TIRUMALA: The presiding deity at the famed Tirumala shrine, Lord Venkateswara, is finally getting a full one-and-a-half hour sleep.
The TTD administration has decided to make it a practice by closing the temple at 1.30 am and opening at 3 am sharp.
In the last few years, with the pilgrim rush increasing by leaps and bounds, the temple administration has been keeping the temple open on the grounds that it cannot keep the pilgrims waiting in queue lines throughout the night. The temple used to be closed hardly for some minutes and opened immediately for the next day’s sevas. “Sometimes, when the pilgrim rush is at its peak, the temple is kept open till 2.44 am or even 2.55 am and again opened at 3 am. Now, we have stopped the practice and are adhering to strict timings,” a TTD officer said.
The administration is able to implement the opening and closing times by following new methods, including prior counting of pilgrim numbers and analysing the time they have in hand and releasing tickets like Rs 300 Sheeghra darshan, Rs 50 tickets and Divya darshan. “This is being done to ensure that no pilgrim is in a queue line after a particular time so that the temple is closed in time,” an official said.
Vaikuntam queue complex staff are carefully calculating the timings and rush and accordingly sending pilgrims into the complexes till 12.30 a.m and close the queue complex. “It takes one hour to finish the darshan for pilgrims who are in the queue lines before 12.30 am and the temple is closing strictly at 1.30 am,” the TTD officer said.
At 2.30 am, archakas are brought to the temple to prepare the Lord for the 3 am Suprabhatha seva. “The temple opens at 3 am sharp,” Sannidhi Golla, who closes and opens the temple, told the Express.
It may be recalled TTD drew sharp criticism from various quarters and pontiffs of various mutts for keeping the temple open till late into the night without a break.
Tridandi Srimannarayana Chinna Jeeyar Swamy and others launched a broadside against the administration and even threatened to launch agitations if the temple is not closed to give the Lord the much-needed rest. Chinna Jeeyar had even given a call to his disciples and Lord Venkateswara devotees to lit lakhs of lamps on the entire Tirumala shrine to protest the inaction of the TTD.
Several religious leaders too had criticised the TTD for keeping the temple open throughout the day and not bothering about the rich traditions the temple is known for.