The clogging of pilgrims and the prolonged wait for darshan in the hill temple of Lord Venkateswara — the two major issues engaging the minds of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) officials — were taken up for discussion at a two-day national seminar which began here on Saturday.
Senior IAS officers and heads of religious and charitable institutions discussed threadbare the entire gamut of the issue, especially in terms of objections from the Agama sastra pundits over altering the temple structure.
The main objective of the meet is to find a ‘practical and acceptable' solution to these issues, so that the core temple area is decongested and a free and fast entry and exit of pilgrims is facilitated.
One of the major suggestions that emerged at the technical session devoted to the topic was to provide a second exit point from within the sanctum area, as under the system in vogue, the same narrow passage from the ‘Dwarapalaka point' is being used both for entry and exit of the pilgrims, resulting not only in heavy jostling but in the sluggish movement of the queue line as well, directly impacting the time taken for darshan.
Chairman and Managing Director of the Visakhapatnam Port Trust Ajeya Kallam, who during his stint as the Executive Officer of the TTD studied the issue, suggested exploring the possibility of providing a separate exit point through ‘Vaikuntha Dwaram'— the very next ‘prakara' after the sanctum sanctorum, so that pilgrims after darshan could be let out through the vent on the southern side instead of coming back through the same passage which they use for their entry.
As to the objections that such a proposal would invite from the Agama pundits on the ground that it amounted to tampering with the core structure of the shrine, Mr. Kallam said that it would be imprudent to dump the proposal in the name of sastras and traditions, which he asserted never said ‘no' to changes and alterations, be it in rituals or in the temple structure, to suit changing needs and times and the larger interest of the devotees.
As an alternative, he said, separate entry and exit points could be provided at the present ‘Vendivakili'— silver threshold near Dhwajasthambham, replacing the present single passage, as it became a perennial bottle-neck. Based on the studies he conducted here as the then EO, Mr. Kallam said that there might be no objection to it as the Agama sastras reportedly provided for two passages at that point as ‘Nethra Dwarams.'
Meanwhile, the former Chief Engineer of the TTD V. Anjaneyulu Naidu, speaking to this correspondent on the sidelines of the seminar suggested an exit point from the ‘Ramulavari Meda' in the sanctum, through the ‘Vishwaksena' temple which exists on the northern side.
Mr. Naidu said that the Agama sastras would not apply in toto to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple as it was built in different stages by different rulers, much after the ‘deity' manifested Himself on the hills as ‘Swayambhu.'