As thousands throng the Sri Devarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram to catch a glimpse of a fig wood idol of Varadaraja Perumal, even a stay at a budget hotel is an expensive proposition for visitors.
Online hotel booking sites show tariffs in ordinary hotels quoting upwards of ₹8,000 per night, with over 90% already booked.
According to the State government, about 34 lakh devotees have visited the temple for a darshan of the wooden idol of Varadaraja Perumal, popularly known as Athi Varadar, which is taken out of the temple tank once every 40 years and displayed for 48 days. It has been attracting devotees since July 1.
The numbers are expected to go up as the idol is moved to a standing position from Thursday.
An online hotel booking site claimed that Kancheepuram was the top choice for those looking for rooms between July 31 and August 4. “Prices might be higher than usual for the dates you've selected,” it warned.
For a three-star hotel, the prices for a night’s stay ranged from ₹8,100 to ₹11,000 plus taxes on July 31. On Booking.com, The Naagaa Residency Deluxe quoted a rate of ₹11,718 plus taxes for a room and said only limited rooms were available. When contacted, an official at the hotel said bookings could be done only through online sites.
At Vasanth Villa, an official said a deluxe room was available for ₹5,000 per night, adding that only limited rooms were available. Babukala Regency listed a tariff of nearly ₹12,000 per night on Goibibo.com. A hotel official said the rooms were available at ₹8,000 on Wednesday night and were expected to go up to ₹12,000 on Friday.
A spokesperson for OYO, which offers budget hotels, said the prices are fixed through an algorithm, admitting that they had gone up due to heavy demand. “In Kancheepuram, due to the heavy influx of pilgrims from all parts of south India and keeping in mind our objective of enabling access to quality accommodation for all segments of customers, we have tried our best to keep prices reasonable. In fact, our prices are lower compared to hotels across categories in this area,” he claimed.