Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu temple of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Venkateswara located in the hill town Tirumala, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located 580 kilometres (360 mi) south of state capital, Hyderabad, about 200 kilometres from Bangalore, about 120 kilometres from Vellore, Tamilnadu, and 157 kilometres (98 mi) North West of Chennai. The temple is situated on Venkatadri, one of the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills. The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names – Balaji, Vishnu, Govinda and Srinivasa.

The temple is reportedly the richest and the most visited place of worship in the world. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (3 to 4 Crore people annually on an average), while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most visited holy place in the world.

According to legend, the temple has a murti (deity) of Lord Venkateswara, believed to have resided there for the entire Kali Yuga. In Sri Vaishnava tradition, the temple is considered one of the 108 Divya Desams.

Thondaiman, ruler of the Thondaimandalam (present day Kanchipuram) is believed to have first built the temple after visualizing Lord Vishnu in a dream.

“Tiru” or “Thiru” in Tamil language means “Shree” or Shri”. The original name of Tirupati was “Thiruvengadam” in Tamil language. The inscriptions mentioned in the stones of the temple are of Tamil letters.

Discovery of the Venkateswara deity is described as an act of divine providence: There was a huge anthill at Tirupati, and one day a local farmer heard a voice from the heavens asking him to feed the ants. By chance the local king heard the voice and began supplying milk for the ants himself. His compassion resulted in the liquid uncovering the magnificent idol of Venkateswara hidden within the anthill.

Srivaishnavite tradition opines that the Rig Veda verse X.155.1 makes an indirect reference to the temple. One such translation goes as:

“The person, devoid of wealth and vision, is implored to go to the hill which burns up all evil (vikata for Venkata) and drives away all obstacles to peace and prosperity. The call of the rishi Sirimbitha has obviously not gone in vain.”

Thondaiman, ruler of Thondaimandalam in the ancient Tamilnadu (present day Kanchipuram and the surroundings), is believed to have first built the temple after visualizing Lord Vishnu in his dream. He built the Gopuram and the Prakhara, and arranged for regular prayers to be conducted in the temple. Later on, the Chola dynasty vastly improved the temple and gave rich endowments. To date, the various Tamil Grantha scripts are still seen inscribed upon the temple prakara walls. The Sangam literature of Tamil such as that of Silapadikaram and Satanar Manimekalai, dated between 500BC and 300AD, mentions Thiruvengadam (now named Tirupati) by the appellation “Nediyon Kunram” as the northernmost frontier of the Tamil kingdoms. In fact, a fairly detailed description of the deity is given in lines 41 to 51 of Book 11 of the Silapadikaram. Again, the appellation “Nediyon” for the deity occurs in the following verses:

“High on Vengadam’s towering crest, with flowing streams in flood, Betwixt the effulgent glory, of shining Sun and Moon, Like unto a blue cloud in lightning dress. In all the brilliance of rainbow dight, The Red-eyed great One, majestic stands In dress of flowery brilliance with garland bright, One lotus hand with fearsome disc adorned, and milk white conch (the other held).”

Puranic literature which was composed roughly around the post-Mauryan and early-Gupta era also mentions Tirupati as the Aadhi Varaha Kshetra. The Puranas associate the site with Lord Varaha, a Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha shrine holds great importance in Tirupati and is said to be older than the main sanctum of Venkateswara. There is also the Ranga Mandapam, which is to the left side of the temple as one enters. This is where the main deity, Sri Ranganatha Swamy of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Trichy), was protected for a period of almost 60 years during attacks by Malik Kapur in the 14th century.

 

History:

Lord Kubera credited money to the GOD Venkateshwara (a form of the god Vishnu) for his marriage with Padmavati. In remembrance of this, the reason devotees go to Tirupati to donate money in Venkateshwara’s Hundi (“Donation pot”), is so that he can pay it back to Kubera.

