The Tirupati Balaji Temple, one of the world’s richest and most popular shrines, is giving a run to the COVID19-hit conglomerates in reporting revenue losses during the countrywide lockdown. The officials of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the temple trust that runs the Sri Venkateswara Temple, reported that the lockdown has incurred a whopping revenue loss of INR 400 crore since March 25. A severe cash crunch that the revenue loss has resulted in makes it difficult for TTD to afford salaries, pensions and various daily expenses.
Recently, there was a call for the richest temples of India to save Indian economy with their gold reserves in the aftermath of the COVID19 pandemic that brought the world’s second most populous country to a standstill. The crisis that TTD is facing now despite its eight tons of gold reserve and fixed deposits worth INR 14000 crore in various banks has thrown non-religious sectors out of gear, where manufacturing and production activities were completely halted. Whether India should save the economy of temples or temples should save the economy of India, is a hot debate now.
The Tirupati Temple authorities are exploring ways to tide over the revenue crisis while leaving the gold reserve and fixed deposits untouched. TTD allocates a budget of nearly INR 2500 crore for fixed annual expenses. There has been zero income since the lockdown was imposed all over the country. On top of that, the obligation of paying salaries and pensions, and meeting daily fixed expenses during the lockdown has already incurred the trust a spending of INR 300 crore.
All the major sources of revenue inflow to the temple trust, including the sale of laddus and the auction of human hair donated by devotees at the Sri Venkateswara Temple, are currently closed. Proceeds from the round-the-year sales of the Tirupati laddu prasadam add a few hundred crores to the annual revenue for the Tirumala temple trust. Nearly 100 million laddus are sold to devotees in a year. During the lockdown, TTD paid salaries to about 700 people who are employed for the daily making of more than 300,000 laddus and other prasadam. TTD also earns a few hundred crore rupees from the auction of human hair.
With the temple being closed to devotees during the lockdown, TTD has made an estimated loss of INR 150-175 crore in the hundi collection – a major source of revenue for the Tirupati Balaji Temple. Though congregations of devotees at any religious place are prohibited across the country, expenses for daily rituals and festive ceremonies which are being observed indoors cannot be escaped.
Besides, TTD has had the obligation of providing additional financial support to its healthcare institutions. TTD has given a special grant of INR 400 crore to the institutions during the COVID19-induced lockdown. However, the Tirupati Balaji Temple trust can manage to reduce the strain of cash crunch and monthly revenue loss with a substantial income from the fixed deposits of INR 14000 crore that might be generating INR 900-1000 crore at the annual interest rate of 6 to 7 per cent.