Devotees raise slogans and stage dharna in front of the TTD chairman’s office

Even though the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) administration has made earnest efforts to cater to the requirements of the huge crowds that thronged Tirumala to take part in the ‘Vaikunta Ekadasi’ festivities, common pilgrims were subjected to severe difficulties.

The management drew flak for its VIP-friendly attitude at the cost of the ordinary pilgrims. As the waiting hours prolonged and the queue lines stretched beyond four kilometres, devotees not only resorted to heavy sloganeering but also staged a sit-in protest in front of the TTD chairman’s office.

As the dharna and slogan shouting continued, the authorities pacified the agitators by promising entry to all of them into the queue complex. The pilgrims relented after the promise.

The devotees nevertheless questioned the issuance of over 8,000 darshan passes to the VIPs who thronged the hill town in large numbers and the allocation of six hours of darshan time to them. This had reduced the darshan time for pilgrims.

The TTD’s image received a further knock when VIP darshan passes were sold in the black market at a mind-boggling price of Rs.10,000 against the normal price of Rs.1,000. To worsen the situation, several business magnates were also seen in the darshan lines which were exclusively earmarked to the VIPs who come under protocol category.

Despite the odds, there was a devotional fervour in the town. The temple complex was tastefully decked-up with varied hues of aromatic flowers and was colourfully illuminated befitting the occasion.

The temple was opened as early as 12.05 a.m. in the morning and soon after the completion of the religious formalities the ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ encircling the inner-most sanctum sanctorum was ceremoniously opened amidst chanting of Vedic hymns. The passage which is opened only once in a year on this festival day will be kept opened till Sunday mid-night.

Adding flavour to the festival mood in the town the authorities conducted the procession of ‘Golden Chariot’. The air was electrified with the rhythmic chanting of ‘Govinda namam’ by the thousands of devotees who had congregated along the mada streets to witness the colourful procession.

Meanwhile, the temple administration earned kudos for the catering by serving free food, milk and including tea to the devotees at various points. Scores of scouts and Srivari sevaks were positioned both inside the temple complex and outside.