Jagan in Tirumala temple sparks row


Kadapa MP Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, a practising Christian, created a major controversy on Wednesday by entering the temple of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala along with some 60 followers, without signing the declaration of religious faith meant for non-Hindu devotees. It is a custom at the Tirumala temple since 1933, that a non-Hindu visitor must sign a form declaring that though he is a non-Hindu, he believes in Lord Venkateswara. The practice is more strictly enforced since 1960, TTD sources said.

The YSR Congress chief, who was on a two-day tour of Tirupati for the June 12 bypoll, entered the Vaikuntam Queue Complex-I in the morning with several followers for the darshan. TTD officials told his followers to get Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy to sign the declaration. His aides included former TTD chairman and YSR Congress Tirupati candidate Bhumana Karunakar Reddy and former TTD trust board ex-officio member Chevireddy Bhaskar Reddy.

Mr Reddy’s followers, both those who accompanied him inside temple and those who waited outside, raised slogans of “Jai Jagan!” when he came out of the Mahadwaram after darshan. There was a huge commotion as security personnel pushed away the sloganeering supporters. It did not take long for a religious controversy to acquire political overtones. Supporters of Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu, a vehement critic of the YSR family, seized on the incident to criticise the YSR Congress chief.

TTD to tighten rule for non-Hindus
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams’ rule for non-Hindu visitors to the famous temple of Lord Venkateswara finds lenient application, leading to periodic disapproval and divided opinion among the officials in charge of implementation.

It’s been a customary practice at the Tirumala temple, supposedly since 1933, for non-Hindu visitors to sign a form, stating, “I have full devotion, faith and belief in Lord Venkateswara,” with name, address and signature. The practice has become more systematised since the 1960s, TTD sources said. Many other major Hindu temples have this practice in some form. At the Meenakshi temple in Madurai and at the Pasupatinath temple in Kathmandu, boards are placed ahead of the sanctum sanctorum, debarring non-believers beyond that point. At Tirupati, since the 1980s, non-Hindu devotees usually followed the code voluntarily. Later, with the heavy influx of pilgrims, sometimes to over a lakh per day, it could not be implemented to the letter.

Foreigners do abide by it. Prominent non-Hindu devotees who visited the Tirumala temple include former railway minister Jaffer Shariff, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. They duly signed the form of faith declaration.

In Jagan Mohan Reddy’s case, his aides argue that as his father, late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, had already signed the declaration, it was not applicable to the son. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam authorities are expected to formulate a strict code for its implementation in the future.

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