Tirumala teems with pilgrims on Christmas day

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December 26, 2013

TIRUMALA: On Christmas Day, thousands jostled for space in serpentine queues more than a kilometre long for darshan of Lord Venkateswara even as authorities on the seven hills barred the aged from offering prayers and cancelled normal sevas to deal with the biggest turnout on a single day in recent years.

December 26, 2013

TIRUMALA: On Christmas Day, thousands jostled for space in serpentine queues more than a kilometre long for darshan of Lord Venkateswara even as authorities on the seven hills barred the aged from offering prayers and cancelled normal sevas to deal with the biggest turnout on a single day in recent years.

Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam

The temple town witnessed an unprecedented 86,000 turnout and officials, going by the trend, said the figure would easily surpass one lakh on December 31 and January 1. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) officials said thousands of people from across the country probably planned their trip to coincide with Christmas holidays and landed at Tirumala to pray.

"It is taking more than 18 hours for sarvadarshan, eight hours for special darshan and 10 hours for devotees who are on foot," a senior TTD official said. Thousands of devotees were waiting from early morning in 27 compartments of the temple and witnesses said the Tirumala ghat road was chock-a-block with an unending flow of vehicles for the past few days.

Struggling to cope with the huge rush, TTD officials have undertaken several measures to cut down the flow of devotees, which has infuriated hapless pilgrims. TTD joint executive officer (JEO) K Srinivasa Raju has asked all VIPs to come for darshan in traditional dress, which means women above 16 years of age have to wear a sari and men have to don the traditional white shirt and white 'panche kattu'.

Devotees queue up to get into Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD)

Adding to the woes, hundreds, including many holding small babies, protested against the TTD's decision to bar aged people and those with infants from having darshan. "If authorities cannot manage the rush, what is the use of making specific provisions for aged people and parents like us," Vanga Purnima, mother of a one-year-old child from Kakinada, said. TTD authorities came in for sharp criticism after they announced that they would issue 5,000 VIP passes for New Year and cancel the Rs 300 darshan tickets.

"All the regular sevas are cancelled to manage the rush. Then why is there special treatment for VIPs? This kind of VIP darshan is not there anywhere in India," said Saptagiri Prasad, a temple protection activist.

TTD authorities also faced a tough time in providing accommodation for devotees. "I arrived here with my wife and son on Monday itself for the darshan on Wednesday. All the private hotel rooms are booked in Tirupati, but since we had accommodation in Tirumala only from Tuesday evening, we had to stay at a friend's place till Tuesday evening," K Vishveswar Rao, a state government employee from Rajahmundry said.

TTD said it can manage up to 60,000 devotees, but anything more than this was a Herculean task. Some local youth said the fact that many devotees have poured into Tirumala ahead of New Year could be the reason for the Wednesday's huge rush.


Courtesy: TOI