Responding to the outcry from Hindu religious groups who have been protesting over recent attempts to preach other faiths at the holy shrine of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala, the Andhra Pradesh government has notified that the seven hills of Tirumala would remain a place of worship only for Hindus and has prohibited propagation of other religions.
Chief Minister Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy told a news conference on Friday evening that his government has issued an ordinance on June 2 in this regard and the order comes into effect immediately. The ordinance also recognised the jurisdiction of Lord Venkateshwara, popularly known as "Lord of the Seven Hills" and declared the seven hills surrounding the temple as a place of worship and thus banned all political activities including conduct of local bodies polls.
"Against the backdrop of a long history of cherished cultural legacy and sanctified Hindu tradition, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has decided that the sanctity of the Seven hills and the Temple of Lord Venkateswara needs to be preserved as a unique religious area where the Hindu traditions shall be preserved and allowed to be nurtured as they have continuously been over the last two millennium. In order to achieve this objective, it has been felt appropriate to accord to all the Seven Hills and the Temple Town of Tirumala a special status as a place of religious importance by giving it a special dispensation and nomenclature," Reddy said.
"Accordingly, the Tirumala Hills area comprising all the seven hills, the holy teerthams and the central shrine of Lord Venkateswara will henceforth be called Tirumala Divya Kshetram," Reddy said and added that this special dispensation would ensure that only spiritual and religious activity went on in the seven hills area. No elections or political activity was permitted. The Tirumala Divya Kshetram shall comprise all the seven hills called Seshadri, Garudadri, Venkatadri, Narayanadri,Vrishabhadri, Vrishadri and Anjanadri right from the foothills on all sides, the GO stated.
"It shall be the primary duty of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams management to continue uninterruptedly with utmost devotion the traditional rituals and practices and no other religion shall be allowed to be propagated in Tirumala Divya Kshetram area by words, either spoken or written or by signs or visible representation or by distributing any printed material or other forms of religious literature in terms of Section 2(1) of AP Propagation of Other Religions in the Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Ordinance 2007 promulgated on May 22, 2007," the Government order pointed out.
The Executive Officer of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams have been empowered under Section 114 of the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987 to take action to prevent begging, consumption of intoxicating liquor, drugs or cigarettes, meat or meat products. Slaughter of animals or birds, gaming and gambling are expressly prohibited under this Act. All these provisions are intended to ensure that the entire Tirumala Hills area continues to be a spiritual sanctuary that it has been all through," the GO added.
The ordinance also covers 19 other places of worship.