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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Karate priests to protect temple
By Sampath Kumar
BBC correspondent in Madras

Priests in the richest and holiest Hindu temple in India are to be trained in martial arts.

Brahmin priest Seshadri is a black belt in Karate
The authorities at the Tirupati temple in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh took the decision in a move to tighten security.

A priest from Madras who is a black belt in karate has been asked to train six priests from the temple.

Existing armed security staff are not allowed to enter the holiest parts of the temple.

Seshadri, a 42 year-old priest has been approached by the authorities of the famous temple to train priests in the art of karate to defend the temple from possible terror attacks.

Black belt

He is a Brahmin priest of the Ashtalakshmi temple in Madras.

He is also a black belt in Karate and was trained by a police officer in a small town in Tamil Nadu.

His poor hut reflects his passion for Karate and is adorned with pictures of Bruce Lee.

Temple authorities say karate could halt terrorists
Security has been tightened around the Tirupati temple, following an attack last year on a Hindu temple in Gujarat.

Tirupati temple attracts tens of thousands of devotees every day and has its own security mechanism.

Every pilgrim has to pass through bomb detectors before entering the temple.

However armed security staff are not allowed in the temple's central parts. Only priests can enter.

Seshadri says the training in karate will help them to avert any attack at this point and prevent any desecration.

He says the Tirupati temple authorities have given him a two year contract to teach karate.

He is now awaiting clearance from his own temple authorities.

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