By: Rajeswari Parasa
August 21 2023
Certain measures for using the walkway have been announced following a leopard attack on a six-year-old.
Claims that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the temple administration of the Tirumala Venkateswara in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is closing the pedestrian path to the temple have been circulating on social media platforms. On August 13, Facebook user Sudha Chinta posted a photo of the TTD Executive Officer Dharma Reddy with text in Telugu claiming he said, "We are planning to close Tirumala walkway." The text in Telugu also stated, “destroying, closing down, this is what you people are capable of doing,” questioning the Government of Andhra Pradesh, ruled by YSRCP.
The same post is also being shared on WhatsApp statuses by several users in Telugu with provocative remarks, claiming it is a decision "against Hindus."
Screengrabs of the claims made on social media (Source: WhatsApp, Facebook/@Sudhachinta)
This speculation comes in the wake of a leopard attack on a six-year-old girl Lakshita who was taking the Alipiri walkway along with her parents on August 11. According to a report by the local news outlet Sakshi, the six-year-old went missing on August 11, while they were on their way to Tirumala. The police found the child's body in the forest the next day.
However, the claim that the walkway has now been closed to people is misleading.
As the Tirupati temple is on a hill, there are two walkways that the devotees can use to trek to the temple, one of them being the popular Alipiri walkway. We checked the official website of TTD and found that it has not announced that the walkway has been closed for devotees.
Speaking to Logically Facts, TTD Deputy Executive Officer Lokanadham said, "We have not announced any plans for the closure of the pedestrian walkway to Tirumala. However, we have increased the security measures for the devotees' protection."
Following the leopard attack on the six-year-old, TTD announced a series of measures for the safety of devotees, like restricting the entry for children below 12 years after 2 pm, distributing sticks to the devotees, increasing the number of security personnel among others, according to a report from the Hans India. Citing an official press release from the temple, The News Minute reported that pilgrims with children aged below 15 years would be allowed from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. to trek on both the walkways that lead to the temple — the Alipiri and Srivari Mettu routes.
A local journalist from Tirupati told Logically Facts that children are allowed to walk up to the temple with their guardians or parents upon special request.
According to a video report by local news channel Tv5 on August 18, the devotees can be seen using the walkway to Tirumala. However, the report also states that the number of devotees taking the walkway has decreased after the leopard attack.
Screengrab from a news report showing people using the walkway (Source: YouTube/TV5)
It is to be noted that regular bus/jeep services are available from Tirupati to reach Tirumala Venkateswara temple. While some devotees use bus services, others prefer taking the steps. However, according to The News Minute report, the temple administration has decided to restrict the movement of two-wheelers from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on these ghat roads as a precaution against wild animal attacks.
TTD did not announce any plans to close the pedestrian walkway from Alipiri to Tirumala temple. The temple trust has only imposed some restrictions as security measures following a leopard attack. Hence, we rate this claim as misleading.