, but others from other districts were a huge success. At least five lakh people visited Khodaldham and had prasad,” he said.