The former head priest of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Srinivasa Dikshitulu died early on Sunday at Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences at Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati city, The News Minute reported. Dikshitulu, who was 73 years old, was hospitalised on Thursday after he tested positive for Covid-19.

YV Subba Reddy, the temple trust’s chairperson, offered his condolences to the former chief priest’s family. “The former priest has had a history of kidney ailments and was undergoing treatment,” he told the news website. “He was not part of the temple operations since his health took a bad turn.”

Reddy said Dikshitulu was relieved of his duties last year, NDTV reported. The former priest had served at the temple for over three decades.

Meanwhile, a controversy has emerged over the decision of the temple trust to keep the Tirumala shrine open during the outbreak of the coronavirus. At least 140 people working at the temple have tested positive for Covid-19, Reddy had said last week. But he had added that around half of them had recovered, and that there is no evidence of pilgrims testing positive.

On Monday, Reddy said the temple management is “monitoring the situation”, and the shrine will remain open for now.

The temple has been allowing darshan to 12,000 devotees every day since it reopened on June 11, according to The New Indian Express. In recent weeks, an advisor of the trust, AV Ramana Dikshitulu, and many others have urged the temple’s authorities to shut the shrine for some time to protect the priests. A final decision will reportedly be taken after consultation with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy.