Having declared Anjanadri (one of the seven Tirumala hills) as the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has decided to celebrate the Hanuman Jayanthi festival for five days, from June 4 to 8, in the midst of the pandemic.
TTD had declared Tirumala as the birthplace of Hanuman citing a “four-month-long study” by a committee, whose findings were based on “Puranic anthologies, literary and epigraphic evidence, and geographical references.” TTD Additional Executive Officer AV Dharma Reddy said that the festival is being observed in a big way by the TTD for the first time this year and that the concerned departments are making necessary arrangements. “Next year we will plan to observe Hanuman Jayanthi celebrations with more pomp and religious fervour,” he told the media on June 2.
The Tirumala temple, one of the most popular Hindu temples in the world, had an average daily footfall of 50,000 to 1 lakh people on a regular day, going up to 4-5 lakh during festivals, before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was closed to visitors for nearly 80 days during the first wave of COVID-19 before it was reopened in June 2020. There was a sharp fall in daily visitors amid rising COVID-19 cases during the second wave, with the temple seeing only 2400 visitors on May 10. However, the number of visitors has gradually increased once again. On May 31, the temple had 13,142 visitors, while on June 1, there were 7,010 pilgrims.
TTD Additional EO AV Dharma Reddy told the media that to celebrate the occasion, “there will be Abhishekam to Bedi Anjaneya Swamy and Special Pujas to Seventh Mile Prasanna Anjaneya Swamy as in every year.” Apart from these rituals, as TTD has declared Anjanadri as the birthplace of Hanuman this year, the festival will be celebrated in the “birthplace, in a cave which is located near Akasa Ganga.” Temples for the deities Balanjaneya and Anjana Devi were also constructed, and special pujas will be performed to these deities during the five days from 8.30 am to 10 am, he added. Special discourses on Hanuman being a “role model to today’s youth, character, communication skills” have been arranged with “stalwart scholars”, followed by the rendition of devotional songs on Hanuman, from 3 pm to 4 pm, the official said. Pilgrims visiting Tirumala will be allowed to take part in these programs while following COVID-19 norms, he said.
The TTD’s claims over Hanuman’s birthplace had created a stir in religious and archaeological circles, as it was considered to be in Hampi near Bellary in Karnataka. While a few archaeology and history scholars had dismissed the TTD's claim, the Karnataka unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said that the TTD should take time and hold discussions with scholars and religious heads before arriving at such a conclusion. Following this, the TTD had shared a study conducted by a committee over a four-month period as “evidence” of Anjanadri being Hanuman’s birthplace.