In response to a devotee’s request for special leave alleging irregularities in rituals at the iconic Tirupathi Temple, the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (“TTD”) told the Supreme Court that Sevas to Lord Venkateshwara are performed by Archakas under the supervision of His Holiness Pedda Jeeyangar Swamy and Chinnayajeeyangar swam in strict accordance with Vaikhanasa Agama.
“The system of performing sevas/utsavams in the Temple was started by His Holiness Sri Ramanujacharya in the 10th century according to the Vaikhanasa Agama. The sevas/utsavams are performed by Archakas who are well versed in Vaikhanasa Agama and assisted/supervised by His Holiness Pedda Jeeyangar Swamy and Chinnayajeeyangar swamy who are in the lineage of His Holiness Ramanujacharya“, states the affidavit.
The affidavit was filed in the Application for Special Leave challenging the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court dismissing a PIL filed by Srivari Daadaa (“Applicant”), seeking instructions from TTD to rectify the method of execution rituals and seva to Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy at the temple.
Last month, a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India requested TTD’s response to the petition.
TTD in the affidavit also argued that perfect checks and balances were introduced by Sa Holiness Ramanujacharya to ensure that sevas/utsavams are conducted in strict accordance with Vaikhanasa Agama.
It has further been argued that the the rituals are performed with utmost sincerity, faith and devotion by the religious staff and the other priests of the temple.
“The system has worked perfectly for thousands of years. The TTD has also from time to time constitutes an Agama advisory committee composed of qualified Vaikhanasa Agama pandits to guide the Archakas and advise the TTD on various religious matters. TTD administration provides all the necessary infrastructure and support for the Archakas and His Holiness Pedda Jeeyangar to perform the rituals and that the Administration take the advice of Advisors Agama, Pradhana Archakas and His Holiness Pedda Jeeyangar to help them perform the rituals“, TTD submitted in his affidavit.
Vehemently denying the petitioner’s allegations that Abhishekh Seva is executed every Friday to Lord Venkateshwara “without clothes”, TTD said that a white cloth called “Kowpeenam” is adorned to the Lord during the execution of Abhishekam with milk.
To further substantiate their submission, TTD stated that “The Abhishekam is strictly performed jointly by the Archakas and His Holiness Pedda Jeeyangar and Chinna Jeeyangar strictly following centuries-old tradition and Vaikhanasa Agama.”
Expressing the petitioner’s assertions about the conduct of Arjitha Brahomstsavam that the procession of the Lord on the vahanams is not conducted through the streets of mada as a mistakeTTD in his affidavit stated that,
“The seva Arjitha Brahomstsavam was introduced by the TTD for the benefit of the public and specially designed by having the Lord sit on three vahanams namely Garuda, Hanumanta and Sestha Vahanams. The utsavam itself was designed in such a way that the Lord appears to devotees by sitting on three vahanams without any procession. During the annual Brahmotsavams and on some special occasions like Nagapanchami, Garudapanchami, etc., the Lord takes processions on the vahanams around the mada streets.”
Denying the claimant’s assertion of not showing the feet of the Lord during Maha Laghu Darshanam, TTD argued that the darshan of the Lord is not a seva/utsavam prescribed in the Vaikhanasagama sastra.
“TTD administration provides darshan of the Lord to pilgrims considering the number of pilgrims waiting for darshan of the Lord. More than one million people on average visit Tirumala for darshan of the Lord. If every pilgrim is allowed to have the darshan of the Lord at Kulasekhara padi, only about 9,000 pilgrims can enjoy darshan per day at 800 per hour,” TTD added.
On this aspect, TTD also stated that, “While during Maha Laghu Darshan, about 5,000 pilgrims can receive darshan per hour, making about 80,000 to 90,000 pilgrims have the darshan of the Lord in one day. To provide the darshan of the Lord to the maximum number of pilgrims and satisfy them, TTD adopts Maha Laghu Darshan which was introduced in 2006. So far, millions of pilgrims have had darshan in the past fifteen years and no one has objected to this type of darshan. pilgrim normally expects to have darshan in a reasonable time without much expectation and insight from the Lord provided to him by the TTD.The TTD always keeps the interest of the pilgrims at the heart of the agenda to provide them a hassle-free darshan and facilities in Tirumala.
Stating that the petitioner is unaware of the temple’s Agama practices, TTD said that as per the Agama prescription, the sacred feet of the Lord are covered with basil and even when approaching the Lord, one cannot see the divine feet of the Lord.
According to the petitioner, the Devasthanam performs sevas namely Abhishekam Seva, Thomala Seva, Arjitha Brahmostavam, Yekanta Utsavalu (Srivari Varshika Brahmotsavams – 2020) and Maha Laghu Darshan in an illicit and irregular procedure and hence the method of performing the rituals should be rectified.
The High Court, through its contested order, had ruled that the PIL was not viable since the procedure for conducting rituals is the exclusive domain of the Devasthanam and cannot be decided unless does not affect the secular or civil rights of others.
Furthermore, the High Court had held that the Devasthanam could not be considered to exercise public functions in the conduct of rituals. Such activities within the ecclesiastical domain are not subject to written jurisdiction at the request of a foreigner.
Case title: Srivari Daadaa c. Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam | SLP(C) No. 6554/2021