In a major move, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) relieved chief priest A V Ramana Deekshitulu of his duties on Friday, days after he made shocking allegations that the administrators of the temple were swindling money.
The decision was taken after the TTD Trust Board passed a resolution on Wednesday to state that all 'mirasi archakas' (hereditary priests) must be retired on reaching the age of 65.
A Venugopala Deekshitulu has been hired to replace 69-year-old Ramana as head priest at the Lord Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala.
Speaking to reporters, he said, âAll allegations made regarding the ancient jewels of the Lord are baseless. The TTD is maintaining all records. The announcement of retirement of all the Mirasis is definitely a good move, as the next generations will also get an opportunity to serve the lord.â
Speaking to a local media channel, Ramana alleged that the state government may not have been too happy with his decision to have received BJP President Amit Shah during the latterâs recent visit to Tirumala.
Stating that he had studied with Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu at the SV University in Tirupati, Ramana told the media outlet, âI completed my PhD in Molecular Biology and sacrificed lucrative foreign offers to stay back to serve the God. Whenever Chandrababu Naidu visited the temple, I always spent time with him, and arranged âAaseervachanamâ (blessings) to him at the Ranganayaka mandapam.â
Meanwhile, the TTD is planning to pass similar orders against at least 15 more priests, who are above the age of 65.
Earlier this week, several leaders of the ruling TDP government in Andhra Pradesh lashed out at Ramana and said that he was 'tarnishing the reputation' of the temple.
Addressing the media earlier this week in Chennai, Deekshitulu disclosed that the priests have filed a petition against the administrators demanding transparency pertaining to donations and jewellery, and also to bring the TTD administration under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Responding to his allegations in a press meet, AP Deputy Chief Minister K E Krishnamurthy who is also the state's Endowments Minister, launched a scathing attack against the chief priest.
Krishnamurthy told reporters, âIt seems Deekshitulu has left his traditional job and entered into politics. He behaved irresponsibly, and in a manner that tarnished the reputation of the temple. The government will take a serious note of this issue. It is against the rules of the temple for a chief priest to hold a press conference and talk politics."