Nitya Annadam – Free meals for all 24×7 basis -a minimum one lakh every day Over One lakh devotees to be fed daily during Brahmotsavam
Tirupati , September 19: It is delightful sight at the Nittya Annadanam complex Tirumala. A week ahed of Brahmotsavam, the TTD has been feeding nearly one lakh visitors to Tirumala freely .TheAnnadanam complex started working from morning eight am to facilitate the thousands of pllgrims who had waited in que for over 24 hours from the beginning of the annual festival at Tirumala.
“We appeal to all devotees to be patient as we are making all arrangements to provide free food, and laddu prasadam and sarva darshan for all “ says the Executive Officer of TTD, Sri. I Y R Krishna Rao .
In spite of recession and hike in costs of transport services etc the rush of pilgrims is every increasing day by day and the TTD and the state government officials are gearing up on a war footing to ensure that everyone got the benefits of all the welfare initiatives of Lord Venkateswara like free meals, free prasadam, free darshan and also free accommodation . .
India is a country known for its hospitality and charity to poor disabled and destitutes .Since Centuries the religious shrines had become the institutions to deliver such social justice for the have not’s aimed at providing them food and social security.
The shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala administered by the Tirumala Tirupati Dewasthanams (TTD) has set another innovative and epoch making initiative to reaffirm the country’s continued faith in traditional values and its unstinted practice . For the Brahmotsavcam of 2009, it proposes to provide free meals every day for all nine days to a mimum of one to two lakh devotees per day . “ We are not limiting the numbers .Every hungry devotees will get food any time of the day or night during Brahmotsavam ‘ says Krishna Rao.
The popular pilgrim town has set a record of sorts by offering two free meals on 24×7 basis to its visitors irrespective of caste or creed and also without questioning them as to whether they visited the temple and had darshan or not .The meal, though simple is appreciated by visitors including foreigners, tycoons and first timers as not only hygiene but also tasty . “Every one- both rich and poor want to partake meals at the huge Annadam complex as prasadam of the deity” say the authorities.
What began as a scheme launched by a devout donors’ penance to feed poor at Tirumala in memory of his beloved elders on April 6th, 1985 had today grown into an institution with a corpus as huge as over Rs. 175 crore and a budget equivalent of that of several union territories in the country .
What began as a poor feeding for just 2000 persons 23 years ago has today catapulted into massive Nitya Annadanam program for every pilgrim who visited the country’s most revered religious shrine at Tirumala which is perhaps the only such institution which had laid out an multi-pronged approach towards protection and preservation of Hindu Dharma not only as an spiritual and religious issue but also as a service to the society .
“Sri Venkateswara Nithya Annadanam Trust
The “Sri Venkateswara Nithya Annadanam Trust “ founded on April 1st, 1994 had developed potential and where-with-all to provide decent, hygienic and wholesome meals twice a day for all pilgrims who set their foot on Tirumala irrespective of whether they had darahsn of the presiding deity Lord Venkateswara or not . “What is important to us in the TTD is that everyone who comes to this holy place , by walk or by any other transport need not suffer out of exhaustion or hunger and could have darshan of deity at their convenience “ says I Y R Krishna Rao Executive Officer of TTD.
The scheme launched with a small donation of a philanthropist for about 2000 poor and needy pilgrims had today grown into a huge organization with capability and infrastructure to feed a minimum of 35,000 week days, and around 40,000 on week-ends and holidays. The Trust with a corpus of Rs.175 crore is one of the most popular schemes of the TTD as it touched the basic need of the pilgrim- for cheap, safe food and yet served with dignity and humility by scores of Srivari Seva volunteers .
Corpus & popularity keeps ever growing
Smt T. Chenchu Lakshmi , who is in charge of the Annadanam scheme says that right now there were nearly 500 donors who had contributed to the kitty of the Trust which has undertaken several programs including Nitya annadanam .
