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Friday, September 30, 2022

Andhra Pradesh: Space ‘constraint’ bothers pilgrims trekking up to Tirumala – Mrit News

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Vendors ‘mob and force’ them to buy coconuts and other material in the subway

Vendors ‘mob and force’ them to buy coconuts and other material in the subway

With his family members in tow, G. Chokka Rao of Nuzvid took a bow at Alipiri, the foot of Tirumala hills, ahead of embarking on a holy trek.

Carrying a heavy bag on his shoulder, he carefully found his way through the crammed space occupied by the hawkers.

No sooner had he entered the pedestrian subway (meant for pilgrims to cross the road) than he was mobbed by the vendors asking him to buy turmeric, ‘kumkum’, and coconuts.

It has been an age-old practice to apply turmeric and vermilion on every step while climbing the flight of stairs leading to Tirumala, but it is performed only as a fulfilment of vow and not a compulsory gesture.

Similarly, breaking coconut in the subway before embarking on the holy trek is learnt to have emerged into a “mandatory practice” only in the recent years.

The pilgrims are mobbed and emotionally threatened to buy them, and those unwilling to buy coconuts are warned of the ‘sin’. As emotions work better at religious places, many buy them without uttering a word.

“Our family does not have the habit of applying turmeric on the steps. We are also not too willing to carry it out as it is tiresome and also takes a lot of time, but these items are thrust on us,” a thoroughly-exhausted Mr. Chokka Rao told The Hindu after smearing turmeric for a mere 200 steps.

Mr. Chokka Rao is not the only victim. There are hundreds who simultaneously enter the subway and come out of the other end after 10 minutes, fully soaked in sweat.

“The pressure on walking space is high during weekends, especially from 5 a.m. till 11 a.m. Since I know about them, I easily avoid the vendors and walk away,” says M. Thanikachalam of Chennai, who visits Tirumala once in three months.

The weekend trekkers’ rush is so high that the spillover onto the road either causes traffic jam, or makes the Tirumala-bound vehicles move at a snail’s pace.

Similarly, the barricades erected at Alipiri Padala Mandapam, ostensibly to divert pilgrims to the newly-built ‘Saptha Go Pradakshinasala’, has turned into an avoidable bottleneck. The TTD’s security staff have a tough time in clearing the mess.

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