Hundreds of people queued up outside counters across Andhra Pradesh since early Wednesday morning for the first day of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam's darshan ticket sales following several weeks of lockdown. TTD had opened the temple for pilgrims on June 8. After three days of trial runs with only the temple trust employees and some locals being allowed in, ordinary pilgrims will get the opportunity to have darshan of Lord Balaji from June 11.
Long queues were witnessed at ticket counters in Bhudevi complex, and Tirupati, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh. Due to the massive rush, all tickets for Thursday were sold out within a few hours. TTD has now decided to sell the tickets for June 12. A total of 9,000 tickets have been sold so far.
"I came here to buy the darshan tickets at 5 this morning, but hundreds of people had formed a long queue before the ticket counter when we reached. I had thought I would be one of the first persons to reach. After 7 hours of wait, I got the darshan tickets for the 12th. I'm very excited about having Lord Balaji's darshan after 83 days," said devotee GT Hemanth Kumar.
Those who buy the tickets will be allowed into the darshan queue after following Covid-19 protocol. All the pilgrims have been asked to wear masks and carry hand sanitizers before entering the queues. TTD has made changes to ensure the temple premises are touch-free. And devotees should maintain about 6 feet of gap in the darshan queues.
"Online tickets have been sold till June 30. Now all the TTD ticket counters are issuing offline tickets. Six thousand devotees will be allowed to take Lord Balaji's darshan each day. All the Covid-19 standard checks will be done before devotees entering the queues and temple premises. All the queues will be sanitised every 30 minutes. VVIP darshans will be allowed depending on the situation," TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy told News18.
"Annaprasadam also will be served to pilgrims following the Covid-19 norms. Two pilgrims can sit at each table during annaprasadam distribution. I request that the devotees follow all Covid-19 measures. Pilgrims should avoid touching the ropes and rods in the queues as much as possible. I appeal to the devotees from the containment zones not to come to Tirumala," he added.
The holy shrine with a 2000-year-old history generally closed for religious rituals and solar moon eclipses but almost never for a temporary period like this. After 128 years, this was the first time the temple was closed to pilgrims for about 80 days due to a pandemic. In 1892, the religious rituals were stopped, and the doors of the temple closed for devotees for two days due to a dispute between two clans.