 

Medieval history

It was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained the majority of its current wealth and size, with the donation diamonds and gold. The coronation ceremonies of the emperors were also held at Tirupati. In 1517, Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels, enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. The Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. Among the later rulers who endowed large benefactions were the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal.

In 1843, with the coming of the East-India Company, the administration of the Sri Venkateswara Temple and a number of shrines was entrusted to Seva Dossji of the Hathiramji Mutt at Tirumala as Vicaranakarta for nearly a century until 1932, when Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established as a result of the TTD Act, 1932.

 

Modern history

TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees and has increased in size through adoption of various Acts from five (1951) to fifteen (1987). The daily operation and management of TTD is the responsibility of an Executive Officer (EO) who is appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh.

The temple attracts approximately 75,000 pilgrims every day. The popularity of the temple can be judged by its annual budget, estimated at Rs 10 billion in 2008, mostly from donations. Devotees give donations which runs into the millions. TTD, the organisation running the welfare of the temple, runs various charitable trusts whose funds are derived from the budget and donations from the devotees and also this was built in the Pandya dynasty.

Location of main shrine:

Venkateshwara’s abode is in the Venkatadri hills near Tirupati. Thus, the main temple of Venkateswara is the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. The Tirumala temple is believed to be the richest temple in the world. The temple is located in Andhra Pradesh (southern India) in Chittoor district. It is around 500 km (310 mi) from Hyderabad, 150 km (93 mi) away from Chennai and 250 km (160 mi) away from Bangalore.

The Tirumala Hill is 3,200 feet (980 m) above sea level, and is about 10.33 square miles (27 km2) in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name, Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara is located on the seventh peak, Venkatadri (Venkata Hill), and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini. The temple complex comprises a smaller traditional temple building along with a number of modern queue and pilgrim lodging sites. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala.

The varied names ascribed to the main deity are BalajiSrinivasaVenkateswara and Venkatachalapathy. The goddess Sri or Lakshmi (Vishnu’s consort) resides on the chest of Venkateswara, and thus he is also known by the epithet Srinivasa (the one in whom Sri resides). Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Padmavathi reside on his either chests. The deity is considered the Kali yuga varada, that is ‘the boon-granting Lord of Kali yuga’ (the fourth and final age of the Hindu cycle of ages). The temple is held in particular reverence by the Vaishnava sect of southern India, known as the Sri Vaishnava.

For worshippers, the deity Venkateswara symbolises goodness. When people travel to Tirupati, they chant “Yedu Kondala Vada Venkataramana Govinda Govindaa” (in Telugu).

With His conch, He creates the cosmic sound from which the creation has manifested. And with His disc, He destroys ignorance and ego in the beings, thus liberating them. Lord Venkateswara is believed by followers to be a very merciful deity form of Vishnu, being the fulfiller of every wish made to him by the devotees.

The Holy mantra chanted is Om Namo Venkateshaya. “The Venkateswara Suprabhatam”, the morning recital of prayers and songs of awakening, is written by Prativadi Bhayankaram Annan of Kanchipuram and sung by famous singer M.S.subbulakshmi. Several composers composed beautiful kirtanas about Lord Venkateswara, the most notable amongst them being Tyagaraja and Annamacharya, who composed mostly in Telugu. Annamacharya or Annamayya is a legendary devotee of Lord Venkateswara and composed songs almost exclusively about the deity.

 

Vimanam

The roof with shining golden exterior of the inner temple that houses the presiding deity is named “Vimanam” in a Hindu temple. In the Tirumala temple, it holds a very special place as the Ananda Nilayam (meaning Abode of Happiness or Bliss literally) with its imposing view, magnificence, and readily recognizable identity to any devotee familiar with the temple and its fame.

 

Bangaru Vakili

From the Tirumamani Mandapam, you can enter the Bangaru Vakili to reach the inner sanctum sanctorum. There are two tall copper images of the dwarapalakas Jaya and Vijaya on either side of the door. The thick wooden door is covered with gilt plates depicting the Dashavataram of Lord Vishnu. The doorway is directly in line with the Padi Kavali and the Vendi Vakili. It admits pilgrims to the Snapana Mandapam. Suprabhatam is sung in front of this door.

