Tirupati Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala
The town of Tirupati-Balaji is one of the most sacred places in India. It is famous for Lord Venkateshwara Deity. The name Tirupati-Balaji means the 'lord of Lakshmi'. The shrine is located on a hill at Tirumala, a cluster of seven hills known as Venkatachalam with an elevation of 853m above the sea level. It is said to be the richest temple in the world, this temple is a vibrant cultural and philanthropic institution with a grand history. The architecture of the temple is such that the Cupola over the sanctorum is covered entirely with gold plate and is known as "the Ananda Nilayam". The shrine consists of three 'Prakarams'or enclosures.
Tirupati town is 67-km from Chittoor, the southern portion of Andhra Pradesh. The most important place of interest at the place is the historic shrine of Sri Venkateswara, the Lord of Seven Hills, who is famous all over the country.
Everyday is a day of festivity at Tirumala. The most famous is the annual festival called 'Brahmotsavam', which is celebrated on grand scale for nine days in September, attracting pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the country. The fifth and ninth days of the festival are especially significant in as much as Garudostavam and Rathotavam takes place on those days.
There is ample literary and epigraphic testimony to the antiquity of the temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara.All the great dynasties of rulers of the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateswara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Thanjavur (a century later), the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar (14th - 15th century AD) were devotees of the Lord and they competed with one another in endowing the temple with rich offerings and contributions. It was during the rule of the Vijayanagar dynasty that the contributions to the temple increased. Sri Krishnadevaraya had statues of himself and his consorts installed at the portals of the temple, and these statues can be seen to this day. There is also a statue of Venkatapati Raya in the main temple.
After the decline of the Vijayanagar dynasty, nobles and chieftains from all parts of the country continued to pay their homage and offer gifts to the temple. The Maratha general, Raghoji Bhonsle, visited the temple and set up a permanent endowment for the conduct of worship in the temple. He also presented valuable jewels to the Lord, including a large emerald which is still preserved in a box named after the General. Among the later rulers who have endowed large amounts are the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal.
After the fall of the Hindu kingdoms, the Muslim rulers of Karnataka and then the Britishers took over, and many of the temples came under their supervisory and protective control.
In 1843 AD, the East India Company divested itself of the direct management of non-Christian places of worship and native religious institutions. The administration of the shrine of Sri Venkateswara and a number of estates were then entrusted to Sri Seva Dossji of the Hatiramji Mutt at Tirumala, and the temple remained under the administration of the Mahants for nearly a century, till 1933 AD.
In 1933, the Madras Legislature passed a special act, which empowered the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams(TTD) Committee to control and administer a fixed group of temples in the Tirumala-Tirupati area, through a Commissioner appointed by the Government of Madras.
In 1951, the Act of 1933 was replaced by an enactment whereby the administration of TTDC was entrusted to a Board of Trustees, and an Executive Officer was appointed by the Government . The provisions of the Act of 1951 were retained by Charitable and Religious Endowments Act, 1966.
Sri Venkatachala Mahatmya is referred to in several Puranas, of which the most important are the Varaha Purana and the Bhavishyottara Purana. The printed work contains extracts from the Varaha Purana, Padma Purana, Garuda Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Markandeya Purana, Harivamsa, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmottara Purana, Aditya Purana, Skanda Purana and Bhavishyottara Purana. Most of these extracts describe the sanctity and antiquity of the hills around Tirumala and the numerous teerthams situated on them.
The legends taken from the Venkatachala Mahatmya and the Varaha Purana, pertaining to the manifestation of the Lord at Tirumala, are of particular interest.
According to the Varaha Purana, Adi Varaha manifested Himself on the western bank of the Swami Pushkarini, while Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara came to reside on the southern bank of the Swami Pushkarini
There are different types of Darshans offered by TTD, most popular darshan is Sudarshan darshan, in which rupees fifty is charged for each member. Reporting time for the Darshan will be mentioned in the ticket and devotees are to be report at Q complex ( the complex is build to accommodate devotes in the queue ). Usually one has to wait for two hours ( minimum ) in the queue to have Darshan of Lord Balaji. Different types of Darshan has different queue systems and different waiting time. In side the Q Complex good facility like drinking water, toilet , tea stalls are available.
Two free Ladus of Balaji are given as Prasad to each member after the Darshan. The Ladus are popularly known as Tirupati Ladu.
After the Darshan one can drop the offerings at the Hundi inside temple known as Srivari Hundi. Devotees offerings at Hundi are collected and counted inside a glass house within the complex. Devotees offer ornaments to cash and many other valuable items in the Hundi.
There is a free darshan also available usually with longer waiting period.
Free food coupons are given to each devotee after the darshan. Millions of devotees get free Prasad ( food ) here daily.
There is a tradition to offer hair or tonsure at Tirupati. There is a complex known as Kalyanakkatta where hundreds of barbers are engaged by TTD for a free tonsuring. In the guest houses and cottages this can be done by paying rupees ten. After tonsure one should go for Darshan of Tirupati Balaji.
Places of Interest
Govindaraja Temple - In this temple there are two main shrines. In the northern shrine is Sri Govindaraja, who is Lord Vishnu lying on Ananta. He is considered to be Lord Venkateswara?s brother. The other main shrine has Deities of Sri Parthasarathi (Krishna as the charioteer of Arjuna), Rukmini and Satyabhama (Krishna?s wives).Parts of the inner shrine date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. The original temple had Sri Parthasarathi on the main altar. Sri Ramanuja added the Sri Govindaraja Deity around 1130.
