The former chief priest of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Srinivasa Dikshitulu passed away early Sunday morning at Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS) at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. He was 73 years old and was admitted at the hospital on Thursday after testing positive for coronavirus, said the SVIMS hospital spokesperson.
“He was admitted on Thursday after testing positive and passed away early morning on Sunday,” said the SVIMS hospital spokesperson to TNM.
Speaking to TNM, YV Subba Reddy, the TTD chairman, expressed his condolences to the family of the former temple priest. He said, “The former priest has had a history of kidney ailments and was undergoing treatment. He was not part of the temple operations since his health took a bad turn."
Row over temple kept open
Meanwhile, a row has erupted over the decision of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for keeping the Tirumala temple open in the middle of a pandemic. So far, 140 people posted at the temple have tested positive for the coronavirus, TTD chairman Y V Subba Reddy had earlier stated.
Fourteen 'archakas' (assistant priests), 16 workers in laddu-making kitchens and 56 security personnel were among the infected. Of the 140 affected, 70 were discharged and the rest being provided treatment, he said.
However, the TTD is continuing to allow entry of devotees less than 12,000 in number into the temple daily. Subba Reddy had stated that if discontinuation of darshan was not possible, the pilgrims from containment zones should not be allowed in, or at least the pilgrims from the worst-affected states must be avoided.
A senior police officer wrote to the TTD on Saturday asking that darshan at the temple be shut in the interest of public health safety.
Honorary chief priest Ramana Dikshitulu had taken to social media to question the Andhra government over the rising cases at the temple. He demanded that the temple be shut and asked Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy to take action to avert a “disaster.”