Apart from the world-famous Tirumala temple situated here, Chittoor district houses the holy town of Srikalahasthi, also known as Dakshina Kashi, which is around 35 km from the temple town.
Kalahasthi is popular for its ‘Rahu-Ketu’ puja, which draws not just Indians, but also NRIs and foreigners from all over the world, especially Russia.
It may not be unsurprising, therefore, that the revenue earned through the puja exceeds the donations gained through the hundi by almost five times. While collection through hundi stood at Rs 7.25 crore during 2011-12, the revenue generated through ‘Rahu-Ketu’ pujas stood at Rs 30.23 crore for the same period.
Though there are many Shaivite temples situated across the country, Srikalahasti is the most popular for performing the ‘Rahu-Ketu’ puja as devotees trust all obstacles in their lives to disappear and be blessed with a life of health and wealth if they perform the puja at the temple, which is located on the banks of Swarnamukhi.
“We were advised by our elders to have the ‘Rahu-Ketu’ puja performed here, where the Navagrahas (nine planets) are ruled by Lord Shiva. Every year we perform the ritual, especially before starting a new work, so as to avoid unfavourable circumstances,” Rukmini, a housewife in Tirupati said.
Even famous celebrities from films, sports and politics perform the Dosha Nivarana puja.
The ritual, which lasts for about 40 minutes, is usually carried out during rahukalam (the inauspicious time), as devotees consider it more favourable to perform the puja during that period, especially on Sundays and Mondays.
People from Tamil Nadu find performing the puja on Amavasya (new moon day) more auspicious.
Speaking to Express, Srikalahasti temple executive officer A Sriramachandra Murty explained that the temple offers the puja in four classes - Rs 300, Rs 750, Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500.
“While the Rs 300 and Rs 750 ticked holders perform the puja outside the temple, the Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500 pujas are done within the temple. In a month, around 55,000 such pujas are performed,” he said.