The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which oversees the affairs of the Sri Venkateswara temple in Andhra Pradesh, on Tuesday said that it was extending the closure of the temple for devotees until March 31, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Additional Executive Officer (EO) AV Dharma Reddy said that keeping the issue of public health safety in Tirumala, the TTD has decided to extend the closure.
The TTD has also imposed a ban on the movement of vehicles on the Tirumala-Tirupati ghat roads from 9 pm to 6 am from March 24 onwards, until further orders.
"TTD has also given the option of cancellation of Rs 300 special entry darshan tickets, arjitha seva tickets and accommodation refund for online bookings from March 25 onwards," Dharma Reddy said.
The Additional EO also said that only a few staff will be allowed inside the temple for the rituals of 'Koil Alwar Thirumanjanam' and 'Ugadi Asthanam' on March 24 and 25 respectively.
Authorities in Andhra Pradesh had last week announced closure of Tirumala's famous temple for devotees. The TTD, which oversees affairs at India's richest temple, shut down the ghat road leading towards the hill shrine. Devotees heading towards the temple were turned back.
Authorities said that regular rituals would be performed but devotees would not be allowed to have darshan.
After the Tirumala temple, the famed Simhachalam temple in Andhra Pradesh also announced that it was shutting down for devotees in view of the COVID-19 scare.
The Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthanam Simhachalam in Visakhapatnam district announced that pilgrims will not be allowed for 'darshan' from March 20 until further orders.
The decision was taken at the emergency meeting of Trust Board under the chairmanship of Sanchaita Gajapati Raju. "This was to ensure safety of the pilgrims and the community at large," the board said in a statement.