For the first time in the history of the sacred hill shrine of Tirumala, vehicular traffic on the Tirupati-Tirumala ghat road was totally stopped for the major part of the day on Tuesday with the Samaikyandhra agitators not allowing any vehicle on the ghat roads. The pilgrim rush at the hill shrine dipped by 75 per cent as only those who trekked the hills could reach Tirumala. There was little or no pilgrim flow at Alipiri in the morning hours as pilgrims found it difficult to reach even Alipiri from the Tirupati railway station as private taxis and autos too joined the strike.
A few buses ran till 8 a.m but as the agitators started to reach Alipiri toll gate, the buses were stopped. Some TTD employees and Tirumala locals and press reporters were allowed to proceed to Tirumala before 8 a.m but later the agitators did not allow anybody to proceed on the ghat roads. The slogan-shouting agitators placed barricades at the Alipiri toll gate and squatted on the road.
Some pilgrims who came down from Tirumala were also stopped at Alipiri and not allowed to proceed further. Some TTD employees managed to reach Tirumala on two-wheelers by riding uphills on the ‘down’ ghat road. Vehicles were stranded for several kilometres on the ghat road. It was only in the afternoon that the police managed to convince the agitators to allow the vehicles coming down to proceed to the town.
The TTD made elaborate arrangements to supply food and water to the stranded pilgrims at Tirumala as well as Tirupati. Due to lesser number of pilgrims, the TTD allowed them to have ‘laghu darshan’ (darshan from a short distance) till 2 p.m.
“Devotees reached in good numbers by foot to Tirumala and 26 compartments were filled up in the Vaikuntam Queue complex for darshan of the Lord. Because of this, we resumed the ‘maha laghu darshan’ (‘darshan’ from a long distance) after 2 p.m,” TTD JEO KS Srinivasa Raju told Express and added that up to 4 pm for general darshan also 10 compartments were filled up.
With the drop in the number of pilgrims earlier in the day, the Srivari ‘sevaks’ were also not engaged to regulate the queues inside the temple and regular TTD employees did the job, he explained.