Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala

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Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple is a landmark Vaishnavite temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntham and Lord here is referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam. The temple is also known by other names like Tirumala Temple, Tirupati Temple, Tirupati Balaji Temple. Lord Venkateswara is known by many other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa.

The Temple is constructed in Dravidian architecture and is believed to be constructed over a period of time starting from 300 AD. The Garbagriha (Sanctum Sanctorum) is called AnandaNilayam. The presiding deity, Venkateswara, is in standing posture and faces east in Garbha griha. The temple follows Vaikhanasa Agama tradition of worship. The temple is one of the eight Vishnu Swayambhu Kshetras and is listed as 106th and the last earthly Divya Desam. The Temple premises had two modern Queue complex buildings to organize the pilgrim rush, Tarigonda Venkamamba Annaprasadam complex for free meals to Pilgrims, hair tonsure buildings and a number of pilgrim lodging sites.

It is the richest temple in the world in terms of donations received and wealth. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on 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.

It is around 435 km (270.3 mi) from Vijayawada, 571.9 km (355.4 mi) from Hyderabad, 138 km (85.7 mi) from Chennai, 291 km (180.8 mi) from Bangalore, and 781.2 km (485.4 mi) from Visakhapatnam

There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. According to one legend, the temple has a murti (deity) of Lord Venkateswara, which it is believed shall remain here for the entire duration of the present Kali Yuga.

Deities in the temple

  • Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram — The main stone deity of Lord Venkateswara is called Dhruva Beram. The deity is about 8 feet (2.4 m) from the toes to the top of the crown and is considered the main source of energy for the temple.
  • Kautuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa — This is a small one-foot (0.3 m) silver deity which was given to the temple in 614 AD by Pallava Queen Samavai alias Kadavai Perundevi, wife of Pallava chief Sakti Vikatan. Although it is a movable idol, the Bhoga Srinivasa Beram has never been removed from the temple since the day it was installed. This beram was consecrated for the purpose of enabling devotees to perform services to the lord which is not possible with the main idol. For this reason, it is popularly known as Bhoga Srinivasa, because it enjoys all the Bhoga (worldly pleasures) which devotees want to offer the lord. This beram is often swayed on a silver swing or cradle, sleeps in a golden cot every night, and receives Sahasra Kalashabishekam every Wednesday among other things. This beram is always placed near the left foot of Moolavirat and is always connected to the main deity by a holy Sambandha Kroocha. This beram is always faced at an angle of 45 degrees towards the devotees, because it holds a Prayoga Chakra.
  • Snapana Beram or Ugra Srinivasa — This idol of the Lord represents the fearsome aspect of Lord Venkateswara. This beram remains inside the sanctum sanctorum, and comes out on only one day each year: on Kaishika Dwadasi, before the sunrise. Snapana means “cleansing,” and the idol received abhishekam daily with holy waters, milk, curds, ghee, sandalwood paste, turmeric, and so on. These daily rituals not only show the affection of devotees for the lord but also help to cool the fearsome aspect of the Lord. Originally, this beram used to be brought out in processions through the town frequently, but later it was replaced by the newly consecrated Utsava Beram.
  • Utsava Beram or Malayappa swami — This is the image of the Lord which is brought out and taken in procession through the town for time to time. This beram is also called Malayappa, and is always flanked by the berams of Sridevi and Bhudevi, the two consorts of the lord. These three berams were found in a cave called “Malayappan Konai” in the holy Tirumala Hills. Originally Ugra Srinivasa beram was the Utsava Beram (the procession deity). However, it was noticed that many times when the deity was taken out for processions, disastrous fires were happening from fire-crackers, lamps, aarti flames and the torches used for lighting during procession. It was thought that because the beram used was of Ugra Srinivasa or Fearsome Srinivasa, therefore these things were happening. People prayed to the Lord for a solution. The Lord appeared in dreams, and directed the people to search in the Holy Tirumala hills for the proper Utsavar (Processional Lord). The devotee followed the directions, and the beram was found. The devotees called the idol they found Malayappa, which means “Lord of the Hills” because it was found in the hills, inside a cave. After these idols were brought to the temple and consecrated for use as utsava berams, (processional idols), there has never been a single bad incident like before, even though the number of programmes has increased to include Nitya Kalyanaotsavam, Sahasra Deepalankara Seva, Arjita Brahmotsavam, Nithyotsavam, Dolotsavam, and many others.
  • Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa — This is a panchaloha idol, which means it is made from an alloy of five metals. This beram resembles the main deity very closely, and represents the presiding officer for all activities and rituals in the temple. The idol is also called Bali Beram. Koluvu Srinivasa is regarded as the guardian deity of the temple that presides over its financial and economic affairs. Daily offerings are made to the deity, with a presentation of accounts. Every year during July i.e. according to Hindu calendar “Dakshinaya Sankaramana” the temple celebrates Anivar Asthanam which is the end of the fiscal year.

