The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karate class for priests

Hyderabad, July 1: Priests of the Balaji temple in Tirupati will soon follow in the footsteps of Chinese monks, who developed kung fu to ward off invaders in the medieval times.

In view of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam’s threat perception from terrorists, priests will need to pick up martial arts to supplement their knowledge of the agama shastras — the method of carrying out temple rites — and Vedic rituals.

The temple administration has approved a proposal to train around 65 priests under 35 years in kung fu, karate, judo and taekwon do. “A priest of Tamil Nadu, who is an exponent of these arts, is being hired to train our priests,” said endowment minister Dandu Shivramaraju here today.

But the temple board is unsure whether the imparting of martial arts to priests or placing men trained in the fighting techniques inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine was approved by the agama shastras. It has sought the advice of exponents of the shastras and expects a direction in favour of the training.

A source in the devasthanam said the threat to the temple is serious in view of the fact that nearly 1.5 lakh devotees visit it daily. “Anyone could be a terrorist as we do not have any strategy to stop them,” said the person in charge of the temple security.

The temple, the richest in India, is guarded by nearly 300 policemen and another 50 in mufti are on the lookout round the clock. The temple administration has tightened entry regulations after the threat perception increased by placing invisible scanners and x-ray machines at major points in the temple. “Even employees are subject to routine checking and frisking,” said security in-charge said.

The trained priests will be placed around the sanctum sanctorum in traditional attire, ready to spring into action when needed. “They will not tackle usual and routine situations, but will keep monitoring throughout the day, all seven days of the week,” he said.

Priests in the other prominent temples of Srisailam, Bhadrachalam and Simhachalam will also be trained in martial arts, the source said.

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