The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams’ rule for non-Hindu visitors to the famous temple of Lord Venkateswara finds lenient application, leading to periodic disapproval and divided opinion among the officials in charge of implementation. It’s been a customary practice at the Tirumala temple, supposedly since 1933, for non-Hindu visitors to sign a form, stating, “I have full devotion, faith and belief in Lord Venkateswara,” with name, address and signature. The practice has become more systematised since the 1960s, TTD sources said. Many other major Hindu temples have this practice in some form. At the Meenakshi temple in Madurai and at the Pasupatinath temple in Kathmandu, boards are placed ahead of the sanctum sanctorum, debarring non-believers beyond that point.
At Tirupati, since the 1980s, non-Hindu devotees usually followed the code voluntarily. Later, with the heavy influx of pilgrims, sometimes to over a lakh per day, it could not be implemented to the letter. Foreigners do abide by it. Prominent non-Hindu devotees who visited the Tirumala temple include former railway minister Jaffer Shariff, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. They duly signed the form of faith declaration. In Jagan Mohan Reddy’s case, his aides argue that as his father, late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, had already signed the declaration, it was not applicable to the son. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam authorities are expected to formulate a strict code for its implementation in the future.