TDP, BJP protest, Congress tests positive
Evangelists want a church in Tirumala
By Sandhya Jain
Evangelists are targetting the sacred most site of Tirumala and in a direct affront to the Hindu community, which has for centuries regarded all seven hills as holy. They have started gathering on the slopes in groups for public prayers. Even though an officer of the State-controlled Tirumala Tirupati Devasathanam (TTD) which manages the world famous Venkateshwara temple has denied that a missionary society has submitted a proposal to build a church on the hills, there is widespread disbelief on account of the known biases of Chief Minister, Y. Samuel Rajasekhar Reddy.
The denials by TTD special officer A.V. Dharma Reddy follow reports in leading Telugu newspapers such as Eenadu and television channels like ETV, Teja TV, Gemini TV and Sun TV. Former Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu, who was reportedly tipped off by informed sources in the Secretariat, has strongly condemned the move, as has the state BJP.
What lends credence to Hindu fears is the despicable statement by the Government official that the TTD temple owns only 10.33 sq. miles of land on the hills, and this land is administered by the mandir trust. This is a transparent ploy to deny the sacred character of all seven hills in their entirety, and restrict the sacred site of the Hindu community to the formal boundary of the extant of temple of Lord Venkateshwara.
Should it happen, it will be a desecration at par with that of the Mylapore Shiva temple in Chennai. Hitherto, there has never been any question of a structure other than the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara on these hills, and it bears remembering that it is the hills that are holy and not merely the mandir which adorns them.
Clearly we are witnessing the development of a major assault upon one of the most venerated sites of the Hindu community. Should it happen, it will be a desecration at par with that of the Mylapore Shiva temple in Chennai. Hitherto, there has never been any question of a structure other than the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara on these hills, and it bears remembering that it is the hills that are holy and not merely the mandir which adorns them. For instance, a temple along a busy thoroughfare would be holy, but the adjacent land would not be deemed sacred.
Thus, the attempt to limit the sacredness of Tirumala to the boundary of the temple, i.e. 10.33 sq. miles, is suspicious and suggests that the State Government may be preparing the ground for handing over land to a church body on one of the slopes. This is consistent with the systematic defilement of Hindu institutions since the UPA became ascendant in national life, as witnessed in the harassment of the Kanchi Shankaracharya and Bal Shankaracharya, and attempts to take over prominent Hindu temples.
What lends urgency to Hindu fears is the fact that six large churches have already sprung up on the road to Tirumala (Bye-pass road and new Bye-pass road) that leads to Alipiri, the foot of the hills. It is therefore imperative that the State Government recognize the entire seven hills as the sacred abode of Shri Venkateshwara, and ensure that no structure of any other religion is allowed to come up there.
Hindu activists in the region point out that when Sonia Gandhi violated the rules and entered the sanctum sanctorum of Tirumala Tirupati Devasathanam some years ago, without signing the mandatory declaration for practitioners of other religions; she was facilitated in this outrage by the then TTD executive officer Ajay Kallam. The activists point out that according to the local bush telegraph, Ajay Kallam and some of his family members converted to Christianity some time ago, and this fact may have some bearing on some of their public actions. For instance, Mr. Kallam sought to auction hundred acres of land belonging to the Hathi Ramji Matham (Tirumala) a year ago, and it was only with difficulty that the auction was eventually cancelled.
The point being made is that it is a terrible sacrilege that State control of Hindu holy sites enables non-Hindus to seize control of major temples and run them according to an undisclosed agenda. Non-believers have infiltrated critical areas of these institutions. It is already a matter of considerable concern that the enormous revenues of Hindu temples in south India are being misused to fund the Haj subsidy and renovate churches, while temples and priests remain starved of basic funds. Now more than ever before there is need to expedite the return of the temples to the community.
According to field activists, an official scrutiny of lands and properties acquired by evangelical organizations may shed interesting light upon a phenomenon best dubbed as ?colonization through land ownership.? The value of the properties and the costs of the gigantic bureaucracies associated with them would be an eye-opener. It is instructive, for instance, to drive through the Coromandel Coast from Vishakapatnam to Toottukkudi, and observe the plethora of churches proliferating along the route; most are new constructions. A journey to Guntur and Eluru may be similarly instructive.
The Andhra Pradesh Government is a wholly unsuitable custodian of Tirupathi and must be made to surrender control of this holy shrine. Some time ago it condoned the demolition of the 550-year old Thousand Pillar Temple for no good reason. A Government that lacks the sense of the sacrality of the seven hills which have been regarded as a tirthasthanam and devasthanam from time immemorial cannot be allowed to preside over its destiny.