The number of pilgrims visiting the Venkateshwara temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati has decreased drastically amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state as well as the district, leading to a sharp fall in revenue for the temple as well. According to a report by the Times of India, on Monday, May 10, just 2,400 devotees visited the temple, and 1,375 pilgrims got their heads tonsured. TOI reported that the temple’s hundi collections also dipped to an all-time low of Rs 24 lakh, whereas the temple’s daily collection on normal days is usually between Rs 3 to 5 crore.
The Sri Venkateswara temple, governed by the TTD, is one of the most popular Hindu shrines in the world. It had been closed to devotees for around two and a half months starting from March last year due to COVID-19, before being reopened on June 11, 2020. Andhra Pradesh is also under a two-week long night curfew, which will be in place till May 18. For the past few days, the state has been consistently reporting daily COVID-19 tallies above 20,000. 20,345 new cases and 108 deaths were reported in the 24 hours ending 10 am, Tuesday, May 11.
The number of people visiting the temple has in fact been steadily decreasing ever since ‘Sarvadarshanam’ or free darshanam was curbed from April 12. While the temple was getting around 50,000 visitors daily in the first week of April, it decreased to 20,000 per day after April 12. According to reports, the footfall fell to 9,640 on April 29 and 6,431 on April 30. The hundi collection also fell last month with April 29 recording the lowest collection at Rs 62 lakh.
In 2020, the temple was shut for many months. Finally, when it reopened after multiple rounds of lockdown, the hundi collection had increased to Rs 85 crore a month. But from April 2020, it has decreased again.
In May 2020, the temple faced a cash crunch and faced difficulties in paying around 22,000 people employed with the TTD, including permanent and temporary staff. Though the TTD has around nine tonnes of gold reserves and Rs 14,000 crore fixed deposits in various banks, the administration did not want to touch these savings, that they believe belong to the people.