Tirumala Venkateswara Temple

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple (తిరుమల వేంకటేశ్వర దేవాలయం) also known as Tirupati Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu temple of Lord Venkateswara located in the hill town Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh. The temple is located on the Venkatachalam hill that forms part of the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence the temple is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills (Edukondalu in Telugu). The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names - Balaji or Srinivasa.

According to the legend, the temple has a self-manifested murti of Lord Vishnu, with the Lord believed to reside here for the entire Kali Yuga. The temple is the most visited Hindu place of worship, and is the world's second richest in terms of the offerings made by pilgrims to the God and gifts given by visiting pilgrims. The temple is visited by about 60,000 pilgrims daily, while on special occasions and festivals the number of pilgrims shoots up to 200,000, making it the second most visited holy place after the Vatican, annually.

In Vaishnava tradition, the temple is considered one of the 108 Divya Desam sites.

The Temple

The Tirumala hills comprising of the seven hills of Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri are the abode of the Tirumala Venkateswara temple. The hill town (Tirumala) and the temple (Venkateswara Temple) are located on the Seshadri or Seshachelam hill. The temple complex comprises a smaller traditional temple building along with a number of modern queue and pilgrim lodging sites.

The varied names ascribed to the main deity are Balaji, Srinivasa, Venkateswara 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). 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 symbolizes goodness. When people travel to Tirupati, they chant "Yedu Kondala Vada Venkataramana Govinda Govindaa" (in Telugu), "Yezhu malaiyaane Govinda" (in Tamil) or "Tirupati Thimmappana Padakke Govinda" (in Kannada).

With his conch he creates the cosmic sound that destroys ignorance and with his disc he destroys evil. 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.

Legend

Sri Venkatachala Mahatyam is the most accepted legend with respect to Tirumala and provides the history of the temple across the various yugas. Of the other legends, the following are most known:

  • Ranganathaswamy at Srirangam (the main deity) is believed to have manifested on its own without any human endeavour (Swayambhu)
  • 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 deity form of Venkateswara hidden beneath the anthill.

History

Ancient history

The exact beginnings of the temple are shrouded in antiquity, and its origins are a matter of debate. Thondaiman, a Pallava king (capital: Mamallapuram, just south of modern day Chennai), 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. The Sangam literature of Tamil such as that of Silapadikaram and Satanar Manimekalai, dated between 500BC and 300AD, mentions Thiruvengadam (now named Tirupati) as the northernmost frontier of the Tamil kingdoms.

Also this temple was built by all Tamil Kings Chera, Chozha, Pandiya and Pallava.

Other Indian literature dating during the Mauryan and Guptan regimes mentions it as "Aadhi Varaha Kshetra" (the ancient site of Varaha). Till the time of Ramanuja, the famous Vaishnava scholar of the 12th century, the identity of the deity was still disputed until he confirmed it to be indeed Vishnu.

The site was an established center by the 5th century AD, and the Alvars (Vaishnava saints) belonging to the Bhakti movement in Tamilnadu sung in praise of Venkateswara. Its significance in Southern Vaishnavite tradition was at the time next only to that of Srirangam. The temple was richly endowed by the kings of various dynasties, thus adding to its current reputation as the richest and most opulent temple in the world. The imperial Pallavas (who originally built the temple), Hoysalas and kings of Vijayanagara (including Krishna Deva Raya) were some of the key contributors for building the temple, and donating gold and other ornaments to the temple.

Medieval history

It was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained the majority of its current opulence and size with the donation of expensive jewellery made of 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 TTD Act, 1932.

Modern history

See TTD's Mandate for more details

TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees 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 Executive Officer (EO) who is appointed by the AP government.

Prasadam

Laddu is the most famous prasadam given at Tirumala Temple. Many other delicious prasadams are also available including curd rice, tamarind rice, vada, dosa and sweet pongal. Free meals are given daily to the pilgrims, and on Thursdays, the Tirupavadai seva occurs, where food items are kept for naivedya to Lord Srinivasa.

Travel and Stay

See Tirupati for more details

Tirupati is well connected by road, rail and air with the major metros in India. Private and public road transport is available for climbing from Tirupati to Tirumala. Once pilgrims reach Tirupati, both paid and free accommodation are available in Tirupati and Tirumala.

