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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fact Check: Has TTD stopped issuing free darshan tickets?

As per a video doing the rounds of social media, free darshan tickets have been stopped by the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD). HinduPost gets into the depth of the matter to understand the entire issue and find out the real picture.

Free darshan tickets issue

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A screengrab of the video showing scuffle between police and devotees

In the 27-second video uploaded by YouTube channel Beautiful Tirupati, one can see a scuffle between devotees and Andhra police personnel. The scuffle took place at the Tirupati bus stand close to the Srinivasam center.

Available information suggests that the video is an old one and the scuffle had taken place after pilgrims carrying tickets were turned away after they arrived at the center. In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that the free darshan tickets had been stopped by TTD in April this year citing the second Covid-19 wave although paid darshan services continued.

Earlier this month, the TTD decided to resume free darshan services, and accordingly, free darshan tickets were issued by the board from 9 September. It was decided that only 2000 devotees would be allotted free darshan tickets in the beginning and only pilgrims from Chittoor district could avail tickets from Alipiri sarva darshan counters initially.

Last week, the board decided to increase the free darshan tickets to 8000 per day through the online mode instead of offline mode. TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy has been quoted as saying “From the day TTD started issuing free darshan tokens under current booking quota, an unprecedented number of devotees were queuing up to the booking counters and the overcrowding had become a cause of concern which is why we are now moving the darshan booking to the online mode”.

Since tickets have been shifted to online mode, the offline ticket counter at Srinivasam has been closed from 26 September. However, reports stated that pilgrims have been thronging the temple town despite the announcement that only those belonging to the district would be permitted darshan as of now.

Further, devotees from Tamil Nadu have been arriving at the temple in huge numbers owing to the Tamil month of ‘Puratassi’ that carries special significance for devotees of Bhagwan Vishnu.

It is mandatory for devotees to produce a two-dose vaccination certificate or a Covid-19 negative test report taken three days prior to their allotted darshan time.

Real issues plaguing Tirupati under Jagan Reddy government

One of the richest Hindu temples has, however, has been plagued with some serious challenges under the secular state in general and the Jagan Reddy government in particular. These include temple wealth being plundered by the government and Christians being appointed as members of TTD including Jagan’s uncle YV Subba Reddy believed to be a convert among others.

We shall take a look at some of the serious challenges that call for the attention of Hindu devotees:

1) TTD to contribute INR 50 crores to AP government’s ‘Common Good Fund’. Interestingly, Jagan Reddy’s government had issued the ordinance on September 5, raising TTD’s contribution to the CGF from Rs.2.5 crore to Rs.50 crore.

2) Last December, the TTD was forced to take down the crosses in the lighting arrangements after facing backlash from devotees on social media (SM). A massive controversy erupted after devotees objected to cross symbols put up on the lighting decorations at the Tirumala Mandir even as some others opined that these were not crosses but Kalash (holy pot). The fact, however, remains that the decorations when lit resembled crosses, and considering the attempts by both Christian evangelical missionaries and Jagan Reddy-led Andhra government to Christianize the holy pilgrimage of Hindus, this is certainly unacceptable.

3) In recent times, it came to light that several employees of TTD are crypto-Christians. In July 2020, it came to light that Shri A Rajasekhar Rao, Assistant Executive Officer (AEO) employed with the Sri Venkateswara (SV) group of temples and who was in charge of the Hundi counting department in the Tirupati Mandir is a Christian despite the fact that officially he declared himself Hindu.

4) Senior Government officer working for the Government controlled TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) trust was found to be in gross violation of her service rules by daily going to a Christian Lutheran Church in an official car.Ms. Snehalatha, Deputy Executive Officer in TTD’s Welfare Department, is reported to never take ‘Prasadam’ (food blessed after it is first offered to Bhagwan) but uses her official car to go to Church.

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5) A fact-finding team in 2006 had also reported such undesirable activities of non-Hindu TTD employees denigrating Hindu Dharma and indulging in Christian proselytization. Even the appointment of Jaganmohan Reddy’s uncle Subba Reddy as the Tirumala Board Chairman had created a furor with claims being made that he was a practicing Christian with a Hindu name, a charge he vehemently denied.

6) There had been attempts by the Jagan Reddy government to encash temple lands and sell off assets of Tirupati temple. The government was, however, forced to reconsider the decision after devotees protested against the move.

It is essential that Hindus remain alert to interference by the secular state in Hindu religious affairs while maintaining objectivity at the same time and verifying facts.

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