Hyderabad: The wealth of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the richest temple body in the world, is no secret. A quick scan of its growing annual budgets reveal that this stupendous rise in revenue is all thanks to its steep jump in footfalls over the past few decades. The count of devotees to the holy shrine, limited to about 20,000 a day till the 1980s, has shot up dramatically to touch 1 lakh per day now. Not surprisingly, TTD’s budget for 2017-18 is estimated to stand at a staggering Rs 2,850 crore.
While the body’s biggest sources of income are the fat bundles of cash and gifts that devotees put into the hundi — which sums up to a neat Rs 1,000 (approx) — it has other means of raising funds too. The board rakes in Rs 1,000 crore or more from the sale of prasadam, auction of hair, sale of darshan tickets, accommodation etc., all directly related to the number of devotees visiting the temple.
A huge leap towards enhancing footfall was the ‘laghu darshan’ scheme introduced in 2003. This made it possible for the temple management to extend darshan to about 2,500 devotees per hour as against the 1,000 per hour until then.
But while devotees could walk up to three to four yards (9-12 feet) of the sanctum sanctorum prior to ‘laghu darshan’, the distance increased to 100 feet. This resulted in the rapid rise in number of devotees visiting per day,” said PVRK Prasad, former executive officer of the TTD board. He has written several books on the temple body.
Next came the ‘maha laghu darshan’. With this, the number of devotees per hour jumped to nearly 5,000. That this limited the pilgrims’ reach to 200 feet from the sanctum sanctorum is another story. The temple management often sends in a higher number of devotees under this facility, especially on peak days.
Now, only a miniscule number of devotees, mostly VVIPs, are allowed a complete look of the God — crown to the lotus feet — standing at the Kulasekhara Padi or threshold of the last door.
These initiatives, observers say, has helped the growth of footfalls over the years and enriched the TTD coffers.