Collections at Tirupati are on the decline. Is the political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh to blame?
Could it be a sudden deficit in faith, or is it a reflection of a stagnant economy? Or could it be the proposed bifurcation of the state? No one is certain about the reasons, but devotees and offerings at the world’s richest Hindu temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh have dropped significantly in recent months. Cash collections from offerings in the temple’s hundi ( till) were Rs 63.41 crore in August 2011, Rs 77.59 crore in August 2012 but a mere Rs 60.13 crore in August this year. The fall in September is feared to be steep with the collections still being counted. If this trend continues through October, the fund flow is expected to impact the Rs 2,248.05 crore budget of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam ( TTD), managers of the temple, for 2013- 14.
There is a corresponding decline in footfalls of at least 15,000 on normal days, and at least 25,000 on the socalled “busy” days. “If this continues, attendance during the Brahmotsavam ( annual festival) will be affected,” admits M. G. Gopal, a senior IAS official who is TTD’S executive officer. The nineday festivities start on October 5 this year, when there is usually a bigger rush and scramble for darshan.
Gopal points out that the fall in collections is upto Rs 50 lakh a day this year. In better years, cash offerings range between Rs 1.50 crore and Rs 2 crore a day. The record for hundi offerings on a single day is a staggering Rs 5.73 crore on April 1, 2012. Such a sharp increase is attributed to large single donations by devotees.
Cash offering in the hundi, the principal source of income for TTD, is to account for Rs 859 crore this year. The other major source— interest on investments— brings in Rs 555.20 crore. The sale of human hair offered by devotees by auction is to fetch Rs 200 crore, the
seeghra darshan and other special entrance tickets to fetch another Rs 185 crore, while the popular laddu and other blessed takeaways yield another Rs 150 crore. Rooms rented out to devotees add Rs 90 crore to TTD’S annual earnings. Gold and silver offerings made every day also contribute to its riches. Gold holdings with TTD total a staggering 6,500 kg, and are estimated to be worth about Rs 2,000 crore.
Ever since the July 30 announcement by the Centre carving up Andhra Pradesh, and the subsequent disruption in public transport in the state by protesters, intra- state travel, particularly to Tirupati, has become inconvenient. This could have reduced the flow of pilgrims. TTD is hoping this year’s special attraction for Brahmotsavam — a golden chariot for the deity— will make a difference.
TIRUPATI’S GOLDEN CHARIOT