Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tirupati Venkateswara Balaji

Tirupati is one of the greatest Hindu pilgrimage centres in India. Although popularly known as Tirupati, the real name is Tirumala- Tirupati-Devasthanam. Every year Hindu pilgrims from India and abrod visit this centre. Devotees believe that their desire will be fulfilled by the grace of god. Although itis located in the Southern Andhra Pradesh, it is better to go to Tirupati via Chennai. Tirupati has regular air,road & railway link with Chennai, even one may availpackaged tour to Tirupati from Chennai & return on the same day.

During Satyayug (according to hindu mythology, 4 ages-Satya, Treta, Drapar & Kaliyuga) the place was called Rishavadri, in Treta Anjanachal, in Dwapar Sheshachal & in Kaliyuga Venkatagiri, Le, the cluster of 7 hills in Chittur district, known as Sheshachal or Venkatachal. Legend says that these 7 hills are the heads of Snake God Adidesha, who is used as the bed of Lord Vishnu. Tirumalai is one of these 7 hills. On top of the hill is Balaji Temple shaded by mango and sandal trees. The area of the town surrounding the temple is 4 Sq km and the altitude is 860 m. Surroundings are covered by hill of red stone. Railway station and bus terminus are very close to each other in Tirupati East. Adjoining is the TIO Bus Stand & buses are available round the clock. The buses leave along 4 km plain road and 18 km hilly road for the temple on top of the hill. A ticket is valid for 3 days, inclusive of return journey available in TIO buses. Share jeeps & taxis are also available for journey to the temple. It is a hilly road, there are frequent sharp curves and 57 hair pin bends. There is another road used by pilgrimS on foot. The road starts from Alipodi 4 km to the north of bus stand or rly stn and entire stretch that leads to the temple at the top is shaded. Autos & buses ply between bus stand, rly stn to AlipidL Luggage rooms are available for keeping the luggage of passengers. Many pilgrims however reach temple on foot covering a hilly road of 14.5 km in order to earn blessings of god. There are two temples on walking route namely Nrisingha Temple & Ramanujacharya Temple. Hearsay is that without offering puja at Nrisingha Temple, Tirupati darshan is incomplete.

In Telugu Tiru means Lakshmi, Tirupati meaning Lakshmi's Pati or Husband, who is Vishnu or Balaji. The dual image of Shiv a & Vishnu is Balaji, i.e, Lord Venketswara to whom this temple is dedicated. It is a very old temple. There are three boundariesimmediately after the entrance, the I st is Sampangi, the 2nd is Vimana & the 3rd is Baikuntha Pradakhsin, Le, going round the main temple and then final entrance. The custom is that one has to make holy dip in the adjoining Venkateswar Kund or Swami Pushkarini before offering puja to the deity. According to the myth, this Sarovar of Lord Vishnu was imported to the earth by Narada, the bard of heaven. It is the richest temple in India courtesy contribution made by past kings and royals. Its wealth is renowned in the world. The annual income is Rs 5 lakh crores. According to popular belief that deity Lord Venkateswara in order to meet his wedding expenses borrowed money from Kuber, the banker of the heaven-the debt remains unpaid, even today. Hence the devotees donate as per tradition so that the loan is repaid. However various social and educational activities are performed with the help of the wealth that is generated here. There are 13000 employees on the payroll of Temple committee.

There are different kinds of worshipping tystem. The system was devised by Ramanujacharya. No body can stop before the deity, one has to simultaneously move in order to have darshan. The system is to offer Pranami or Puja offemings in a dol or' handi'. Suprabhat Darshanam costs Rs 120 (2-30 hrs), at Rs 220 Thomaleseva (3-30 hrs), at Rs 220 Archana, (4-30 hrs). Special darshans are organised at a costofRs 1000 (2 person) Rs 1500 (3 persons), Rs 2500 (5 persons). It seems, money power matters even at the place of the creator as rich devotees are privilaged to have a private darshan of the deity. Annaprasad is offered to the worshippers. One can buy separately the prasad. One however may buy tasteful prasad of Iaddus

The Garvagriha is wrapped by 100 kg gold and 2 m high, four handed deity of Balaji of black-stone standing on a lotus. The two rear hands hold a conch shell and a chakra or wheel. One in front symbolises reassurance & other remains at waist. The deity's entire body is covered with golden jewellary and precious stones. Kings & Sultans would have envied the god as the possess wealth more than any emperor, thanks to this rich devouts. In 1984 the crown or the I boira kritam was specially made at a cost of Rs 5 crore. The crown is made of 12 kg of gold and a thousand pIeces of diamonds.

Every Thursday the deity is dressed new flowers. Even the eyes are not visible-Only the feet and face are visible. The two wives of the Lord, Sree Devi and Bhu Devi are also placed in the temple. The latest attraction of the temple is a golden chariot (21 ft) built in 1955 at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore made of 780.7 kg of copper wrapped with 29.922 kg of gold. During Navaratri in October Lord Balaji rides this chariot. Annaprasad is available against coupon in the dinning hall. The temple is reserved for the Hindus only. Special permission is given to Christians for darshan. The temple is open between 3 to 21-00, shops are however open for 24 hours in Thirumalai.

The mandap or the meeting hall on thousand stone pillars is also beautiful. 247 ft high Gopuram (gateway) of the temple is a fine example of Dravidian architecture. Of late, the height has been further increased. On the spire, the vimana wrapped in gold is called Ananda Nilayam. The gold wrapped Dhajwa stambha (Flag post), Le, a palm tree along-with King of Vijay ana gar, Krishna Deva Roya and his queen is also found in the temple. The decoration of the temple is unique. In the temple, the images of kings & emperors in copper and stone are also found. The little museum opposite to the temple is also an attraction. On an average 20000 devotees visit the temple everyday. On special occasions the number exceeds 100000. Visitors wait in the queue for hours together for the darshan of Deity. Special arrangement for dar.fhan is also avilable against a ticket of Rs 30 since early in the morning. This can avoid the long wait in the queue. If, however, one donates Rs 5 lakh then he along with his family are entitled to be there for 5 years and enjoy darfhan. During annual festival in September, pilgrims from far off places arrive here. Similarly during holidays the queue becomes longer. On Friday is Abhifhekalli festival. Special Darshan resumes after 10-00.There is also the tradition of offering the hair to the deity after shaving head at Kalyan Ghat.

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