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AP bars propagating other faiths near shrines

By Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
Last updated on: June 09, 2007 04:53 IST

The Andhra Pradesh government has constituted the Tirumala Hills area comprising all the seven hills, the holy theerthams and the central shrine of Lord Venkateswara into "Tirumala Divya Kshetram."

Against the backdrop of a long history of cherished cultural legacy and sanctified Hindu tradition, the government of Andhra Pradesh has decided that the sanctity of the Seven hills and the Temple of Lord Venkateswara needs to be preserved as a unique religious area where the Hindu traditions shall be preserved and allowed to be nurtured as they have continuously been over the last two millennium.

In order to achieve this objective, it has been felt appropriate to accord to all the Seven Hills and the temple town of Tirumala a special status as a place of religious importance by giving it a special dispensation and nomenclature," Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy said in Hyderabad on Friday, citing a government order issued in this regard on June 2.

"The Tirumala Hills area comprising all the seven hills, the holy theerthams and the central shrine of Lord Venkateswara will henceforth be called Tirumala Divya Kshetram," Dr Reddy added.

Tirumala Hills area has already been notified as a place of religious importance under Section 5(i) of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 read with Section 114 of AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987.

This effectively places the civic administration of the Tirumala Hills area in the hands of the Executive Officer of Tirumala-Tirupathi Devasthanams who shall have the authority normally exercised by a gram panchayat, the Sarpanch, Executive Officer or Executive Authority thereof under the AP Panchayat Raj Act 1994.

"This special dispensation ensures that only spiritual and religious activity goes on in the seven hills area. No elections or political activity is permitted," the chief minister explained.

"It shall be the primary duty of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams management to continue uninterruptedly with utmost devotion the traditional rituals and practices and no other religion shall be allowed to be propagated in Tirumala Divya Kshetram area by words, either spoken or written or by signs or visible representation or by distributing any printed material or other forms of religious literature in terms of Section 2(1) of AP Propagation of Other Religions in the Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Ordinance 2007 promulgated on May 22, 2007," the government order pointed out.

"The Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams Board and the Executive Officer shall take all necessary steps to see that the spirit of this order is translated into practice and the sanctity of the seven hills area is fully preserved.

The civic administration of the Divya Kshetram shall be carried out by the Executive Officer in such a way that public order, tranquility and security at this ancient place of worship is maintained and the timeless artifact of cultural heritage is preserved," Principal Secretary to Government I V Subba Rao said.

"The Tirumala Divya Kshetram shall comprise all the seven hills called Seshadri, Garudadri, Venkatadri, Narayanadri,Vrishabhadri, Vrishadri and Anjanadri right from foothills on all sides including the foothill starting from Alipiri and covering all the roads, footpaths leading to the temple of Lord Venkateswara more specifically the pathways leading to the Tirumala village from Chandragiri side beginning with the Devasthanams near Chandragiri mettu known as Srivari mettu, from Balapalli beginning with Chittoor

District border, the motorable road leading from Tirupathi to Tirumala i.e, first ghat road; motorable road leading from Tirupathi to Tirumala i.e, second ghat road; and motorable Road froth Tirumala to Papavinasanam. It shall include all the sacred theerthams on the seven hills," the GO specifically stated.

"The Government believes that a visit to the shrine should be a rare unalloyed devotional experience and the entire seven hills area should exude a unique spiritual, religious and ethical fervour.

In order to create and maintain this ambience, the Executive Officer of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams has been empowered under Section 114 of the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987 to take action to prevent begging, consumption of intoxicating liquor, drugs or cigarettes, meat or meat products.

Slaughter of animals or birds, gaming and gambling are expressly prohibited under this Act. All these provisions are intended to ensure that the entire Tirumala Hills area continues to be a spiritual sanctuary that it has been all through," the GO added.

Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
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