In all major Hindu temples, Mahasamprokshanam (as termed in Sri Vaishnava temples) or Kumbabhishekam (as termed in Shaiva and other temples) is mandated once in 12 years. The Venkateswara Swamy temple at Tirumala comes under the Vaikhanasa Agama and there is no such 12-year period mandated in the VaikhanasaAgama.
It is only under specific circumstances such as a robbery, when the idol becomes wobbly, when essential rituals are suspended or stopped that Mahasamprokshanam is conducted.
However, even in the shrine of the seven hills, the practice of Mahasamprokshanam is conducted once in 12 years mainly for the following reasons:
1. To undertake repairs, both minor and major, inside the temple complex and at times inside the sanctum sanctorum (Garbhagriha). This has been the practice since 1800.
2. The idol, because of the enormous weight of jewels, could over a period of time get a bit wobbly from its posture.
In any temple, the Mahasamprokshanam is a time to rejoice. This year, the Mahasamprokshanam of Tirumala temple was to have been conducted from 11th through 16thAugust. The Government appointed TTD Board is obviously either ignorant of or callous to the history of such Mahasamprokshanam. They had taken a unilateral decision to close the temple to devotees from August 9 to August 16. They had announced that the temple would be thrown open to the public on August 17.
Going back in time, not once since 1800 have devotees been denied darshan as had been decided by the TTD Board in the order which has now been withdrawn upon AP government’s order following public outrage as also those of scholars.
The shrine has its own rich history of such practices: For instance in 1908, during the samprokshanam held on September 30, the sacred dome of Ananda Nilayam was fitted with a new Gold Kalasam. Similarly, a new gold chain of Goddess Padmavathi Devi was fixed permanently to the Lord.
While there are a few other such instances under very specific circumstances, in 1946 major repair work was undertaken to the makara thorana or temple arch of the deity.
Again in 1958, gold plating of the Ananda Nilayam was taken up but pilgrims were allowed to have darshan at specified timings though the work continued for over ten days.
The report titled “Ankurarpanam” from the TTD Bulletin of 1958 clearly states that measures were taken to protect the deity from damage due to ongoing repair work on Ananda Nilayam and all major sevas to the Lord were done in Ekantam (private). History has it that even during the most major maintenance work undertaken in the year 1957-58, the public were fortunate to have darshan. Similarly, there are other instances of later times where there are specific circumstances when devotees were allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple at a time when repair work had been taken up.
In 1994, head priest Ramana Deekshitulu presided over this sacred ritual, as also in 2006. He is very much in the know of the specifics of these instances. It may be pointed out once again that even general darshan was not stopped back then.
It is evident that the TTD is putting an end to time-honoured practices. They pushed the draconian rule of compulsory retirement of hereditary priests. Unlike the previous head priests, the current one is a hand-picked appointee of the TTD Board and by extension, the TDP Government. Others are contract priests who are at the mercy of the TTD.
In thie backdrop, the TTD then has some serious questions to answer:
1. Where was the need for a total shut down of the temple for a long period though the decision is now being reconsidered following pressure from the faithful and he media?
2. People are already connecting the TTD’s illogical act of a total shut down to Dr.Subramanian Swamy’s PIL in the SC. Many fear that a major cover up is on.
3. There is talk that this is related to some kind of a treasure hunt.
Fortunately, questions such as CCTV cameras being turned off or permission to TTD vehicles alone at that time, may not arise now.
Under the circumstances it is only fair that the TTD comes out with a clear explanation once its board holds a meeting to decide future course of action. It is equally important for the TTD to provide live coverage to important poojas, homams and chanting of Vedas, in addition to regular darshan on SVBC channel.
(This is an abridged version of the article written by the reputed scholar)