Tirumala temple, abode of Lord Venkateshwara or Balaji, isn’t just the richest shrine in India. It is arguably the safest with no records of a major stampede in more than three decades.
So what makes this temple that draws 75,000 people on a normal day – 400,000 daily during the annual Brahmotsavams in September-October – efficient in crowd management?
Adjacent to the shrine are two mammoth queue complexes – Vaikuntam I and II with 62 compartments where pilgrims can wait comfortably for darshan that might take up to 36 hours. Each compartment lodges 300-500 people and have toilet, bathing facilities. The display boards show darshan time and announcements provide the updates.
Pilgrims are even provided with milk, breakfast, lunch and dinner – for free.
The temple devises new methods from time to time to cope with ever-increasing footfalls. Those who walk to the hill are given tokens to enter the divyadarshan line. Special darshan tokens are also sold in advance and online to ease pilgrims’ pressure.
“We introduced the three-layered queue, one slightly elevated than the other, in the inner sanctum earlier this year. This means three rows of pilgrims can have darshan of the lord simultaneously without extra pressure,” MG Gopal, executive officer of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, told HT.
Kamakhya temple in Guwahati relies more on the age-old man marking to withstand the surge of pilgrims during the annual Ambubachi Mela in June. “It is difficult to handle five-six lakh devotees, but we have a volunteer system that helps us maintain crowd discipline,” said Kamakhya Debottur Board member Biraj Sarma.