Guesthouses of the Tirumala temple, and Srikalahasti and Kanipakam temples, are being used to quarantine people awaiting their test results.

TTD and other temple guest houses in Andhra turned into quarantine centresImage for representation/PTI
news Coronavirus Tuesday, April 07, 2020 - 16:32

District officials in Chittoor are turning temple guest houses into quarantine centres, where contacts of COVID-19 patients are being isolated and monitored. The district has multiple temples which attract many Hindu pilgrims, including the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, one of the most popular Hindu shrines in the world.  

Three guest houses within the town, run by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) trust, are already being used by the district administration to accommodate homeless persons and stranded migrant workers. Another guest house with around 500 rooms has now been taken over to be used as quarantine centres, for people who have been at risk of infection from known COVID-19 patients. “A new building called Padmavati Nilayam which hasn’t been used by devotees yet, has been handed over to the district administration. Unlike the other guest houses, it is located far from the temple and the town itself, along the Renigunta road,” a TTD official said. 

In Kanipakam, a 100-room guest house belonging to the Varasiddhi Vinayaka temple administration, has also been converted into a quarantine facility. “Forty-four people who had been at risk of contracting COVID-19 were accommodated in the guest house for three days. When their results came back negative, all of them returned to their homes on April 4. Currently, one person is staying at the guest house, whose test results are awaited,” Executive Officer (EO) of the Kanipakam temple Devullu told TNM. 

The temple has been dealing with controversial comments since a video of a few people walking out of the guest house went viral. In the video, a few men and women, wearing skull caps or burqas, can be seen walking out of the building. The video has been widely shared with accompanying comments criticizing the Andhra government’s move to accommodate Muslims associated with the Delhi Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Hindu temples. The commenters also complained that the temple had been desecrated as people had entered with their footwear, and questioned why Hindu temples, and not mosques, were being used. 

The temple EO said that the guest house, called Ganesh Sadan, has its entrance designed to look like that of a temple, but is actually located around 500 metres away from the actual temple premises. “The temple has been closed for visitors ever since the state government announced lockdown. Only a few rituals are taking place inside,” Devullu said. 

The Srikalahasteeswara temple in Srikalahasti town has also prepared its 32-room guest house to be used for quarantine purposes. “Earlier, eight people had been brought in, but as the number increased, they were shifted to state tourism department facilities. If the tourism department guest house is filled up, people will be accommodated at the temple guest house,” Srikalahasti Mandal Revenue Officer Zareena said.