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At Tirupati, deity's call proves stronger than covid-19 fears

By T E Narasimhan
March 15, 2020 10:08 IST
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According to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), on March 12, 61,652 pilgrims had darshan, after waiting for nearly five hours, compared to 57,352 on March 11, after they waited for nearly eight hours. On February 12, about 61,860 pilgrims had darshan.

Even as people across the country are staying away from crowded places owing to the coronavirus outbreak, the situation at the Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirumala is quite different. The pilgrim flow to the shrine has been over 60,000 every day since the virus surfaced.

But compared to the inflow on March 1, which was 83,521 pilgrims, the rush to Tirumala has reduced. One of the key factors is the board exams in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

According to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), on March 12, 61,652 pilgrims had darshan, after waiting for nearly five hours, compared to 57,352 on March 11, after they waited for nearly eight hours. On February 12, about 61,860 pilgrims had darshan.

 

The TTD, which manages the temple, is taking measures to check coronavirus. It has appealed to those coming from abroad to postpone their pilgrimage to Tirumala for 28 days from the day they stepped into India.

The virus started spreading across the world since February and people have been advised to stay away from public places. Also, companies have started asking employees to work from home.

In the beginning of February, the number of pilgrims stood at 59,015. Pilgrims need to wait from three hours to 10 hours at the temple for darshan.

TTD’s executive officer Anil Kumar Singhal said it rolled out effective measures to check the impact of coronavirus. An awareness and counselling centre was set up at Alipiri checkpoint, as part of the state and central government’s initiatives to check the spread.

Accordingly, coronavirus prevention camps have been set up with thermal scanning at Alipiri checkpoint and other places.

“If symptoms are identified, the pilgrim will be stopped from entering Tirumala and diverted to isolation wards at Ruia Hospital,” he added.

The executive officer said special focus has been given to sanitation and cleaning in Tirumala is being taken up every two hours.

TTD has also given the option to change dates or refund for cancelling arjitha seva (paid darshan) and accommodation booked in advance till May 31.

The Padmavati Nilayam in Tiruchanoor, on the foothills of Tirumala, will be utilised as an isolation ward in view of the coronavirus threat.

If needed, the TTD choultries near Tirupati railway station will also be allotted for the same purpose.

TTD’s executive officer also said one lakh handbills were distributed every day and non-stop broadcast of precautionary steps are being taken up throughout the day in Tirumala.

As a matter of precaution, only 250 devotees are being allowed in each compartment of the Vaikuntham queue complex (where the queue starts) against the usual 450-500, to avoid spread of infection. 

Special precautionary steps for devotees are being telecast and the health department of TTD is fully equipped with emergency material, the executive officer noted.

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T E Narasimhan in Chennai
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