The Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh will reopen after nearly two months from Saturday. As many as 7,000 devotees will be allowed to visit between 6.30 am and 7.30 pm including 3,000 who book tickets online.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) Trust Board Chairman Y V Subba Reddy said on Friday that 500 devotees would be allowed into the temple per hour and arrangements have been made to ensure that devotees maintain physical distancing and wear masks. Reddy said 3,000 pilgrims will be allowed to climb the stairs from the Alipiri climbing point in Tirupati after they get screened for Covid-19. All devotees entering the temple would also be screened with thermal scanners and wearing a mask will be mandatory.
“Random samples of pilgrims will also be taken for Covid-19 tests on a voluntary basis,” Reddy said. TTD officials have drawn circles along queue lines at a distance of 10 feet to maintain physical distancing. Though the temple opens on Saturday, only TTD employees will be allowed darshan on June 8 and 9 as a trial run, while only Tirupati residents will be allowed darshan on June 10.
During the trial run from June 8 to 10, the TTD will observe crowd behaviour, patterns of devotees and whether they are following Covid-19 regulations or not, after which the TTD board will take a call on allowing more devotees.
“TTD has decided to start darshan on trial basis from June 8… We have introduced a number of measures to ensure devotees stay safe by sanitising themselves as well as practicing social distancing norms. Our workers will continuously keep sanitising the areas visited by devotees. We have introduced a zig-zag pattern in queue lines using iron bars, which will ensure devotees stand away from each other,” TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal told The Indian Express.
The ‘hundi’, where pilgrims make offerings, is also open while the temple will as usual hand out prasad and resume the sale of laddus.
The temple, which was shut on March 20 due to the lockdown, is usually visited by about 80,000 devotees every day, while on festivals it goes up to 90,000 or one lakh. The temple receives revenue of Rs 6 to Rs 7 crore per day from offerings and the sale of its famous laddus. Officials estimate that the TTD suffered revenue loss of close to Rs 600 crore due to the lockdown.
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