Darshan and Queue System

Tirumala possibly has the most elaborate arrangement in India to sequence and guide visiting devotees through the holy shrine. Due to the ever increasing rush of devotees during all 365 days in a year, the temple authorities have set up a virtual queue system. This has resulted in a steep drop in time that individual devotees need to spend within the Queue Complex leading to the main temple, from the earlier 6 to 8 hours by the early 1990s to about one to one and half hours typically.

There are two kinds of Darshan (meaning a glimpse of the Lord) at the temple. One is Dharma Darshanam - free, and usually taking 10 hours from the time you enter the Queue Complex - and the other is Sudarshanam - costing Rs. 50, and taking about 3-4 hours. There are also some more expensive options where the time taken is lower, such as the Nija Pada Darshanam costing Rs. 100.

Individual devotees for Sudarshanam are required to register at any of the many queue offices situated near the main shrine, at the local rail and bus stations in Tirumala and Tirupati, or at TTD offices in other key cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. 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 administered to eliminate the involvement of middlemen. Devotees contributing for Special Darshan or Puja Darshan tickets are moved up the queue virtually as well as inside the temple complex though all devotees are treated equally from the point of entry into the sanctum sanctorum.

Typically, devotees spend between 1 and 12 hours going through the Queue complex, depending on the season and the amount they have paid. The delay increases during weekends, festival periods and special temple puja periods.

The Queue does not literally mean standing - these are huge halls in the complex each accommodating about 300 persons, where you can sit (and watch religious programs on a TV there 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 doors to the halls are opened, you join the actual queue, and it takes about 60-120 minutes (standing/walking now) to reach the sanctum sanctorum and have Darshan. Typically, you get to see the idol of the Lord for about 60 seconds, and there's hustling by the volunteers to ensure the queue progresses quickly.

Arjitha Seva (Paid Services)

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.

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 Venkateswara's deity is taken on procession around the temple chariots.

Miscellaneous

The Venkateswara Suprabhatam, the morning recital of prayers and songs of awakening, is believed to have been written and sung by one of Ramanuja's disciples who visited the temple with his Guru.

Traditionally Kurubas build temples on top of the mountains and worshiped the Almighty. Venkateswara has strong following from the Backward Castes, who are traditionally Shiva worshipers in south India. Venkateswara has a significant Dalit following also.

There is a Govindaraya Vishnu temple in the Tirupati town down below the hills with Vishnu in Yoga Nidra with Sridevi and Bhumidevi next to him.

Several composers composed beautiful kirtans about Venkateswara, the most notable amongst them being Tyagaraja and Annamacharya. Annamacharya is a legendary devotee of Venkateswara and composed songs almost exclusively about the deity.

The temple brings around 60,000 pilgrims every day. The popularity of the temple can be judged by the annual budget which was estimated at Rs 10 billion in 2008 with almost everything coming directly from donations. Devotees give donations which runs into 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.

Related Temples

Tirupati is one of the 108 holy temples in Vaishnavite system and is related to a number of other temples, including the ones in Uppiliappan temple, near Kumbakonam and Varagur temple, near Trichi are considered to be the "divine brothers" of Lord Venkateswara.

This temple was built by Thondaiman. Ancient Hindu kings were extremely devout and patronised the arts. This temple at Thirupathi was part of a big plan. The ancient vaishnavaites did not want their religion to fade out with time. They built many temples across south India, mostly in ancient Tamil kingdoms. These temples collectively became known as the Divyadesams. These temples are acclaimed for their historical and architectural significance. Encouraged by the Vaishnavaite saints and scholars, ancient kings built, maintained and donated large sums of money for the upkeep of these temples.

Most of these temples that are related to Tirupathi are found in and around the post-independence state of Tamil Nadu (and a few in Kerala, Karanataka and North India/Nepal as well). If you are in Chennai, the related temples that you can visit would be:

1. Thiruvallur 2. Thiruninravur 3. ThirupputKuzhi 4. ThiruNeermalai 5. ThiruIdaVenthai (Thiruvidanthai) 6. ThiruValliKeni (Sri Parathasarathy) - "Triplicane" - located within the metropolitan area of Chennai.

For a more detailed list of these temples, visit the Divyadesams page on Wiki.

See also

References

External links

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