We joined the Free Darshan system at around 7 am in the Vaikuntham Queue Complex. After half an hour, we passed through the security gate and we were directed in to a big Hall. It is a stepped room with metal grill walls on all four sides. Its looks like a cage. There are more than such 30 hall. Each hall can accommodate nearly 300 devotees. To our surprise, as soon as we entered the hall/cage, every one (who was experienced) spread out their sheets of clothes and prepared to sleep. And some were started to stand in queue of Laddu counter. They have Laddu Token counters in each of the waiting hall. Before we could understand anything, the cage was full and it was locked from outside! In the hall ventilation systems were working efficiently. It never felt smelly. And surprisingly Toilets were clean and dry. RO filter drinking water is available.
There was a huge TV screen showing the temple activities like performing pooja and priests were chanting shlokas in local language live. One of my friend told that sometimes it takes more than 24 hours of waiting in free darshan. We felt trapped! However, there is a mechanism to temporarily leave the hall by registering at the photometric registration system. But luckily we completed darshan in 7 Hrs.
Around 10am devotees started rushed to the back of the cage to collect Coffee and Breakfast (Upama) offer by TTD for free. TTD offers breakfast and food for free for devotees waiting in hall for evry 3-4 Hrs.
Around 10.45 AM whistles started blowing and suddenly it became clear that our lot will be taken for Darshan. Devotees started running, pushing each other to get out of hall. But we were waiting for our turn in Laddu token counter. Some of peoples left queue and started leaving hall for darshan. We were in dilemma whether to leave hall or wait for our turn. Finally we decided to take Laddu token since we were standing in queue for more than 3 Hrs. Finally my turn came at around 11.15 AM but bad luck, the person at counter closed the counter. All my friends standing ahead of me got Token. There were only 6-8 devotees Including me were reaming to get the token in that hall. We requested him to give token to remaining few of us then close the counter, but he said NO rudely and asked us to wait... Ridiculous. We waited for 15 min, then they told us that they are going to close the exit door of the hall. So we decided to leave the hall without token. After coming out of the hall, we saw all passage was packed. All devotees who released from hall are waiting in passage. After waiting of 30 min more, Finally queue started moving. We passed through a maze of queue system for next hour getting pushed and squeezed in an crazy crowd. The problem is with the devotees: their number and their behaviour. They don't care about children, elderly persons, just wanted to go ahead of the other!
Finally we reached the main temple around 1.00 PM. There we didn't have to make any effort to move forward. We simply floated through the main temple with the help of pushes from the more devoted devotees. Our Darshan part was over in less than a second. Queues didn't end there. We were to go to another building where 'laddus' were handed over in return for coupons.
The entire Darshan ritual ended at 2PM afternoon.
My Personal View based on the my experience…. I was very disappointed seeing such commercialization of a religious place, Pathetic management ever seen and angry at the way they are manipulating the faith of ordinary people to make money. There needs to be some major change in the way things are managed at Tirupati Temple.
1. After you enter the main temple, there is only 1 way to go inside and come outside. the way they are sending people inside and then outside is worst. Pathetic management ever seen, the management should learn from so many other temples in India where peaceful darshan is possible despite the crowds like Shirdi, Siddhi Vinayak - way better managed than Tirumala.
2. This is one of the richest temple in India, but the fact is they don't have simple things like single lane barricades implemented to make queue systematic. All investments are going in vain.
3. The building is two hundred meters from the main temple and they have built around 30 halls (could be little more) each with a capacity to hold around 300 people. From the hall the temple premises is visible and it was obvious that there were no huge crowd in the temple, still they kept was holding for hours. When they have sufficient numbers to create a false impression of huge crowd, they open the gates of few of the halls at a time. May be it's the strategy of the temple administration to force the "general" pilgrims to wait for longer hours, so that they can justify those paying money to get quicker darshan. Otherwise no one would pay to get darshan.
4. There was no announcement to tell the waiting people in the hall when the gates would open, or how they can go out of the hall. They had literally locked the hall from outside. After entering one of the hall, people coming for the first time would be confused as to what to do next.
5. They have Laddu Token counters in each of the waiting hall and the volunteers would mislead you to buy Laddu tickets. It's not mandatory to buy laddu token for darshan
6. The management is pathetic. Volunteers are rude and apathetic. The police were also not helpful in keeping the crowd in order. Not a single Volunteer or a police man in passage from Hall to main temple, its obvious why they would like to get squeeze in suffocating queue.
7. No sign boards, lack of multi lingual volunteers, suffocating queues. Shame on the management. Plus the crowds are extremely rude and arrogant. Be prepared to be threw and pushed and squeezed in a crazy crowd. Do NOT take kids or elderly in this mess.
8. And finally after 6-7 hrs of waiting , the darshan was not even a second in front of Lord Venkateshwara, but we were already knowing this.
In my View… It’s just a business centre rather than being a temple" (No offence here).