Fissures emerged wide open among Vizianagaram royal family members in Andhra Pradesh as Urmila Gajapati Raju and her mother Sudha Gajapati Raju accused Maharaja Alak Narayana Society of Arts and Science (Mansas) chairperson Sanchaita Gajapati Raju of humiliating them at the annual Sirimanotsavam.
However, a Mansas official rejected the mother-daughter duo’s claim and said that a disinformation campaign is being spread by certain people regarding the Sirimanothsavam festival held at the Vizianagaram Fort on Tuesday.
He said that it is customary to allot the first row seats to Mansas chairperson and her guests to witness the festival.
“However some extended family members walked in without prior intimation with an entourage of male chaperones and occupied the front two rows,” he said.
Despite the alleged gatecrashing, the official said Sanchaita allowed the extended family members, Urmila and Sudha to sit even as she was flanked by the executive officer and the correspondent of Mansas.
“Urmila and her mother who were sitting next to the EO, watched the event for over 45 minutes and then left the venue but later informed the press that they were not given any seats and therefore left the festival mid-way,” he said.
According to the official, Urmila and Sudha claimed that they belong to the royal family and need to be revered like queens and princesses.
“I have been categorically told by Sanchaita that all ceremonies belong to the people of Vizianagaram and feudal mindsets have no place in the 21st century modern progressive democratic India, which is mandated by the principle of a government by the people, of the people and for the people,” he said.
Though all respect was accorded to the mother and daughter, remarking that they were humiliated just because they sat beside the correspondent of Mansas is uncalled for, he said.
“The petulant behaviour of the young lady and her mother only underscores their arrogance, lack of empathy and insensitivity towards the common working class,” he added.
Meanwhile, Urmila said it is tradition for the founder family members to watch the Sirimanothsavam together from Vizianagaram fort every year, despite differences.
Inspite of being hesitant to attend the festival this year, she said they did not want to break the tradition.
On reaching the venue, Urmila said no other family member was present and the festival no longer looked like a Vizianagaram family event which once it was.
She also said that people who worked for several years for her father were forced to ask them to leave because of one person’s pressure.
Urmila said she has been attending the festival for the past 20 years and questioned if it was not her right to attend as a founding family member?
Sudha was the second wife of Ananda Gajapati Raju.
Sirimanotsavam is a festival in honour of Goddess Pydithallamma of Vizianagram town. In a ritual that is watched by the royal family and public, the temple priest hangs from the tip of a long, wooden beam high above the ground.