According to Home Ministry guidelines, places of worship can’t reopen until 31 May, but Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the trust that manages the temple, has asked permission from the Andhra Pradesh government last week to open the shrine for its devotees. The entire area around the shrine, namely the Tirumala Hills, has been sanitised and markings have been done to ensure social distancing. TTD chairman Y.V. Subba Reddy in a letter to the state government has asked for permission to allow around 10,000 devotees on the first day, as a trial.
To ensure safety of devotees the shrine management plans to open it for 14 hours per day with only 500 people offering prayers in an hour. With ticketing windows closed, only advanced online bookings are allowed along with sanitising each and every area daily. People from red zones, containment zones and those coming from areas that have high number of Covid-19 positive cases will not be allowed to visit. Those who have valid tickets will be allowed at the entrance of Alipiru Gate (12 km away from main temple).
These initial 15 days are for trial basis and open for natives of Andhra Pradesh only. Speaking to The Daily Guardian, Reddy said: “The temple will be opened as soon as the government permits. By the grace of God, we have enough funds. No problem for payment to the employees. We request the devotees not to believe in the rumours.” TTD board member Putta Pratap Reddy also told The Daily Guardian, “There is a meeting on 28th of this month.
We have not removed any employee from their jobs and such rumours are baseless. We are ensuring that all protocols of social distancing, santisation, etc, are being followed.” Whereas the final decision will be announced on 28 May, the temple management meanwhile has decided to sell laddus in all counters in all Kalyan Mandapas at half the price. The Tirupati temple, one of the world’s richest, collected around Rs 2 crore through ‘e-Hundi’ even after being closed for two months.