HYDERABAD - Non-Hindus visiting the famous Tirumala temple in Andhra Pradesh will now have to sign a declaration affirming their faith in the presiding deity — Venkateswara.
The State Endowments Department has issued an order to this effect. According to government order 311, it will be mandatory for all non-Hindus to submit the declaration before entering the hill shrine. Though the practice has been in vogue for several decades with non-Hindu celebrities signing such declaration forms, temple authorities had so far not made it a mandatory provision.
The latest decision comes in the backdrop of a recent controversy over the YSR Congress (YSRC) President Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, a devout Christian, entering the Tirumala temple without signing the declaration.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the affairs of the country’s richest shrine, had come under fire from different political parties and religious organisations for allowing a practicing Christian into the temple in violation of the rules.
While Jagan’s supporters contended that he was not required to sign the register again as he had already done so during his earlier visit to the temple in 2009, the TTD drew flak for its leniency in implementing the rule.
The recent arrest of three TTD employees on charges of practicing and propagating ‘other religion’ on Tirumala hills, and subsequent strong reaction from various quarters, was also said to have prompted the temple authorities to reinforce the norms pertaining to non-Hindus to avoid further embarrassment.
Making the announcement, the TTD joint executive officer K S Srinivasa Raju said that it would, henceforth, be compulsory for all non-Hindus to sign the declaration.
“The declaration forms will be made available not only at the queue complex but also at the enquiry counters and the office of the joint executive officer (JEO). If a non-Hindu is found to be violating this rule, he or she will not be allowed to have darshan of the Lord,” the temple official said.