The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Demigod prays, devotees flock for darshan
- Barefoot Bachchans on pilgrimage

It was too early for a premiere, but the time of the day has never been a constraint for diehard Bachchan fans.

Thousands of Amitabh Bachchan fans thronged the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi at the crack of dawn today for a darshan of their favourite deity as the superstar walked barefoot to the central Mumbai shrine.

Bachchan, accompanied by son Abhishek and wife Jaya, walked barefoot for nearly two hours from their Juhu residence to the temple.

Mumbai witnesses this unique ritual of devotees of the elephant-headed god walking barefoot in the wee hours of Tuesday to reach the temple for the first prayers. Today, the devotees were surprised to find their demigod also walking along, and they burnt the phone lines to inform their friends and relatives about it. Within minutes, Bachchan fans had lined up the roads and thronged the temple complex.

The Bachchans stepped out of their bungalow, Jalsa, in Juhu around 2 am and covered the 10-km journey without a break. They were accompanied by a posse of security men and close family friends.

Asked why they undertook the pilgrimage despite inclement weather and the possibility of being mobbed, Abhishek said: “It is personal and I would not like to comment on this.”

Was it to pray for the success of Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar, the Godfather-inspired movie in which the father-son duo stars' After Shaad Ali’s Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar is the second film where the two play stellar roles. It is also one of the most-awaited films of the year due to the grapevine that Bachchan’s character of an aging don closely resembles Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray.

Bachchan Sr. denied any resemblance yesterday at a news conference, but admitted that the Thackeray family saw and cleared the film last week.

Was the pilgrimage for a family emergency'

Bachchan’s octogenarian mother Teji Bachchan was believed to be seriously unwell last month. Bollywood insiders say Jaya missed the IIFA awards in Amsterdam to be at the bedside of her mother-in-law, and that her health was the reason why the father-son duo rushed back as soon as the awards ceremony was over.

When contacted, the CEO of the Siddhivinayak Temple Trust told The Telegraph: “I don’t know the reason behind their visit. The family has been visiting the temple regularly. Due to the crowds, it becomes difficult for them to visit the temple during regular hours.”

The Bachchan family has had a long association with the temple. In 1982, when Bachchan battled with death after an injury on the sets of Coolie, Jaya offered prayers at the temple. Several Bachchan fans also rushed to the shrine to pray for the health of their favourite star.

Among the showbiz personalities who offer prayers at the temple on Tuesdays are Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Jeetendra’s daughter Ekta Kapoor and singer Asha Bhosle.

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