TIRUPATI:Advanced technology may have helped ardent devotees of Lord Venkateswara in working out the logistics for their long trips to Tirumala by foot, but it has apparently not helped the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to provide them quick and hassle-free ‘darshan’ of the Lord at the hill-top shrine.
Gone are the days when pilgrims footing it to Tirumala from far-off places used to plod along carrying their belongings, including utensils and groceries for cooking food en route, on their shoulders or engage donkeys or bullock carts for the purpose.
Nowadays, while the pilgrims still walk the distance, they engage vans or trucks or vans to carry their heavy belongings.
Purushotham Ramanuja Das (42), an accountant from Vadamalpettai in Tamil Nadu, is once such ardent devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He has been trekking to Tirumala — nearly 100 km from his place of stay — with his 800-member group of devotees every year for the past 25 years.
“We plan the journey three months in advance because of the large number of members. First, we moot the idea among the members who belong to Adamalpettai and nearby villages. Donations start pouring in, both in cash and in kind like rice and dal.
Logistics, including transportation are then worked out and they include engagement of trucks or vans and bikes to carry all the luggage and also to transport those who are unable to walk due to any reason,” said Das.
During the arduous journey, which is undertaken only between April and May (Phalgunamu/Chaitramu), and September and October (Aswiyujamu), the pilgrims halt at various rest centres on the way. “It may be a marriage hall, which we book in advance, or a temple or a TTD choultry. It costs us around `50,000 to accommodate all the team members with food and shelter for a day,” said Das.
As all the members of the group do not walk at the same pace, some of them reach a particular place of halt earlier than the others. But sometimes, the members of the advance party may not know where exactly they are. At such times, the nearly 50 tech-savvy youngsters in the group use WhatsApp and share photos of the place of their halt and nearby landmarks with the following group to enable them to catch up with the former.
“Sometimes, we do not know the place where we are walking or resting. At such times, the tech-savvy youngsters in the group take pictures of some landmarks and share them with the others following behind to make it easy for them to locate us,” said Dilli Babu, a techie from Chennai, who is one of the regular members of the team every year.
But in spite of the technological advancements which they make use of, the ‘foot pilgrims’ feel that nothing much has changed when it comes to the facilities provided by the TTD to them, especially for the ‘darshan’ of the Lord.
“Nowadays, we do not have special privileges which existed in past in the form of ‘Divya Darshan’. We have to wait for long hours in the queue after a tedious journey,” said Kannadasan, who belongs to another group which has been walking down from a village in Villupuram district, around 275 km from Tirupati, for the past 13 years.
‘Divya Darshan’ was a facility provided by the TTD to ‘trekking pilgrims’ to minimise the time taken for the ‘darshan’. However, it was revoked by the authorities for some reason.
Kannadasan said that another concern for the ‘foot pilgrims’ coming to Tirumala from far-off places was the absence of lights on the roads, including the highways, making trekking after dark a scary proposition.