I am back after a two-day temple tour. I visited Srirangam, one of the most beautiful and famous temples in Southern India. This month is the margazhi masam . There is unprecedented rush in almost all shrines in south India. Plenty of thiruvizhas and oorkolums are slotted for this time. Srirangam was no different.

Okay,it is a very powerful deity who attacts devotees from far and near. People throng the temple in hundreds and thousands. Parking space is not to be found. We had to park our car almost 2 Kms from the temple to even reach the entrance.
I always wondered, what the fuss about a VIP pass is for. If everyone follows a single queue and keeps moving, wont everyone get a chance to see the idol ? But hell, no. There are a fifty varieties of darshan one can do, obviously with a proportional fee, but if it is regularized, its not a problem. Temple management is an art. I have to congratulate the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams for their splendid job. Sadly in other popular shrines, it is a mega obstacle.

We stood in the line. Long and snaky with sooo many twists and turns. People from all classes, professions were standing with us. We moved steadily right into the heart of the temple through winding queues, pillared mandapams, beautiful statues and small temples. Everything was fine until we saw a huge rush of people suddenly joining us from the left. It was chaos after that, people pushed, were pushed, moved like a bunch of crazy animals, hands were squeezed, hair was pulled and suddenly it felt like the whole of Ganga was trying to flow through a tiny pin-hole. I wanted to kno the reason for the sudden increase in activity. The answer ” Thats the VIP darshan”
I was dreading my turn to pass through the confluence. My fears were right. SMACK! I got punched across my face, suddenly a hundred hands on my shoulders pulling me in almost all directions with a constant push forward and no place to go. I was thrown face-first into the lady before me, and with a place for only one person to pass through, suddenly there was place enough for ten.
I emerged with a cut on my left arm and a bruise on my cheek. I thought angrily, “What the hell!? Do we need to go through all this to even pray? ” I watched with a bemused expression on my face as our queue was stopped and some America-returned chap wearing his company T-shirt accompanied by two policemen went right ahead with his family, had darshan and returned. After some 10 minutes, again the same thing happened, but this time it was some politician. Dressed in his usual white ensemble and accompanied by some 10 policemen, he made his way through the crowd. We had been in the line for about 4 hours now and these people got access in 5 minutes. That too after stopping the usual darshan lines. A VIP pass is not out of reach for us also, but thanks to my strong disapproval we never avail that.
But luckily for us, the ultimate darshan was good. The last fifteen minutes or so were peaceful and our queue proceeded in its usual pace and everyone got a chance to pray. We had just emerged from the sanctum sanctorum, when we saw a policeman roughing up a fellow who tried to try to get in with the VIP’s.
I have always despised these extra arrangements made for these so-called VIP’s. Everytime I hear about the Bacchan family visiting a shrine or Ambanis flying to Tirupati, I always think about the poor man who waited his turn (in Tirupati it goes into days!) but who is halted by these people who flaunt their wealth and get direct access.
I wonder what God must be thinking looking at all this from above.
But I have concluded, no longer is VIP a very important person.