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Pilgrim rush has TTD officials in a tizzy

By Our Staff Reporter

TIRUMALA, NOV. 14. The famous hill temple of Lord Venkateswara, Tirumala, which had been experiencing thin crowds for the last couple of weeks came under unprecedented pressure with lakhs of pilgrims thronging the temple town.

Primary indication regarding the heavy pilgrim turnout was felt as early as last Thursday, when heavy crowds started pouring in. In spite of it being the Deepavali week, there was no respite for the TTD staff that was busy clearing pilgrim crowd for the past four days. The turnout in the last four days was such that the waiting time for darshan was around 60 hours, in the last four days.

72 hours for darshan

The crowd on Sunday peaked and the waiting time for free darshan stretched beyond 72 and for those preferring paid Sudarshan tokens, it was around 62 hours. With the waiting time for the darshan stretching for two to three days, thousands of pilgrims started returning home without the Lord's darshan.

The impact was particularly felt on the TTD accommodation wing, which faced the wrath of the visiting pilgrims. With the waiting time increasing several folds there were meagre vacancies registered in the last couple of days compounding the difficulties of the staff. All the TTD officials were literally on their toes making the required arrangements for the increasing crowd.

Surprise inspections

To bring the situation under control and to eliminate middlemen, the TTD special officer, A. V. Dharma Reddy, conducted surprise inspections at all the accommodations counters, Vaikuntam queue complex and the Kalyanakatta. With the decrease in the visiting crowd being remotely felt, he ordered to stop providing accommodation to those carrying recommendation letters from VIPs including those of the TTD Chairman and Board members.

He directed the officials to concentrate on providing minimum accommodation to the common pilgrims.

As succour to the VIP devotees, Mr. Reddy asked the officials to issue `cellar entry' tickets and get rid of the burden. The game plan proved successful with several VIPs letter holders immediately joining the darshan queue forgetting about their accommodation.

Heavy traffic

The traffic police, too, had a tedious job in regulating vehicular traffic. All the parking slots were full to their capacity. Both the Tirumala ghat roads had been experiencing non-stop vehicular movement for the last four days. The TTD management on its part had dispensed the VIP break darshan. Measures were initiated in maintaining a good stock of laddu prasadam.

The striking factor was that, the Padmavathi guesthouse -- where only VIPs are housed and whose rental tariff is high -- today had a long waiting queue. Devotees had to wait for a couple of hours before they were provided with some kind of accommodation.

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