TIRUPATI: Pala Seshadri, an Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) at the Tirumala temple, who died of cardiac arrest at Visakhapatnam on Monday morning, was an inalienable part of the richest temple body, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) in the country for the past 44 years. Though he was not a regular priest, he became enormously popular with his involvement in the day-to-day functioning at the temple of Lord Venkateswara.
Seshadri had joined the TTD on January 26, 1977 and served the organisation in various capacities. He was the only person awarded with multiple extensions — in recognition of his services, by successive governments after his retirement in 2006. He joined the TTD as a clerk in 1977. After becoming a regular employee in 1979, he was posted as Uttara Parupattedar, and was later promoted to Junior, Senior Assistant, Superintendent and Parupattedar.
He remained posted at the hill shrine till his retirement on July 31, 2006. His long tenure in service of Lord Venkateswara reveals the expertise this veteran got in the daily chores at the hill shrine. Well-versed with the history of the Tirumala temple, he became an inalienable part of the temple body as far as all the religious festivities are concerned at the hill shrine.
Seshadri was also known for his simple dressing style — never wears a shirt and only wears a dhoti and ties an upper cloth around the waist. With his queue line management skills during the 1990s and his presence at Tirumala temple from dawn to dusk, he became the most prominent figure among the VVIPs and the common devotees visiting the hill shrine.
Seshadri emerged as the face of the temple in the mid 90s following his key role in the process of transition — the abolition of the hereditary Archaka and Potu mirasi systems at Tirumala temple by the state government after a prolonged legal battle.
Seshadri helped the temple management in conducting daily rituals and religious festivities at the hill shrine when the mirasi archakas reportedly stayed away from the temple activities at that time.
Speaking about how he got the moniker of Dollar, Seshadri once told Deccan Chronicle that it was called Dollar Seshadri because of a gold chain around his neck, which has a huge gold pendant — colloquially referred to as dollar — embezzled with an image of a ram, a male sheep, representing his zodiac sign Aries. He said he needs to wear it to ward off the evil eyes that might harm his reputation.
Critics, however, deny this theory and claim that the infamous dollars scam at Tirumala temple has led to the title added to his name. When Seshadri was in service and in charge of ‘Srivari Bokkasam’, the vault of Tirumala temple, around 310 gold coins — also called dollars — allegedly went missing in 2005. A controversy raged in 2007 that Seshadri was responsible for the disappearance of gold coins from Bokkasam.
Though Seshadri was forced to quit and stay away from the hill temple for a brief while after his name was figured in the gold dollars scam, he later re-joined services in TTD after he had been cleared of all allegations by the one-man commission and courts. Later, he went on to serve at the hill shrine till his last breath although he suffered several strokes and was weakened in health.
Seshadri, who had remained the face of TTD, was mainly known for his close association with several politicians including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers besides religious personalities and celebrities.
He was the guide of Presidents like Giani Zail Singh, Abdul Kalam, Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, Chief Ministers Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, Kiran Kumar Reddy, N. Chandrababu Naidu and Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Seshadri's ancestors were from Kanchi in Tamil Nadu. His father worked as a clerk at the Tirumala Nambi sannidhi in Govindaraja Swamy temple. Born in Tirupati, Seshadri completed his post graduation here and later married to Chandra. They had no children. Seshadri has two brothers and two sisters.