The Andhra Pradesh Endowments department, led by BJP minister P. Manikyala Rao, has issued orders to all temples in the state not to conduct any special pujas on the occasion of New Year. The department will conduct all New Year related celebrations during Ugadi, the Telugu New Year day that is on 18 March 2018.

AP Endowments Commissioner Y.V. Anuradha confirmed this to The Sunday Guardian over phone and said that the intention was to encourage local cultures in Hindu temples.

The commissioner specifically issued a circular to the heads of all temples in the state. There are around 2,000 big and medium temples in AP.

However, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams’s Balaji temple at Tirupati, which sees a footfall of around 1.5 lakh devotees on the night of 31 December, will continue to receive them from 3 am on 1 January 2018. “Yes, we are aware of the government’s decision not to accord any priority to pujas on 1 January, but here (Tirupati) the situation is different,” a TTD spokesman said.

Though 1 January is officially celebrated by the churches of all denominations in the country, the Hindu temples in AP and Telangana gear up for a massive rush on the midnight of 31 December by those who want to begin their new year with a darshan of the Gods. All major temples like Durga temple at Vijayawada and Dwaraka Tirumala in West Godavari among others usually witness a huge new year rush.

The temples in AP as well as in Telangana are decked up with flowers and lightings on the night of 31 December and keep open their doors from 12 am onwards for devotees. Priests perform special pujas and conduct rituals till the day break at around 6 am. Following complaints by some Hindu groups and some members in the government sponsored Hindu Dharma Prachara Parishad that temples were giving unnecessary importance to 1 January, the endowments department of AP has decided to downplay the New Year day and accord priority to Ugadi as per the Telugu calendar. Manikyala Rao was not available for his comments, but sources close to him told this newspaper that this move in no way was aimed at hurting or objecting the wishes of the people who want to have a dharshan of the Gods at temples on the night of 31 December. “We will leave it to the local temples to fix their timings, but our advise to the priests is that we need not glorify 1 January,” said an aide of the minister.

Interestingly, some temples in Hyderabad in Telangana have decided to cash in on the devotees’ rush to temples on 31 December and January 1. “When our Hindu devotees want to visit our temple, what’s wrong with it?” said an additional endowments commissioner of Telangana.

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