To your left, as you enter the first gopuram (gate) of the temple, is a temple dedicated to Lakshmi. She is seated on a lotus in her four-armed form, holding a lotus in each of her upper hands, while her other two hands are in poses of abhaya, fearlessness, and varada, benediction. Situated above the door of this temple there is a carving of Lakshmi holding a lotus in her hand.Near the first gopuram there is a shrine dedicated to Vedanta Desika. There is also a memorial for three of the Alwar devotees?Tirumallisai Alwar, Namm Alwar, and Kurattalwar?near the Vahana-mandapa, and another nearby shrine is dedicated to Sri Ramanuja. On the left of the second entrance is a Kurma Deity, Lord Vishnu as a tortoise.This is a big temple. It has a seven-storey gopuram, built in 1628. There are carvings depicting the pastimes of the Ramayana and Lord Krishna?s pastimes on the second gopuram. This temple is located just off the main road, near the Bhima Hotel and the Tirupati railway station. The temple tower is hard to miss, but the rest of the temple is set back from the road.
Padmavathi Temple - In Tiruchanur, five km from Tirupati, is this large temple dedicated to goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji). A visit to Tirupati is not considered complete without seeing Sri Padmavathi. Sri Padmavathi is seated in Padmasana, holding a lotus in both of her upper hands. Her lower hands are in poses of abhaya, fearlessness, and varada, benediction. Also in this temple are the Deities of Sri Krishna, Balarama, Sundararaja Swami, and Surya-narayana Swami. It is traditional to first worship Sri Krishna and then to take darshan of Sri Padmavathi.
Non-Hindus are technically not allowed in the temple. To enter you may be asked to sign a paper testifying to being a Hindu. There is a short wait to see the Deity, or for Rs 5 you can enter a special darshan line.Once a year there is a large festival that celebrates the marriage of Lord Venkateswara to Padmavathi Devi. Padmavathi Devi arrives at Tirumala on the back of a splendid elephant decorated with tilaka of solid gold as Lord Sri Venkateswara comes out to meet her.The main festival, Brahmotsavam, is in Nov/Dec. The ninth day of this festival is the appearance day of Sri Padmavathi. On this day Lord Sri Venkateswara presents his consort birthday gifts, which are brought from Tirumala on a magnificently decorated elephant, covered with jewels and pearls.
Kothanda Rama Swami Temple - About two km from the Sri Govindaraja temple is the famous Kothanda Rama Swami Temple built in 1481. Sri Chaitanya had darshan of Lord Ramachandra Swami. The main festival of the year is in March-April, for Lord Rama?s appearance day.
Swami Pushakarini - This is a holy tank right next to the Balaji temple, a dip in which is considered customary before entering the temple.
Akasa Ganga - This is a perennial stream of water about 3 kms north of the main temple, which is believed to have its origins from the feet of Lord Vishnu. The waters of this stream are considered sacred and used for the daily temple rituals.
Sila Thoranam - This 1500 million year old arch is rare geographical phenomenon, only two others of its kind being found in the world - the Rainbow Arch of Utah in USA and the Arch of "Cut Through" of UK. This rare phenomenon is called the 'eparchean unconformity'. This natural arch is believed to have formed due to intensified weathering and erosion of stream action and has withstood the torque of nature. The length of this arch is 25 feet and the height 10 feet.
Srivari Padalu The Thirupada (Holy feet) at Narayanagiri - As per the mythology this is the place where Lord Narayana first set hit feet. The foot print is available here and devotees visit this place at the top of Narayanagiri hill for the divine sight. Beautiful Tirumula temple town is visible from here. Near Thirupada there is a garden with a Shiva temple and with a beautiful rock in the shape of a Thoronam ( Stone gate ) , this is known as Sila Thoronam.
Venugopala swamy temple - On the way to Papavinasam from Tirumula, devotees can visit this temple.
Papavinasam - Another place where Devotees can take bath. Change rooms are available for men and women near the bathing place. From this place water is supplied to the temple town from the reservoir. The place is well maintained with parks and greenery around. One Restaurant is available here where you can get local dishes.
Sri Venkateswara Museum - There is a good museum right next to the Govindaraja temple. It has many sculptures, Deities of Krishna, and other interesting displays. There is also a photo exhibit of the important 108 Divya Desam Vishnu temples that were immortalized in songs by the Alwar devotees. Open 8 am to 8 pm
ISKCON (Hare Krishna) Temple - The ISKCON temple (08574-20114), Vinayaka Nagar (Driver?s Quarters), is located at the foot of Tirumala Hill, on a piece of land given by the TTD. The Deities here are Radha-Govinda. The temple has a beautiful small garden.
Kapila-teertham - A sacred tank two km from Tirupati, is the Kapileswara Siva Temple where the sage Kapila was granted darshan of Lord Siva and his consort. Bathing in Kapila-teertham is supposed to extinguish all sins. This temple is situated in an attractive surrounding.
Narayanavanam - 36km from Tirupati on the road to Chennai, is a temple dedicated to Lord Kalyana Venkateswara Swami. It is believed to be the place where the marriage of Lord Venkateswara and the goddess Padmavathi originally took place. After marrying Sri Padmavathi, Sri Venka?teswara stayed here for a while before going to Tirumala.
Getting there and Around
By Air - Tirupati is well connected by flights from Hyderabad and Chennai.
By Rail - Tirupati is the nearest railway station. There are trains that travel via Renigunta or Gudur, but do not touch Tirupati. In such cases, Renigunta or Gudur, are convenient points to alight. From Renigunta / Gudur one can reach Tirupati by train, bus, or taxi.
By Road - Tirupati is well connected by roads to almost all major cities of South India, with a large number of government and private buses plying on these routes.
Both free and budget accommodation can be availed for pilgrims visiting the Tirupati shrine near the Tirupati Railway station. However some of the good hotels in the area include KALYAN RESIDENCY, HOTEL SINDHURI PARK HOTEL MAYURA and many more.