But every passing day donations are pouring in for the corpus from devotees for the corpus . “Earlier we had donors for building guest rooms, Now we have more offering funds for Annadanam”. She says that the dining halls of the annadanam complex are full anytime of the day with pilgrims. The rich and poor partake free meals as they consider it as prasadam of Lord Venkateswara in view of Its hygienic preparation and cleanliness in delivery .
Every day each devotee enjoyed a six course lunch /dinner to their tummy’s fill . The menu included – Sweet pongal ( prasadam), vegetable curry , Chatni , Sambar , Rasam and Rice . However from August 1st, the TTD administration added Dal and ghee to balance the food nutritiously on advise of specialists from National Institute of Nutrition .
The donors for the scheme had special benefits in accommodation, laddu prasadam and also darshan of the presiding deity once in a year. Donations could range from any multiplies of Rs.1000.
New Annadanam Complex
A donor from West Godavari district has come forward to construct a state of the art complex to set up hygienic and modern kitchen and dining hall for the Annadanam Trust at Tirumala at a cost of Rs. Twenty crore .
With the new complex the TTD authorities say that they could feed nearly 4000 pilgrims in one single batch .The ultra modern kitchen will also have capacity to cook rice, dal, sambar and others faster to facilitate the huge crowds anticipated in the coming years. L & T has been chosen to build the ultra-modern complex including its kitchen and the dining hall for which designs were prepared by global experts.
By the normal standards in the present kitchen 12 huge vessels are steamed to produce rice at the rate of five persons for one kg rice. “But we are geared to cook rice for one to two lakh persons during the Srivari Brahmotsavam at the rate of 400 bags of rice per day”
Free supply in ‘Q’ complex’s.
Smt. Lakshmi says that besides Annadanam, the TTD undertook to provide sumptuous feed of upma, milk, curd rice , butter milk and sambar rice on a two hours cycle to the thousands of devotees who waited in the Vaikuntam que complex for hours .
“ We gave them some food items from early morning hours of 3.30 AM to midnight to ensure that none of the pilgrims who waited in the serpentine ‘Q’ complexes ( 30 compartments in Vaikuntam ) suffered of hunger or thirst as they waited in hot sun, rain and in unearthly hours for the darshan of Lord Venkateswara “ .
On the occasion of the ensuing Srivari Brahmotsavam fromSeptember 21st , the TTD plans to provide more amenities like food packets, water and butter milk packets to devotees waiting in Vaikuntam complex’s as they anticipate much larger crowds . “We are ready to take on any number of devotees as this if the second year of our free meal program and we made all arrangements to ensure that the pilgrims did not suffer during the ten days of the Srivari Brahmotsavam “ says the Executive Officer Rao .
The scheme has already attracted donors in kind and cash . Vegetable growers of Madanapalli, Chittoor, Bangalore and Chennai are sending vegetables free to the Annadanam trust daily. “We used to spend nearly Rs.50 lakhs on just the vegetables in the past “says Chencu Lakshmi . But the TTd spends hardlt Rs. 15 lakhs rest are all by donation .
As part of Annadanam scheme food packets are also prepared for distribution for the pilgrims who come by foot in the middle of their journey both at the Padala Mantapam or Gali Gopuram .They are also provided water and other basic amenities. Food packets are also prepared and delivered by volunteers for all those in the temple, hospitals, administration, security and transport wings. “We supply nearly 5000 packets on week days and 10,000 days on week-ends “, she says.
The TTD has also set in motion a process to provide clean and pure water to pilgrims. It has now permitted some philanthropists to provide mineral water plants in Tirumala at a cost of Rs. Five crore. “The plant will have capacity to provide pure and hygienic drinking water at the rate of one lakh liters per day and the pilgrims will have to just pay Rs. One per liter”.
The TTD has attached great importance and priority to –provide clean and safe drinking water to prevent spread of diseases and hardships to pilgrims who come with a divine hope and blessing. Particularly in view of the growing menace of Swine Flu and Dengue fever the TTD has also banned use of plastics bottles on Tirumala . Special arrangements were made for setting up water kiosks and clean drinking outlets all over Tirumala during the current Srivari Brahmotsavam.
ISSUED BY THE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER, TTDs, TIRUPATI