The temple of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, which has many firsts to its credit, has embarked on yet another pioneering move.
It will perform marriages of one lakh poor Hindu couples every year and give each bride one-gram gold mangalsutram as a blessing from the Lord.
The first mass marriage ceremony is to be held on February 22 next year. "The basic idea is to prevent poor Hindus from converting to other religions," TTD Trust Board chairman B Karunakar Reddy said.
"There are lakhs of Hindu families living below the poverty line. They have never ever worn gold ornaments, not even gold mangalsutrams," he added.
This will cost the trust a whopping Rs 40 crore per year. While the temple will shell out Rs 30 crores cash from its treasury for the marriage expenses, the mangalsutrams will be fashioned out of the gold donated to the temple by devotees from time to time.
Each mangalsutram will carry the image of Lord Venkateshwara on one side and Goddess Padmavathi on the other. The TTD is considered the richest among the Hindu temples. It is expected to earn Rs 738 crore in the 2006-07 financial year.