 

Prasadam

Laddu is the world famous prasadam given at Tirumala Temple. Recently the Trust has taken copy right of Laddu prasaddam, hence, no one can prepare the same Laddu. Many other delicious prasadams are also available including daddojanam (curd rice), pulihora(tamarind rice), vada and chakkera-pongali (sweet pongal). Free meals are given daily to the pilgrims, and on Thursdays, the Tirupavadai seva occurs, where food items are kept for naivedyam to Lord Srinivasa.

 

Tirupati Laddu Prasadam and GI controversy

The grant of Geographical Indication tag to Tirupati laddu by Indian Patent Office in 2009 raised many eye brows, as it paves the way for enhanced commercialization of faith. The patent grant became a controversy soon. R.S. Praveen Raj, a scientist and IPR expert from Kerala filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of GI tag to Tirupati laddu, but withdrew the same as a similar public interest petition was filed before the Madras High Court by another person. Later, Madras High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that there already existed an alternate and efficacious remedy, in the form of rectification plea before the Registrar of GIs or the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB). The scientist, who had earlier filed the PIL in Supreme Court, then petitioned IPAB requesting it to initiate an action on its own will (suo motu) for the cancellation of GI status to the Tirupati laddu. But IPAB wrote back to him stating that it had no such power to act on its own volition. The Scientist was not in a mood to give it up. Of late, he has registered an application with the GI Registry seeking removal of the entry pertaining to ‘Tirupati Laddu’ from the GI Register.

 

Hair tonsuring

Many devotees also have their head tonsured as an offer. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton. The hair thus gathered is sold by the temple organization a few times a year by public auction to international buyers for use as hair extensions and in cosmetics, bringing over $6 million to the temple’s treasury.] As per puranas hair given by devotees is to cover up the lost hair(it is a very small portion) of lord Venkateswara swamy.

 

Darshan and queue system

Tirumala possibly has the most elaborate arrangement in India to sequence and guide the visiting devotees through the holy shrine. Because of the ever increasing daily rush of devotees, the temple authorities have set up a virtual queue system, where the devotees are given a specific time, only after which they will be allowed into the queue complex. This has resulted in a steep drop (by a factor of five) in the time that devotees need to spend within the Queue Complex leading to the main temple.

There are two major kinds of Darshan (meaning “a glimpse of the Lord”) at the temple. The first one being Dharma Darshanam – free darshan, which on average takes about 10 hours from the time you enter the Queue Complex. It is worth noting that during a high season (festivals, holidays, weekends and special occasions) Dharma darshanam can take as long as a whole day, while sometimes during low seasons it might take only an hour and can be quicker than any paid darshan. The second major type Sheegra darshan – costs Rs 300 and takes only 0.45 – 1.5 hrs for darshan. There are also special queues for senior citizens (above 75 years old), Non-Resident Indians, and for people with children (below 3 years). One other person is usually allowed to accompany the senior or the child to assist them in the darshan line. Devotees who fall in this category should be sure to inquire with temple officials about the special queue, as it can significantly reduce the time and effort needed for darshan.

Individual devotees for Sudarshanam, as well as free darshanam are required to register (get a ticket/token) at any of the many queue offices situated near the main shrine, or at the local rail and bus stations in Tirumala and Tirupati, or at TTD offices in other key cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi,Bhubaneswar and many more. At registration, devotees can choose the expected date and time of entry into the Vaikuntam Queue Complex. At the time of registration, biometrics (finger printing and photo) are taken to eliminate the involvement of middlemen. Devotees contributing for Special Darshan or Puja Darshan tickets are moved up the queue virtually as well as physically inside the temple complex, though all devotees are treated equally from the point of entry into the sanctum sanctorum. During high season (festival periods, holidays, weekends and special temple puja periods) the queues at the ticket offices itself can be quite overwhelming. Hence it is recommended that the devotee get his ticket (if possible) in advance from TTD offices nearest to their hometown and not in Tirupati.

