Dozens of people were injured in the violence during traditional fight with sticks during Dasara celebrations in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district.
Hundreds of villagers of divided in two rival groups attacked each other with sticks during Banni festival at Devaragattu village in Holagonda mandal late Friday night.
Police said more than 40 people were injured in the clashes but unconfirmed reports have put the number at 100.
The injured were admitted to hospitals at Adoni and Alur. The condition of four of them is stated to be critical.
A police officer said the violence broke out during the traditional fight on a hillock at Mala Malleshwaraswamy temple. Though large number of policemen were deployed to prevent the fight, villagers defied the orders to organise the fight.
As part of the annual celebrations, people from different villages divide in two groups to fight with sticks to secure the idols of the deity.
Villagers from Neraniki, Neraniki Tanda and Kottapeta villages fight with devotees of Arikera, Arikera Tanda, Suluvai, Ellarthi, Kurukunda, Bilehall and Virupapuram.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva took the form of Bhairava and clobbered two demons, Mani and Mallasura, with sticks. The villagers enact the scene on Vijayadashami day. Group of villagers from demons’ side try to snatch the idols from the other group, called God’s team. They fight with sticks for the idols.
Thousands of people from various parts of Kurnool and surrounding districts and even neighbouring Telangana and Karnataka gather at the village to watch the traditional ritual, a part of Dasara celebrations.
The fight results in injuries to several people every year but devotees consider these injuries as a good omen. Authorities conduct awareness programmes every year to dissuade villagers and even impose prohibitory orders but they defy the orders on the ground that the fight is part of their tradition.