CHENNAI: It's full-blown war between archakas and administrators of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), one of the richest temple trusts in the world. The man leading the charge is Tirumala head priest AV Ramana Dikshitulu.
In a no-holds-barred press conference in Chennai on Tuesday, Dikshitulu made startling allegations of impropriety, corruption and lack of commitment among TTD administrators in upholding ethos and sanctity of the Tirumala temple. He raised suspicion of temple funds being diverted and some of the priceless ancient jewellery misappropriated.
“It’s unfortunate that we (hereditary priests), who for generations dedicated ourselves to temple service, are so helpless today. Until 1996, we were custodians of the Lord’s jewellery and maintained up-to-date records of the inventory. But, in the 22 years since Andhra government took over the reins, not once has the jewellery count been done. Of late, only the newer jewellery is given to adorn the Lord. What happened to the ancient ornaments? An open audit should be done. Digital records should be made for transparency,” he said.
He also demanded a high-level inquiry, such as a CBI probe, into how temple funds were being used. Dikshitulu claimed crores of rupees were being diverted. For instance, TDP MLC G Thippeswamy from Anantapur proposed construction of a group of temples at Gudimala village in Madakasira assembly segment and sought `10 crore in funding from the TTD, endorsed by Endowments Department. The proposal is likely to be discussed in the TTD Trust Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
The head priest slammed the administration on issues such as VIP darshans, shortening of rituals and alleged commercialisation of the temple. “The authorities have no respect for traditions or practices as laid down by agamas (vedic scriptures defining traditions and rituals in the temple). This would result in devotees losing faith and lead to catastrophic incidents,” he warned.
Representing 45-odd hereditary priests, Dikshitulu said their traditional privileges had been snatched and they were being put to a lot of hardship. He said detailed representations had been sent to the Prime Minister, President, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Andhra Governor. He asked the temple’s lakhs of devotees to agitate and protect the sanctity of the shrine. TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal, when contacted, refused to comment.