The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Amitabh’s donation to feed pilgrims for entire year

Hyderabad, April 15: Many wounded egos in Mumbai will miss the feast at Pratiksha, but thousands down south can taste the Bachchans’ wedding hospitality.

Amitabh Bachchan today made the biggest ever donation by an actor at Tirupati, temple officials said, a part of which will feed pilgrims to the shrine every day for a full year.

The superstar arrived at the Balaji temple early this morning to seek blessings for son Abhishek and future daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai ahead of their April 20 wedding. A wedding invitation card was placed at the idol’s feet.

“He donated a huge bundle of currency wrapped in silk cloth and put a box of gold ornaments in the hundi (collection box) outside the sanctum sanctorum,” said a temple official who didn’t wish to be named.

“The money was in 1,000-rupee and 500-rupee notes and there were some 50 wads. The box of ornaments was about 1.5 kilos. Altogether, it must be over Rs 1 crore.”

But Bachchan wasn’t finished. He handed three cheques for Rs 51 lakh each at the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam office.

One of the cheques was for the daily annadanam — free food for devotees for one year. Temple authorities said on an average, 30,000-40,000 people visit the shrine daily and of them, about 20,000 have the free meal. Bachchan’s contribution will take care of a large share of the daily expense.

The second cheque was for the pranadanam fund, which provides poor patients with free blood. The third went to the bal mandir fund, dedicated to the welfare of the girl child and primary education in villages.

“This is the biggest donation by any actor here,” the official said. “Rajnikant (the Tamil superstar) and Rajkumar (the Kannada film icon) had earlier donated diamond ornaments to Balaji.”

The biggest donation ever, worth about Rs 10 crore, came in 2001 from a Tamil industrialist who can’t be named. Two years ago, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti had donated over Rs 2 crore.

Bachchan was accompanied by businessman Anil Ambani and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh. They, too, dropped a few packets of currency and ornaments such as rings and chains into the hundi.

The trio had arrived in Chennai on Ambani’s private aircraft and driven to the temple in two Mercs. The TTD joint executive officer escorted them to the sanctum sanctorum, where a ritual was performed to seek the deity’s blessings for the young couple.

Later, the temple’s vedic pundits and senior priests blessed the pilgrims. All three were given a shawl and a packet of prasadam.

Aishwarya had earlier made news by trekking 22 km to the temple around the time she split with Viveik Oberoi – which made the later engagement with Abhishek possible.

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