Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams(TTD)
Managed by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the the Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is considered as the world's richest temple with approximately Rs3 crore daily donations and Rs1,100 crore annual donations in the form of cash, jewellery, gold, silver, property deeds and demat share transfers. [Representational Image]Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams(TTD)/ Facebook

The South Indian temple at Tirumala in Tirupati has run into controversy with the head priest of the temple alleging violation of 2000-year-old rules and traditions by the officials of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD). 

The temple's head priest A.V. Ramana Dikshitulu on Tuesday told reporters in Chennai that the temple was subjected to a 25-day run on its treasures by the authorities when the kitchen was closed. Most of the items and valuables are missing since then and no records are properly maintained since 1996, he said.

In a statement issued at Chennai, Ramana Dikshitulu and three other hereditary archakas or priests have summed up their contention on the issue in a straight-forward attack on the temple administration TTD.

Legend goes that 2000 years ago, a Vaishnava and a Yadava were asked by Maha Vishnu in their dreams to take out the Mula Vigraha (main idol) hidden in the anthill under a tamarind tree near the Swami Pushkarini in Tirumala and install it at its present location for worship. Accordingly, Gopinatha, the archaka of Bharadwaja gotra, of Vaikanasa order went along with the Yadava and recovered the idol and installed it at the designated place.

Since then his descendants have been performing the aradhana at the temple, divided into four different families. They are assisted by the descendants of the Yadava family who escort the archakas in the morning for the Suprabata Seva, open the golden door, and after Ekanta Seva, they lock the golden door and escort the archakas to their homes.

Now the tradition of hereditary rights of the four families of Vaikanasa priests who perform aradhana daily to Lord Venkateswara has been unilaterally cancelled, ignoring the Vaikanasa Agama ordained by Lord himself 2,000 years ago, said Dikshitulu.

Hereditary Right

Explaining the reason behind hereditary right, Dikshitulu has explained the modus operandi they follow before the birth of the archak in the family -- "When the mother (mother of the priest) is pregnant, in the eighth month of the pregnancy the ritual of Vishnu bali, of initiating the to-be-born happens. The baby inside the womb receives the Narayana mantra, and the baby is born a priest. That is how the Vaikana priest born to Vaikanasa parents alone perform aradhana at Tirumala, as ordained by the God."

Hence, a baby born of the Vaikanasa clan, belonging to the particular order of rishis, following the Shukla Yajurveda shaka should only perform the rituals as per the order of Lord Venkateswara, said Dikshitulu invoking the 2,000-year-old tradition.

Besides daily aradhana, archakas are also responsible for the maintenance of the sanctity of the temple, not missing out the daily aradhana, utsavas, the schedule and naivedyam. Above all, they protect the jewellery of the Lord, main records of it, endowments by kings, rulers, visitors for centuries, until 1996 when the government took over their control. "Now most of the jewellery is missing or never seen," he alleged. "Only new jewellery is being adorned," he added.

Since TTD never comes under RTI, they never share information with the public, he noted. On administrative matters too, the TTD or the government-appointed bureaucrats have diluted the sanctity of the temple over the period, he said. Alleging arrogance on the part of officials, he said the  Tomala Seva time has been drastically reduced to 5 minutes, crunching the number of Sahasra Namas to just 200 to utter instead of 1,000.

Disregard for Sevas

Suprabhatam (waking up the deity) to be performed in brahma muhurtam at 4 a.m. in the morning is being done at 3 a.m., on vague reasons that VIPs are waiting for darshan, he said. "Shastras say with these shortfalls in offerings, the deity doesn't grant boons for devotees, many natural disasters can happen," he warned.

Dikshitulu also alleged that there is a deep conspiracy to bring down the sanctity of the temple, to bring trouble to the devotees. He alleged that it is a long-term plan to destroy the temple.

On the move of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) taking over the temple, he said, "I prefer ASI examination. Let them examine, assess what are the damages done to the ancient structure. What is the future? Drilling holes on the floor, in the name of installing tube lights, air conditioners. Every time a new officer comes, they change and go on drilling new holes.

Demand Audit

Amid allegations that some valuable diamonds donated by medieval period ruler Sri Krishnadevaraya are missing, he demanded a thorough audit of all the ornaments as per the records maintained by the priests for over several centuries.

"We are demanding audit... Till '96, we had detailed records. We still have them. In processions, we see some of the old ornaments, most of the ornaments not seen, only new ornaments. We use whatever they give. They give most of the time new ornaments," he noted. "There should be a CBI enquiry on corruption," he quickly added.

"When Amit Shah came to Tirupati temple, I showed him proof of how hidden treasures from the temple kitchen were stolen away, bricks on floor and wall was removed. The temple authorities shut down the kitchen for about 25 days to loot the temple treasures, " he told one TV channel recently.