High Court takes up controversial Tirumala project

Despite vacation, court begins hearing into gold plating proposal

Despite the court having closed for the summer vacation, a two-judge bench began special hearings for three days Monday through Wednesday on a batch of writ petitions filed against gold plating named  “Ananda Vimana Swarnamayam project” by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. On April 21 the bench had stayed the project in response to a petition filed by a devotee.

The project, considered the brainchild of Tirumala Tirupati Devathanams chairman D K Audikesavulu Naidu, has attracted criticism from across the board including devotees, historians, heritage activists, archeologists, political parties and retired top bureaucrats  who served at the TTD during their service.

The TTD through its special  donation scheme to raise funds for the project reportedly raised gold and cash for 145 kg gold. About 200 kg is required to gold plate the Ananda Nilayam. The “Vimana” of the temple is already gold plated.

While several people including Subramania Swamy of the Janata Party resorted to legal means to stay the project, the TTD allayed fears of the devotees and others about the safety of the ancient inscriptions on the walls of the temple. It recruited epigraphy experts who took impressions of the wall inscriptions, translated in to six languages and digitised. The TTD had even released CDs of the digitised inscription.

The project was launched in March 2009 notwithstanding the protests with a deadline of 12 months to complete it. However, those opposed to it got a court order staying the project.

Protests got louder when experts joined hands with devotees in opposing it. A roundtable held in Tirupati on Sunday called upon TTD not to proceed with the project in the interest of the temple’s hoary past and its architectural value. Devotees pointed out that they visit the temple not to witness the grandeur of the edifice but to seek the blessings of the deity.

Thus, there was no need for additional ornamentation. Instead of this grandiose project it was better for the TTD to improve amenities for lakhs of pilgrims. The latest to protest against the project are 14 retired bureaucrats who have sent a petition to the governor and chief minister voicing their opposition. All of them had served in TTD.

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