Hopping from one controversy to another, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam is facing serious allegations over irregularities in sale of tickets for paid rituals and 'missing' antique jewelry, offered to Lord Venkateshwara, the presiding deity of the famous temple.
Though the Andhra Pradesh government did take action over the allegations against TTD (the body that administers the highly-revered shrine), the sentiments of the devotees apparently remain unassuaged and opposition parties are up in arms against the temple administration.
Telugu Desam Chief N Chandrababu Naidu, Praja Rajyam President and Tirupati MLA Chiranjeevi have trekked up to Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, to highlight the hurt feelings of the worshippers from Tirupati.
Naidu and TDP leaders recently held a massive sit-in in front of the administrative building of the TTD at Tirupati, demanding that the government constitute a new board with god-fearing persons and those with a spiritual bent of mind.
The Telugu Desam chief alleged that TTD Board Chairman D K Adikesavulu Naidu is a liquor baron and an 'atheist' who had scant regard for the sentiments of the devotees.
In addition to opposition, some regional TV channels have been running a campaign for 'cleansing' the temple brass. For long, there have been allegations that PAs of some of the TTD board members took advantage of the darshan tickets available under personal quota of the members and sold them in the black market at exorbitant rates to visiting pilgrims.
The state government has ordered a probe by vigilance and enforcement department into allegations of sale of 'Arjitha Seva' (paid rituals) and the report was submitted recently.
Another controversy sparked off over allegedly missing ornaments offered to the Lord by Vijayanagara emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya about 500 years ago.
It is believed that Sri Krishnadevaraya had made large offerings during seven trips to the hill shrine in the 16th century. There were fears that the jewels of immense antique value, offered by him, were either melted or lost over years.
TTD Executive Officer I Y R Krishna Rao, however, said all the ornaments offered to the temple are intact and accounted for but there was no record or document in the ancient times about which ornament was donated by whom.
Some ornaments were melted in the 1950s for the gold-plating of the temple tower, he said. The temple administration has been maintaining a fool-proof inventory system and records of all the precious ornaments adorning the Lord, he said.
An archaeology expert would be appointed to help the board in identifying the ornaments of the Sri Krishnadevaraya period and for a complete and careful study of inscriptions, palm and copper plate documents of that time, he said.
He said the Wadhwa committee and the Justice Jagannatha Rao commission, which verified the inventory books and ornament registers, have expressed satisfaction over the fool-proof system being followed by the TTD.
The state government has also accepted the report of the Jagannatha Rao commission report. Responding to the allegations against the TTD, Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Gade Venkata Reddy said the government would take prompt action against anyone found guilty.
"We have ordered probe by vigilance over the allegations of sale of Arjitha seva tickets. Government has nothing to hide. We have put official reports for debate earlier and we will do so in future also. There is no question of sparing anyone found guilty," he told PTI.
The campaign conducted in TV channels and other media reports cannot be clarified on a daily basis, he said.
Image: The world famous Tirumala temple Photograph courtsey: Wikimedia Commons