South Indian state orders temples to pray for rain

NEW DELHI - Authorities in a south Indian state have ordered temples to perform special prayers for rain after a disappointing monsoon.

The Andhra Pradesh government said Indians had been performing rituals involving prayers and offerings to the gods "since time immemorial" and they had already proved effective in bringing rain.

"Around 100 temples have performed these rituals and the feedback from the field... is that when these rituals were performed there was rainfall," said Parakala Prabhakar, spokesman for the state's chief minister.

Indian agriculture gets 60 per cent of its precipitation from the monsoon and weak rains can spell financial disaster for its 235 million farmers.

This year's rainfall has been about 10 per cent less than normal, and the Press Trust of India news agency said at least five districts in Andhra Pradesh had suffered a 40 per cent shortfall.

The order first went out to the around 16,000 Hindu temples in the state earlier this month and was reissued on Tuesday.

The state government said it had taken the step after being approached by concerned citizens.

But not everyone thought it was a good idea. Local citizen R. Chandran tweeted that it was "appalling" for an elected government to "sponsor superstition".

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