(File Image)
(File Image)

Tirumala:  People thronging Tirumala shrine are raising eye-brows over officials banning the sale of watermelons, most desired fruit in summer, linking it with straying of leopards onto the abode of Lord Balaji. 

Of late, watermelons have joined the list of banned goods – cigarettes, meat and liquor. The security personnel at Alipiri check-post at the foot of Tirumala Hills are thoroughly searching goods and allowing fruits to Tirumala only after ensuring that there are no watermelons among them. As a result, watermelons were taken off the shelves by fruit vendors. 

Comparing their visit with that of the earlier visits, the devotees are awe-struck at the officials linking watermelons with straying of wild cats.  Devotees prefer coconut water and eat watermelons to cool drinks during the summer with the Mercury registering around 45 degrees Celsius in the Rayalaseema region. 

The fruit vendors complain of loss of business compared to earlier times, when they used to make brisk business selling watermelons. The vendors were allowed to go to Tirumala only after assuring that they do not carry watermelons. 

According to medical officer Dr Sarmishta, devotees reaching Tirumala through steps have a tendency to drop watermelon rinds after consuming them. The green rinds attract deer. 

Leopards, in pursuit of deer, are prone to reach Tirumala. The officials argue that the garbage generated at Tirumala is disposed of in Balaji Colony, where the movement of leopards was detected earlier. The leopards are laying in wait to pounce on deer and wild boar that stray into the colony to savour on the garbage.  

The temple staff has come to a decision that straying of wild cats will be greatly diminished in the populated areas of Tirumala if water melons are banned atop Tirumala Hills. The temple administration is implementing the ban in full force.  

The devotees argue that no other fruit can bridge the void caused by absence of water melons, while traders are worried about the loss of business.  On account of the threat of wild cat straying into Tirumala from neighbouring forests, the devotees have no option but to forego the season’s most loveable fruit—watermelon.

By: Kiran