Nearly 50 people were reported injured during Banni festival celebrations in Andhra Pradesh on the eve of Dussehra. Locals from 11 nearby villages had gathered to celebrate the festival, which was being watched over by drones. Over 1,000 police personnel were deployed and CCTV cameras monitored the entire event. A makeshift facility to treat the injured at the spot was also set up, while ambulances were on standby to shift the seriously injured to the closest hospital for better treatment.
Each year, Banni festival is celebrated in the honour of the Mala Malleswara Swamy temple in Kurnool district of the state. The festival involves a mock stick-fight where participants try and take possession of two deities, believing that it would bring prosperity to their village if they managed to win any of the idols.
Despite counselling from authorities and advise against conducting the stick fight, locals remain insistent each year and report several injuries and in some cases, even death.
The story behind Banni festival
Banni festival is majorly celebrated in Devaragattu village of Andhra Pradesh, on the eve of Dussehra. Thousands of villagers descend each year, carrying flaming torches and long sticks. At times, people from nearby villages in Andhra Pradesh and Bellary district in Karnataka also participate in the event.
The Mala Malleswara Swamy temple is owned and managed by the residents of Neraniki village who protect these deities.
The locals tell a story of two demons, Mani and Mallasura, who lived in the nearby hillocks and tortured saints. The saints, in turn, prayed to Lord Parameswara and Parvati to rescue them. The Lord is then said to have appeared on a stone atop the hillock and eliminated the demons on the night of Dussehra.
Since then, the villagers offer prayers to Sri Mala Malleswara Swamy and Parvati Devi and carry the idols down the hillock.