In a first, the temple of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala will remain closed for six consecutive days from August 11 to 16 for comprehensive cleaning, the temple's officials said on Saturday.
As such, pilgrims will not be allowed into the temple complex to view the deity and won't even be allowed to climb the hill on which the temple is located.
A decision to this effect was taken at an emergency meeting of the trust board of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the temple.
Named "Ashta Bandhana Balalaya Maha Samprokshanam," the unique religious ceremony of cleansing of the entire temple complex including the sanctum sanctorum, takes place once in 12 years.
"This is for the first time in the history of the TTD that the temple will be shut for pilgrims for six days for taking up the temple cleansing. On the previous occasion, when a similar ceremony was held 12 years ago, the temple remained open for restricted hours because there was not so much rush those days. Now, the average daily footfall has crossed one lakh," a member of the trust board said.
"Secondly, there will be a rush during second Saturday, Sunday and Independence Day. It is impossible to impose restricted darshan during this period. Hence, we decided to close down for the entire week," he said.
Pilgrims would be barred from coming up the hills from August 9 itself.
"It will take one full-day to clear the rush in the queue complexes. So by August 10 night, the entire Tirumala will be cleared of the pilgrims."
TTD chairman Putta Sudhakar Yadav said after the meeting that the closure decision was taken to avoid inconveniencing the pilgrims. "As Vedic rituals have to be performed inside the temple, it is not possible to allow pilgrims at that time for a brief period."
He pointed out that during the second week of August 2017, over 5.5 lakhs pilgrims visited the hill temple. "Since we cannot control the rush, we have decided to dispense with darshan to avoid hardship to devotees."
He said that darshan would resume only after 6am from August 17. "We therefore request the pilgrim devotees of Lord Venkateswara present across the globe to plan their pilgrimage accordingly."
Meanwhile, two NRI industrialists Ika Ravi and Guthikonda Srinivas, both from the USA, donated Rs 13.5 crore to TTD on Saturday.