Tirupati police on Monday arrested the man allegedly behind the theft of the three diamond-studded gold crowns that were reported to have been stolen from Govindaraja Swami temple in Tirupati on February 3.
Police also retrieved 1.3 kg of melted gold from the man arrested. The accused had subsequently melted the crowns of sub-temple gods, Malayappa, Sridevi and Bhoodevi weighing 1,351 gram in total. The crown of Malayappa weighed 528 gram, Goddess Sridevi’s crown weighed 408 gram and the crown of Bhoodevi weighed 415 grams.
According to the police complaint filed by the temple superintendent Sri Gyana Prakash at the time of the theft in the month of February, the missing crowns which date back to the 12th century were suspected to have been stolen at the time of evening prasad offerings.
The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams (TTD) Assistant Executive Officer, Kola Bhaskar had confirmed then that 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.
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 the 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.