After a two-month COVID-19 lockdown ban on devotees' entry, darshan at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala will begin again from June 8, with a trial run for the first three days.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the world's richest temple, announced on Friday that only its employees will be allowed to have darshan on June 8 and 9 while local devotees will be permitted on June 10.
The temple will be thrown open for darshan by other devotees on June 11 but with a number of restrictions to avoid overcrowding and ensure social distancing to check the spread of coronavirus.
TTD Trust Board chairman Y V Subba Reddy told a news conference that initially only 6,000 to 7,000 devotees would be allowed per day against 60,000 to 70,000 who throng the hill shrine on normal days. About 500 devotees will be accommodated per hour.
He announced that darshan will commence at 6.30 am and end at 7.30 pm.
People above 65 years and children below 10 years will not be allowed into Tirupati Balaji, as the temple is popularly called. There will also be no entry for people coming from containment zones.
TTD Executive Officer A K Singhal said 3,000 darshan tickets will be sold online every day. Such devotees will be screened at Alipiri, the starting point of the hill route. Online tickets for the entire month of June will be sold on June 8.
Another 3,000 offline tickets will be issued at the counters at Alipiri check point every day.
The official said every devotee will be subjected to thermal checking and some would be picked for random Covid-19 tests. It is mandatory for all devotees to wear face masks and maintain six feet physical distance from each other.
VIP darshan will be allowed from June 11 for one hour - 6.30 am to 7.30 am.
Vehicles will be sanitised at Alipiri check point before being allowed on to the hill while barricades to maintain queues will be sanitized once every two hours.
The walkway to the hill shrine will remain closed for some days.
The officials requested devotees not to touch the Hundis (boxes for offerings). Herbal sanitisers will be provided to the devotees near the Hundis.
The Anna Prasadam (food) section will have a limited number of devotees. They will not be allowed to stay in the guest houses for two days. Only two persons will be permitted to stay in each guest house. Private hotels have not been allowed to reopen in Tirumala.
Authorities have suspended some rituals in view of the apprehension that they may lead to spread of Covid-19.
However, no decision has been taken on the tonsuring facility. Most of the devotees visiting Tirumala hill shrine tonsure their heads.
Two days ago the Andhra Pradesh government had given its nod to the TTD to conduct a trial run for darshan with TTD employees and local people.
The nod came a day after the Centre began unlock-I. Under the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it is proposed to allow places of worship to reopen from June 8.
Closed for devotees for darshan since March 19, the hill shrine is losing almost Rs 200 crore revenue every month.
With revenues touching rock bottom, the TTD is struggling to pay salaries to its employees and make other payments towards maintenance and security of the temple.
Daily offerings made by devotees is the main sources of revenue for the temple which attracts 50,000 to one lakh pilgrims every day.