A massive fire broke out at the venue of five-day yagna organized by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao in Medak district today. The fire broke out in the main pandal around 1:30 pm, shortly before President Pranab Mukherjee was expected to arrive to attend the yagna. The blaze triggered panic and damaged the panda's thatched roof.
Four fire engines were rushed to the spot immediately. The fire was doused in nearly 25 minutes but no one was injured. All those attending the ceremony were immediately evacuated. The President has reportedly "cancelled" his visit following the incident, a senior police officer was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Several VVIPs including the chief minister, his ministers and state governor ESL Narasimhan were present at the venue when the fire broke out.
"All is well at ayutha Chandi yagam location. People are safe. Thousands spread around near the location have been diverted to safety (sic)," tweeted KCR's daughter Kavitha Kalvakuntla, a lawmaker from Nizamabad. She added that the ceremony resumed soon after the fire was brought under control.
Today is the concluding day of the Ayutha Maha Chandi Yagnam, meant to be a thanksgiving for the birth of Telangana and a prayer for its prosperity. It was being held at a farmhouse owned by Mr Rao, who is called KCR, in Erravelli village of Medak district, about 80 kilometres from capital Hyderabad. The five-day ceremony is expected to cost nearly Rs. 7 crore. The chief minister has clarified that he will foot the bill for the mega event, though he has roped in some private sponsors.
About 1,500 priests took part in the yagna. The VVIP guest list included a few Governors and several political leaders including the chief minister of neighbouring state Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, who attended the ceremony this morning. About 150 cooks prepared meals for more than 50,000 people over the five days of the ceremony.