Tirupati: In a shocking and first such incident, a head priest of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has confessed to stealing ornaments from the temple to marry his daughters.
The accused, identified as Kattu Venkata Ramana Dikshitulu, is the head priest of Lord Sri Kodanda Ramaswamy temple in Tirupati. The incident came to light after the priest was questioned by TTD officials when they found ornaments worth nearly Rs 10 lakh missing during the stock-taking of the temple jewellery.
“I know I have committed a crime. I have three daughters and poverty forced me to do this,” the priest said.
According to the police, he stole the ornaments two years ago and mortgaged it to a moneylender and borrowed money from him. “The priest has confessed to the theft. He claims he would have got the necklace back in a few months by repaying the debt,” an official said.
Taking serious view of the incident, the TTD suspended the priest and booked a case against him. It also a vigilance officer and two guards at the temple apart from one Shah Akella, the custodian of the God’s jewels during the time.
The Venkateshwara shrine owns about 12 tonnes of gold and diamond jewellery, worth Rs 52,000 crore, some dating back to the 12th century.