I recently visited Tirumala and Tirupati after four years, on a pilgrimage to the famous Balaji Temple.
I noticed several changes from my last visit. Most – though not all – of them are for the better. Here’s a partial list:
- A new “Quick Darshan” ticket costing INR 300 has been introduced. With this ticket, you can enter the queue complex directly without any prior appointment. My two darshans during off-peak season took one and two hours respectively, although, I’m told, it could take as long as eight to 10 hours during peak season.
- The INR 300 ticket is only available in the Vaikuntam Queue Complex in Tirumala and nowhere else.
- The INR 50 ticket is no longer available in Tirumala. A total of 5,000 of these tickets is sold per day across different locations all over India e.g. Tirupati Bus Stand, Tirupati Srinivasam Complex, Renigunta Railway Station and TTD centers all over India.
- With the INR 50 ticket, fingerprint and photograph are used as proof of identity. No more armband.
- Crowd control inside the main concourse of the temple not as good as before. Not sure if this has anything to do with the scores of scout and guide volunteers – rather than regular TTD staff – engaged to manage the crowd.
- Poor visibility into expected time of darshan in the “cages” that you pass through with the INR 50 ticket. The blank in the board stating “Darshan for you will be after ___ hours” was not filled up.
- The ladoo complex has shifted from the front of the temple to a massive building – built with future needs in mind, I’m sure – located on the north-east corner.
- Severe language problem – most of the hotel staff, taxi drivers and even a computer repairman I met only spoke Telugu, which is the local language of Andhra Pradesh, the state in which Tirumala-Tirupati is located.