With the famous Tirumala temple in Andhra Pradesh shut for devotees as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19, the temple authorities have decided to distribute over two lakh laddus among its employees free of cost.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the hill shrine, will be distributing 2.4 lakh laddus, among 21,000 regular and contract employees.
Temple officials said 10 laddus would be given to every employee as a gift for 'Ugadi', the Telugu New Year.
Famous as 'Tirupati laddu', the famed sweet is given to millions of pilgrims as 'prasadam' or sacred offering by the temple. It is made with flour, sugar, ghee, oil, cardamom and dry fruits.
The temple authorities prepare lakhs of laddus in advance to meet the daily requirement from thousands of pilgrims. However, with the temple being closed down from Friday in view of coronavirus scare, the laddus which were already prepared could not be distributed.
It is estimated that on an average, around 3 lakh laddus are sold every day in Tirumala. The TTD authorities in January this year started giving a laddu free to every pilgrim. About 80,000 to one lakh pilgrims visit the temple every day. However, many devotees buy the laddus, available for Rs 50 each.
Earlier this week, the temple was closed for devotees to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. While pujas and other rituals usually offered at the temple are continuing, the two ghat roads leading to the temple have been closed for the general public.
Meanwhile, two people who returned from Europe to Andhra Pradesh this week tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of cases to five, the state Medical and Health Department said on Saturday night.
The first coronavirus positive case was registered in Nellore, followed by one in Ongole and another in Visakhapatnam
The government has ordered for the closure of all cinema halls, malls, and major temples, mosques and churches in the state, till March 31.