The queue does not literally mean standing – these are huge halls in the queue complex each accommodating about 300 persons, where you can sit (and watch religious programs on a TV which also telecasts rituals from inside the temple). There are toilets, and for those seeking the free Dharma Darsanam, free food (sambar rice/curd rice) and coffee/tea served every couple of hours. Once the gates exiting the halls are opened, the devotee joins the actual queue, and from this point in the queue it might take about 60–90 minutes (standing/walking) to reach the sanctum sanctorum and have Darshan. Typically, one gets to see the idol of the Lord for about 10–15 seconds during high season to about sixty seconds during low season, and there’s hustling by the volunteers to ensure that the queue progresses quickly.

 

Worship of Lord

Lord Vishnu is worshiped in the Temple as per Vaikhanasa Bhagvad Shastram, Vimanarchana Kalpam as said by Sage Mareechi. And as per that,Lord Vishnu here should be worshipped 6 times a day.

  1. UshaKala Aradhana – Aradhana or Worship should start and finish before Sunrise
  2. Prathakala Aradhana – Worship should start after sunrise and finish before Noon
  3. Madhyanika Aradhana – Worship should start and finish at noon
  4. Aparahana Aradhana – Worship should start when the sun starts to descend
  5. SandhyaKala Aradhana – Worship should start and finish around the sunset
  6. Ardharatri Aradhana – Worship should start after the horizon is completely dark

All the Aradhana(Worship) is done by Vaikhanasa Priests who are doing the Hereditary services for generations. Only these priests have the right to touch and offer services to the Lord. These set of Archakas are called Mirasidars (Owners & Share holders of the Temple). The 4 families of the Tirumala Temple which are in this Mirasi is

  • Gollapalli Family
  • Peddintti Family
  • Paidipalli Family
  • Tirupathammagari Family

To assist the Archakas in temple work and rituals, Bhagvath Ramanujacharya established a Jeeyar Mattam where in this mattam would take care of the temple work.

 

As per the Agama followed their, there are 5 idols of Lord inside the Sanctum Sanatorium.

  1. Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram – The main stone idol of Lord Venkateshwara which is Self Manifested is called as Dhruva Beram (Beram means idol). This Moolavirat or Moolavar or Dhruva beram is about 8 ft from toe to crown top and the main source of energy for the Temple. Only because of his powers the entire temple gets the power from.
  2. Kautuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa – This is a tiny one foot silver idol,which was offered to the temple in 614 AD by Pallava Queen Samavai Perindevi. This idol was reconstituted to the temple in the series of worship and is regarded as Kautuka Beram. This is idol is popularly known as Bhoga Srinivasa. This is because this idol enjoys all the Bhoga (worldly Pleasures) which the Moolavar has. It is this idol which sleeps in the golden cot every night; it is this idol which receives SahasraKalashabishekam every Wednesday. This idol has never come out of the temple from the day it was engaged in daily worship in the temple. This idol is always placed near the left foot of Moolavar and is always connected to the main idol by a holy joint Sambandha Kroocha. This idol is always faced to 45 degrees to the devotees who come to see the Lord. This is because this tiny idol holds a Prayoga Chakra (Ready to strike), so its kept at an angle.
  3. Utsava Beram – This is the form of Lord which comes out of the temple to see his devotees. This idol is called as Malayappa and consorts are Sridevi and Bhudevi. All the 3 idols were found in a Cave called Malayappan Konai in the Holy Tirumala Hills. It happened that Ugra Srinivasa was the Utsava Beram, and frequent fire disasters were happening whenever this idol was taken out. Seeing the misery, all prayed to lord to show a solution where Lord appeared in the dreams and Ordered to find a suitable set of idols which are in the Holy Tirumala hills for the Utsavar. The hunt began and the Villagers who found these Idols called as Malayappa which means the King of the hills. So from then this idol was consorted into the temple worship and was named for Utsavas or Processions. It’s only after the inclusion of these idols, the number of programs increased like, Nitya Kalyanaotsavam, SahasraDeepalankara Seva, Arjita Brahmotsavam, Nityaotsvam, Dolotsavam and so on. Jewells worth Millions of rupess came as offering to these idols.
  4. Snapana Beram or Ugra Srinivasa – This idol of lord represents the Anger part of Lord Venkateshwara. He remains inside the Garbhagruha (Sanctum Sanatorium) and comes out only one day in a year that is before the sunrise on Kaishika Dwadasi. Snapana means Abhishekam or cleansing the idol with holy waters and milk,curds,ghee,Sandle wood paste,turmaric and so on. Daily this idol receives all this Upacharam or services.
  5. Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa – Bali means the food offering to all the deities who guard and maintain the directions. In Shastram 8 directions are prominent like, North, North-East, East, South-East, South, South-West, and West & North-West. Each direction has AdhiDevata and Dikpala. When food is offered to them, This Lord comes out from the Garbhagruha and accompanies the Archaka who offers the food. But in Tirumala only archakas offer food and Lord stays in Garbhagruha. Koluvu means Durbar (Royal Court) which is held every morning where the Panchangam details of Today & Tomorrow are read and explained. Various Utsavas, the income of the previous day is explained to Lord.

