The Tirumala Venkateswara shrine in Tirupati will be opened to the public from June 11, after remaining closed for nearly 80 days. While the Centre has allowed places of worship to re-open from June 8, TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) Chairman YV Subba Reddy said that trial runs will be conducted in the first three days, before opening the temple for the general public.
Subba Reddy told media that trial runs will be conducted with TTD employees on June 8 and 9, and with local visitors on June 10, in order to assess the number of people that can be safely allowed into the temple at a given time, while following the prescribed guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19. While the number of people to be allowed has not been finalised yet, officials said that arrangements are being made for around 500 visitors per hour.
Around 3,000 people will be allowed to register online for darshan per day, he said, adding that a counter will be set up at Alipiri for offline registration. Those above 65 and under 10 years of age will not be allowed to enter Tirumala as per the Centre’s guideline, he said. He also asked people from ‘red zones’ to avoid visiting the temple.
From June 11 onwards, the temple will be open for VIP darshan from 6.30 am to 7.30 am, and for others from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm. The walking route through Alipiri will remain open from 6 am to 4 pm, while the Srivari Mettu route will remain closed.
Thermal screening and sanitising facilities for vehicles and people will be set up at Alipiri, he said.
Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal said that inside the temple, staff members who are more likely to come into contact with devotees will be provided with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) suits. “Bathing in the pushkarini will not be allowed. The kalyanakatta (the place where visitors get their heads tonsured and offer their hair to the deity) will operate, and the staff will be given PPE as physical proximity is inevitable. Physical distance will be maintained in the hall,” he said.
Singhal also said that all queue lines will be arranged to have a minimum of 5 to 6 feet of distance between people, and that all high contact surfaces will be disinfected frequently.
Those placing donations in the hundi/donation box will also be required to sanitise their hands. “It is not right to ask devotees to not touch the box with their hands or place their head near it, as it is a matter of their sentiments. But circumstances are such that such requests have to be made,” Subba Reddy said. He added that devotees are encouraged to have their head tonsured at their home, and either send the hair by courier, or hand it over at a contribution point in Tirumala. He also said that devotees can make donations online.
EO Anil Kuma Singhal said that visitors from other states must be prepared to follow Andhra Pradesh’s quarantine guidelines, if they are found to have COVID-19 during their Tirumala visit. Sample collection centres for COVID-19 testing will be set up at Alipiri and Tirumala, officials said.