INDIA, January 11, 2018 (First Post): The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), an autonomous government body which looks after the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala, has issued a notice to its 44 non-Hindu employees and asked the state government to redeploy them in other departments, according to several media reports. The notice seeks an explanation from the employees as to how they came into the Tirumala temple board’s service as the rules bar non-Hindus from working there.
The issue came to light after a local TV channel conducted a sting operation, wherein a TTD employee was seen using her official car to go to church on Sundays. In addition to their redeployment, the Tirumala temple board has also decided to make it mandatory for the employees to sport the Thiru Namam (a traditional tilak or vermilion pattern streaked across one’s forehead; it is usually a mark of belief in Hinduism). However, this is not the first time a controversy concerning religion erupted in Andhra Pradesh temples. In fact, according to the The Times of India, it was in the wake of allegations that evangelist activities were being conducted in temple towns, the government of previously united Andhra Pradesh had brought in the an ordinance banning propagation of other religions in certain places of worship, including Tirumala. In Andhra Pradesh, in all 20 temples are notified in the list of places where propagating and practicing other religions have been banned. Ten out of these are controlled by the TTD, according to the report.