Arjitha seva:

Pilgrims can view and participate (in a limited fashion) in the various sevas performed to Dhruva bera (main idol), Bhoga Srinivasa, Sri Malayappa swami and other idols in the temple.

When pilgrims purchase arjitha seva tickets, they get the opportunity to see a seva performed to the Lord, obtain prasadam in the form of vastram (clothes), akshantalu (sacred and blessed rice) and food articles (laddus, vadas, dosas, pongal, rice items) and a darshan of the utsava murti.

 

The Seven Hills:

The seven hill represent the Saptarishi. They sometimes called the Sapathagiri. Hence the Lord is named Saptagirinivasa. Following are the seven hills:

  • Vrushabadri (Hill of Nandi, the vahana of Lord Shiva)
  • Anjanadri (Hill of Lord Hanuman)
  • Neeladri (Hill of Neela Devi) – When Lord Balaji was hit by a shepard on his head, a small portion of his scalp becomes bald. There is no hair growth over there and this is noticed by a Gandharva princess Neela Devi. She feels “such an attractive face should not have a flaw”. Immediately she cuts a portion of her hair and with her magical power she implants it on his scalp. Then Lord Balaji notices her sacrifice as hair is the beautiful aspect of female, he promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him and she would be the recipient of all that hair received. Hence it is believed that hair offered by the devotees is accepted by Neela devi.
  • Garudadri (Hill of Garuda, the vahana of Lord Vishnu)
  • Seshadri (Hill of Sesha, the dasa of Lord Vishnu)
  • Naraynadri (Hill of Narayana (Vishnu))
  • Venkatadri (Hill of Lord Venkateswara)

Sri Venkatesa Suprabhatam, the range of 7 hills are known that Seshalam, Garudachalam, Venkatadri, Narayanadri, Vrishabhadri, Anjanadri, Neeladri and represents the great serpent bed.

 

Festivals:

The town celebrates most Vaishnava festivals including Vaikunta Ekadasi, Rama Navami and Janmashtami with great splendor, while the Brahmotsavam celebrated every year during September is the most important festivals in Tirumala, when it receives millions of devotees over a short span of a week. Other major festivals include Vasanthotsavam (spring festival) conducted during March-April and Rathasapthami (Magha Shuddha Saptami) is another festival, celebrated during February, when Lord Venkateswara’s deity is taken on procession around the temple chariots.

 

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