Three Diamond studded gold crowns of the presiding deities were stolen on Saturday from Sri Govindaraja Swami Temple, one of the biggest and most worshipped temple complexes in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati.
According to the police complaint filed by the temple superintendent Sri Gyana Prakash, the missing crowns which date back to the 12th century, are suspected to have been stolen at the time of evening prasad offerings.
The crowns of sub-temple gods, Malayappa, Sridevi and Bhoodevi weigh 1,351 gram in total. Malayappa crown weighs 528 gram, Sridevi crown weighs 408 gram and Bhoodevi crown weighs 415 gram.
The Tirupati urban superintendent of police KKN Anmburajan while speaking to The Hindustan Times said that a manhunt has been launched with six teams headed by two sub-divisional police officers.
The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams (TTD) Assistant Executive Officer, Kola Bhaskar said the theft was noticed around 10.30pm on Saturday and the TTD’s vigilance wing immediately informed the police.
The main doors of the temple were closed after the evening ritual of ‘naivedyam’ was offered to the deities. The crowns were found missing after the doors were opened half an hour later, he confirmed.
Tirupati is one of India’s holiest pilgrimage sites in the state’s Chittoor district because of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. It is known to be the richest temple in the country. Although located in Tirupati, the Govindaraja Swamy Temple is controlled and maintained by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams trust board.
Last year, AV Ramana Deekshitulu, who was removed from the post of Chief Priest of Tirumala Temple, alleged that the state government and the temple administration are mishandling temple affairs and that the highly-priced ornaments and precious diamonds donated by devotees to Lord Venkateshwara have disappeared in the past two decades and sought a CBI inquiry into the same.
He had also directly accused Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and the officials appointed by him for the disappearance of jewels donated by devotees, following which, Naidu had to face severe denunciation by the opposition leaders.
A press conference was held by the head priest where he alleged massive corruption and mismanagement by the temple authorities and state government. Following the allegations levelled by the head priest, he was made to retire and was subsequently replaced by the Temple board.
Ramana Dikshitulu had, however, asserted that he was being victimised for meeting BJP President Amit Shah and showing him how hidden treasures were being stolen.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy had then taken to Twitter to assert that the dismissal of the head priest by the TTD Board was grossly illegal and that he will move the Supreme Court to quash the sacking and also to appeal for a court-monitored CBI probe into the financial misappropriation of temple funds by the Tirumala Tirupati board.