The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Tech Conversion: India's Richest Shrine Goes Green

By: for BBC News on Feb. 10, 2012
News Briefs

Surrounded by seven hills, high above lush green forests is the temple town of Tirumala.

The crown jewel is the dazzling gold-plated temple of Lord Venkateshwara. Located in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, this is not just one of Hinduism's holiest shrines, but also one of the richest.

It has an annual income of $340m - mostly from donations.

Between 50-100,000 people visit this temple every day. This puts enormous pressure on water, electricity and other energy resources.

Now the temple is using its religious influence and economic might to change the way energy is used here.

Sustainable sources

Developing reserve forests around the temple to act as carbon sinks, the management has transformed the environment.

They are promoting the use of sustainable technologies and hope to influence public opinion.

LV Subramanyam is the executive officer of the temple trust.

"While we currently use a mix of conventional and non-conventional energy sources, our aim is make the place more reliant on sustainable sources of energy," he says

"Most of our devotees are progressive. In a religious place like Tirumala, we can set the example by going green. Probably the impact will be much more than normal government advertisements or publicity."

Inside the temple complex, a large multi-storey building is dedicated to just one thing - cooking free meals for pilgrims.

Several cooks work in tandem stirring large pots of rice, curry and vegetables. Nearly 50,000 kilos of rice along with lentils are cooked here every day.

Open all day, this community kitchen is the biggest green project for the temple.

Located on the roof of this building are rows of solar dishes that automatically move with the angle of the sun, capturing the strong sunlight.

Generating over 4,000kgs of steam a day at 180º C, this makes the cooking faster and cheaper. As a result, an average of 500 litres of diesel fuel is saved each day.

Credit score

By switching to green technologies, the temple cuts its carbon emissions and earns a carbon offset, or credit, which they can sell.

"This was the first project to get a gold standard certification - it's a registered project and it is issuing carbon credits," he says.

"From a monetary value, carbon being a tradable commodity - the prices keeps going up and down ... we sold the carbon credits of this and various other projects to the German government."

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