Controversy at Tirupati temple on ticket sales

Hopping from one controversy to another, the TTD is facing serious allegations over irregularities in sale of tickets for paid rituals and `missing` antique jewellery, offered to Lord Venkateshwara.

Updated: Aug 19, 2010, 00:28 AM IST

Hyderabad: Hopping from one controversy to
another, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) is facing
serious allegations over irregularities in sale of tickets for
paid rituals and `missing` antique jewellery, 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, state
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 said.

The campaign conducted in TV channels and other media
reports cannot be clarified on a daily basis, he said.