If there’s one area where Telangana lost out big in the bifurcation of the undivided Andhra Pradesh, it is the dividends from religious tourism. When the dividing lines were laid down in 2014, Andhra gained the popular pilgrimage sites of the Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple at Tirumala, the Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy temple at Srisailam and the Sri Kalahasthi temple in Chittoor.
While Telangana has no shortage of temples of its own, none has had the drawing power of these three big pilgrimage destinations.
Ever since, Telangana has been seeking to raise the popularity of its own temples as pilgrimage sites, and has settled on the Yadadri (earlier called Yadagirigutta) Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple as the answer to its prayers. With the comprehensively designed temple complex targeted to be completed by the Dasara season of 2017, the Rachakonda police have drawn up plans for an intensive three-tier security cordon appropriate for a massive pilgrimage town.
The Yadadri temple, dedicated to the deity Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, is a picturesque site atop a hillock with moderate climate through the year.
Despite being situated just around 60km from Hyderabad, the temple sees peak pilgrim traffic of just around 20,000-25,000 visitors a day, on auspicious days, as compared to the almost one lakh a day visitors to Tirumala. In revenue terms, those numbers translate to just around Rs 73.31 crore in 2014-15, against Tirumala’s Rs 2,262.52 crore.
Since just a few weeks after the creation of Telangana, however, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao began planning on ways to raise the stature of the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple into Telangana’s own Tirumala.
One of the main planks of the development plan, being spearheaded by the Yadadri Temple Development Authority (YTDA) , has been to design a pilgrimage route by developing eight hillocks neighboring the main temple into a temple town spread over 2,015 acres.
The temple’s main gopuram is also being raised to a height of 100ft, to make it visible from every part of the temple complex. Art director Anand Sai, who designed the master plan for the temple, told Deccan Chronicle, “The plan gives the temple complex a new look. One can see the main temple’s gopuram from anywhere in the temple complex.” He added that visitors will be greeted from the entrance by the sight of a grand Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy idol, and that the construction would be such as to give even newly constructed portions the appearance of couple of centuries vintage.
The landscape of the complex is being planned with attention to the cultivation of lush greenery, which would help lower the temperatures at the temple complex by a few degrees. The temple will also feature five sanctum sanctorums carved out of monolith stones. The work on these structures is reportedly being carried out by over 500 sculptors.
No expense has been spared by the Telangana government, with initial investment in the Yadadri temple complex reportedly sanctioned at Rs 150 crore, with Rs 75 crore for land acquisition alone. The government has also promised a further Rs 100 crore in each annual budget for the next three years.
It comes as no surprise that an elaborate security plan has been designed for the complex. This includes two security cordons in the complex as well as special stations at vulnerable spots and a planned station atop the main temple hillock itself.
The security arrangements will also include special under-vehicle surveillance units at the entrance gates to the temple and a special security detail for the VIP housing complex in the temple town. The latter will include anti-sabotage checks, frisking and intensive surveillance mechanisms.
“Three places in particular the temple on the hillock, the VIP housing facility and the temple town as a whole would require exhaustive security cover,” Rachakonda police commissioner, Mahesh M Bhagwat told TOI.