Under normal circumstances, the Lord Balaji temple witnesses an annual footfall of 3 to 4 crore.
Tirupati Temple: As coronavirus cases are on a surge, pilgrimage all over the country is being affected. Amid this, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) board, which maintains the Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati, has stopped issuing tickets for slotted sarvadarshanam from Monday. The temple is among the most visited temples in the country as it is a major Vaishnavite pilgrimage site, and it is the richest temple across the globe based on its wealth and the donations it receives. Under normal circumstances, the temple witnesses an annual footfall of 3 to 4 crore.
However, now, the temple has announced that keeping in view the rising number of cases in the city of Tirupati, the board has decided to temporarily stop issuing tokens in the Bhu Devi Complex and Vishnu Nivasam in the city to devotees for paying obeisance at the temple. The board cited the example of Shirdi Sansthan in Maharashtra, which has temporarily closed the darshan for devotees at the Shirdi temple of Sai Baba due to the rising number of cases in the state. With this decision, the TTD is aiming to prevent the spread of the virus, as devotees usually stand in long lines for tickets for hours together.
Asking devotees to cooperate with the decision of the TTD in this regard, the board said that any future decision regarding issuance of tokens taken at a later stage would be communicated accordingly.
Notably, the board had remained shut for 80 days last year during the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, and it had opened its doors for pilgrims in June last year. When it had reopened, it had only only allowed to cater to 6,000 pilgrims a day, a sharp decline from its usual visitors between 50,000 to 1 lakh daily devotees. However, since the beginning of April, the temple has been witnessing around 40,000-50,000 daily visitors. This marked a marginal decline in its visitors from March, which had been witnessing over 50,000 pilgrims every day.
These whopping numbers have sustained even as India is witnessing a great second wave of the coronavirus since February end, and is now reporting the highest-ever number of daily cases, breaching the highs that it had reached back in 2020. Over the past few days, the country has been reporting over 1 lakh new cases of COVID-19, and is now recording daily cases upwards of 1.5 lakh.
However, the board’s decision is for the best because with such high cases, any major gathering has the potential of turning into a super-spreader event. In light of this, it makes sense for the board to take this step.
TTD is the latest to announce such measures to prevent spreading at temples.
Shirdi’s Shri Saibabasansthan Trust, which manages the Shridi Sai Baba temple, announced that it would remain closed for all devotees for darshan as well as accommodation starting April 6, 2021, and this would remain in force till further notice. Recently UP, which has also been witnessing a major surge in cases, has decided to cap the number of visitors that can visit the temples at a time. Meanwhile, in Mathura, Vrindavan, Goverdhan and Barsana, all of which are revered sites for Vaishnavites due to legends of Lord Krishna, devotees would not be allowed to enter any temple if they are not wearing face masks or are in violation of social distancing norms.