All devotees who visit the Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh will be given one famous 'Tirupati laddu' free of cost, starting Monday.
Until now, only those who undertook the pilgrimage by foot to reach the top of the hill were provided with one free laddu. With this, the TTD would be providing 80,000 to 1 lakh laddus to the devotees who visit the temple each day.
Speaking to reporters, Additional Executive Officer (EO) of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), AV Dharma Reddy said that a free laddu would be given to all those who visit the temple, irrespective of whether they are a VIP or a common devotee.
"The TTD Trust Board has decided to launch the scheme from Monday. If devotees want more laddus, they can approach the counters at the laddu complex and purchase them for Rs 50 each. Earlier there were four counters, but now we have expanded it to 12 counters," he added.
With this move, the TTD, which oversees the affairs of the temple, has also decided to scrap the subsidy that was in place for the laddus and will begin selling them at a standard price of Rs 50 for each laddu.
Reports stated that by issuing one free laddu to each devotee and cancelling the subsidy, the TTD will save around Rs 250 crore annually.
The TTD mainly took this move, to check the black marketing of prasadam, which had become rampant in the temple town.
In November last year, the vigilance and security wing of the TTD admitted that close to 26,000 of its laddus were misappropriated by contract and permanent employees, in a major scam.
The laddus, which were said to have been misappropriated during the Navaratri Brahmotsavam, when the temple sees a massive influx of pilgrims, were reported to be worth Rs 14 lakh.
According to the TTD's website, the laddu was introduced on August 2, 1715 and is a major source of the TTD's revenue, adding several crore rupees to its annual budget. It is made with flour, sugar, ghee, oil, cardamom and dry fruits.
It is estimated that on an average, around 3 lakh laddus are sold every day in Tirumala.