Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu ordered a treasure hunt in Tirumala temple, alleges former priest | andhra pradesh | Hindustan Times
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Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu ordered a treasure hunt in Tirumala temple, alleges former priest

Former head priest AV Ramana Deekshitulu was served a legal notice by the temple board claiming damages amounting to Rs 100 crore for levelling “false allegations” against them as well as the state government.

andhra pradesh Updated: Jun 20, 2018 23:43 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Chandrababu Naidu,Tirumala,AV Ramana Deekshitulu
The Venkateswara Temple on Tirumala hills in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is the country’s richest temple.(PTI File Photo)

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had the kitchen of the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirumala excavated last December as part of his search for ancient treasure, a former head priest of the religious monument alleged on Wednesday.

AV Ramana Deekshitulu – who was forced into retirement earlier this year – was reacting to a legal notice served to him by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the organisation that manages the country’s richest temple. The TTD has claimed damages amounting to Rs 100 crore from the former head priest for levelling “false allegations” against the temple administration as well as the state government.

Speaking to mediapersons, Deekshitulu demanded a CBI inquiry into his allegations of financial irregularities in the temple administration, disappearance of antique jewellery worth crores of rupees, and excavation of land under the temple kitchen (known as the Srivari Potu) in an attempt to unearth hidden treasures, among others.

“I will soon go to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and put forth my demand (for a probe by the central agency). If that does not happen, I will sit on a fast unto death starting July,” he said, without giving a specific date.

Deekshitulu also recalled the time when the Srivari Potu was shut down for nearly 25 days between December 8, 2017, and January 3, 2018, on the pretext of minor repair work. The work was allegedly taken up without his knowledge, although he happened to be the temple’s Agama consultant as well as its head priest.

“On December 20, I went to the kitchen area and looked inside, only to find that the entire floor had been dug up. It was almost as if an earthquake had occurred there. When I called up the executive officer, he said all he knew was that they were re-laying four slabs,” he said.

Deekshitulu then questioned the joint executive officer responsible for supervising the repair work, only to be told that it was being done as per the instructions of the chief minister and a “madam”. “When I asked who the madam was and under what authority she could order repairs in the kitchen, the officer shouted at me. I still do not know who the madam is,” he said.

The retired head priest quoted old scriptures and inscriptions to state that treasures worth thousands of crores were hidden underground, of which the kitchen was the entry point. “That is probably why the authorities dug up the kitchen floor,” he said.

He alleged that the 1,000-pillar mandapam (outdoor hall) in front of the main temple was also demolished in an attempt to unearth the hidden treasure. “Let the government order a CBI inquiry into these allegations. If I am proved wrong, they can file a defamation case against me,” said Deekshitulu.

While the Chief Minister’s Office could not be reached for its response, senior Telugu Desam Party leader Vemuri Ananda Surya dismissed Deekshitulu’s allegations.

“The former head priest is slinging mud at the chief minister only to get some media attention. He does not deserve to be in the service of Lord Venkateshwara as he is moving in the company of Christians. The person who arranged the press conference in Hyderabad was a Christian. The other day, Deekshitulu met Jagan – who is also a Christian. How can he talk about Hindu dharma then?” Surya, also the chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Brahmin Welfare Corporation, asked.