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Mallya’s Tirupati gold

Hyderabad, Dec. 18: Vijay Mallya gave away 3kg of gold to the Balaji temple in Tirumala on his 57th birthday today, part of a larger promised donation to gold-plate a part of India’s richest shrine.

The donation, worth around Rs 1 crore, takes to 11kg (over Rs 3.3 crore) the total volume of gold given away by the chairman of the UB Group and Kingfisher Airlines.

Officials of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which runs the temple, said Mallya had given 8kg earlier.

The donations come at a time Mallya’s group has been facing financial trouble, grounding his airline and forcing him to sell the majority stake in United Spirits, his flagship, to the UK’s Diageo for over Rs 11,000 crore.

Other devotees, too, have showered gold. Nearly 39kg has been collected in the hundi (donation bag) so far this month. Another 12kg has come from VVIPs.

“We only keep VVIP gold contributions in the form of ornaments for the deity and the rest is sent to banks in Mumbai for conversion into gold deposits and for making gold dollars for sale to devotees,” said TTD executive officer L.V. Subramanyam. Around 458kg of gold has been sent to banks so far this year.

This doesn’t include the gold jewellery of Lord Venkateswara, which itself is over 14 tonnes and comprises crowns, diamonds, swords, puja vessels and pearls.