Upsurge in volunteers for pilgrim management at Tirumala
It was indeed amazing to see ‘Srivari seva’ which started as a trickle seventeen years back growing into a major and inseparable part of richest Hindu religious institution TTD administering the famous Lord Venkateswara temple.
Tirupati: It was indeed amazing to see ‘Srivari seva’ which started as a trickle seventeen years back growing into a major and inseparable part of richest Hindu religious institution TTD administering the famous Lord Venkateswara temple.
‘Srivari seva’ introduced in the year 2000 in which 17 groups including 105 men and 90 women participated in the voluntary service of in managing the queue in Tirumala shrine. But now 35000 groups comprising 8 lakh volunteers engaged in as many as 24 wings are involved in Srivari seva.
Interestingly women outnumbered men with five lakh of them participating compared to three lakh men in 2016. The service activities in which Srivari Sevakulu are involved include queue and compartments’ management, providing water, milk, buttermilk, coffee and food items to pilgrims waiting in the queue or in compartments, serving free food in Annaprasadam complex, scanning pilgrim luggage, garland making, TTD publications sale, serving pilgrims who become sick in the queue and also in TTD hospital etc.
In addition to these services, a select category of retired government and bank employees were chosen for the responsible duty like counting of Hundi offerings under `Parakamani seva’ since 2012, turning Srivari seva significant. More than 500 groups of about 50000 retired government bank employees so far rendered Parakamani seva.
The role of Srivari sevaks became pivotal in TTD after involving them in distribution of laddus, the most sought after prasadam of Lord Venkateswara, two years back in 2015. Distribution of two lakh laddus to the multitude of devotees, round the clock basis is a difficult exercise. Srivari seva spread its wing further recently with their services being extended to local temples in and around Tirupati and also Gosamrakashan Sala (Dairy farm) helping the TTD cope with its staff shortage.
In the beginning people from the two Telugu speaking states particularly in the tribal dominated Vizianagram, Adilabad, Visakhapatnam and also Srikakulam and Nizamabad districts enrolled as Srivari sevaks but later volunteers from many states across the country including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, West Bengal and Odisha started participating in the services.
In summer this year, more than 3500 Srivari sevakulu including 2000 were involved in serving food in Annaprasadam complex and distribution of water, milk, everyday to pilgrims in the compartments and queue and another 1500 in other areas like laddu counters, scanning etc. in Tirumala alone.
Satyanarayana Reddy a farmer from Khammam district and a first time Srivari sevak said he derived utmost satisfaction and spiritual solace by serving the devotees. “I decided to do Srivari seva atleast twice in a year’’ he said. While, JC Seetha said she and her batch of 15 from Hyderabad are doing the seva once or twice a year. She says that remaining in holy Tirumala and serving devotees of God Balaji gives her peace and inspires her to lead a pious life.
TTD are now selecting Srivari sevaks through online and are insisting on Aadhar card to streamline the Srivari seva service and ensure uniform flow of sevaks for better service. During some months the number of Sevaks is only 800 making it difficult to cover all services, says Neelima Rao, assistant PRO and incharge of Srivari seva.
However, TTD employees’ union leader Nagarjuna observed that expanding Srivari seva to vital areas like security, laddu distribution etc. will in the long run prove to be against the interests of the TTD and also employees. He wanted the TTD to limit their service to devotees only and not to reduce tasks to save money.
By G Sridhar