Worship

Puja
The temple follows “Vaikhanasa Agama” tradition of worship, which is believed to be revealed by Sage Vikhanasa and is propagated by his disciples Atri, Bhrigu, Marichi, Kasyapa. Vaikhanasa is one of the principal traditions of Hinduism and primarily worships Vishnu (and his associated Avatars) as the Supreme God. This ancient texts recommends six times puja(worship) a day for Vishnu, of which minimum one puja is mandatory.

  • Prathyusham puja — worship should start and finish before sunrise
  • Prathakala puja — worship should start after sunrise and finish before noon
  • Madhyahna puja — worship should start and finish at noon
  • Aparahana puja — worship should start when the sun starts to descend
  • SandhyaKala puja — worship should start and finish around the sunset
  • Nisi puja — worship should start after the horizon is completely dark

At present only three pujas are performed in Tirumala Temple daily which includes UshaKala puja, Madhyahna puja, Nisi puja.

Darshan
More than 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims will have Darshan of preciding deity, Lord Venkateswara, while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavams, the number of pilgrims visiting the temple shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world. To manage the huge number of Devotees visiting the temple, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams had constructed two Vaikuntam Queue Complexes one in the year 1983 and the other in the year 2000. Vaikuntam Queue complexes will have rooms where Devotees can sit and wait until their turn for Darshan. According to tradition, it is important for a devotee to have darshan of Bhuvaraha swamy temple lying on the northern banks of Swami Pushkarini before having Darshan of Lord Venkateswara in main temple.

Sub-Shrines

  • Varadaraja Temple – Varadaraja Temple is a subshrine in Tirumala Venkateswara Temple dedicated to Vararaja Swamy an incarnation of Vishnu. The shrine is located in Vimanapradakshinam, towards left of Vendivakili(silver entrance) while entering temple. The stone deity is sitting posture facing west.
  • Yoga Narasimha Temple – Yoga Narasimha Temple is a sub-shrine dedicated to Narasimha Swamy an lion headed fifth-incarnation of Vishnu. The shrine is said to have been built between 1330 A.D. – 1360 A.D and is located in Vimanapradakshinam, towards right of Vendivakili(silver entrance) while entering temple. The deity is in sitting-meditating posture facing west.
  • Garuthmantha Temple – A small shrine dedicated to Garuda the vehicle of Lord Venkateswara is situated exactly opposite to the Bangaruvakili(Golden Entrance) of Jaya-Vijaya. This sub-shrine is part of Garudamandapam. The Garuthmantha deity is six feet tall and faces west looking towards Lord Venkateswara inside Garbhagriha.
  • Bhuvaraha Swamy Temple – Bhuvaraha Swamy Temple is the temple dedicated to Varaha an incarnation of Vishnu. This temple is believed to be older than Sri Venkateswara Temple. The temple lies on the Northern Banks of Swami Pushkarini. As per tradition, at first Naivedyam will be offered to Bhuvaraha Swamy before offering it to Lord Venkateswara in main Temple. And also as per tradition, devotees should have the darshan of Lord Bhuvaraha swamy before Lord Venkateswara.
  • Bedi-Anjaneya Temple – Bedi-Anjaneya Temple is the sub-shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple lies exactly opposite to the Mahadwaram near Akhilandam(place where coconuts are offered). The deity in this temple has both of his hands handcuffed.
  • Vakulamatha Sannidhi – Vakulamatha is the mother of Lord Venkateswara. There is statue dedicated to her in the main temple just ahead of Varadaraja shrine. The deity is in sitting posture. As per legend, she supervises the preparation of food that is to be offered to her son. For this reason a hole is made to the wall which separates Vakulamatha sannidhi and Srivari potu(Kitchen).
  • Kubera Sannidi – There is a sub-shrine dedicated to Lord Kubera within the Vimanapradakshina. The deity lies to the right side of Garbhagriha and faces south towards preciding deity.
  • Ramanuja Shrine – The Shrine of Sri Ramanuja is located adjacent to the northern corridor of the Vimana Pradakshinam. It is also known as the Bhashyakara Sannidhi. The shrine was built around in the 13th century A.D.

How To Reach Tirumala

By Road
Tirumala has direct bus services from Tirupati with a frequency of a bus in every 2 minutes. It also has direct buses from Chennai, Bengaluru and Vellore. Paid taxis and private bus operators also ply buses from nearby cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Visakapatnam and Bangalore to Tirupati.

Buses and other transport are banned on ghat road from Tirupati to Tirumala between 12 AM and 3 AM.

By Rail
Tirumala does not have its own railway station. The nearest railway station is in Tirupati, which is about 26 km from Tirumala. Tirupati railway station is a major railway station and is well equipped with five platforms and an escalator. It is well connected to major cities across India.

By Air
The nearest airport to Tirumala is near Renigunta about 15 km from Tirupati. This domestic airport has direct flights to Hyderabad, Visakapatnam, Chennai, New Delhi and Bangalore and is now being upgraded to an International airport.

On Foot
Many devotees climb the hills to Tirumala on foot to fulfil a vow. There are two well-laid stone footpaths leading to Tirumala. These paths are called sopanamargas. The most ancient of the two sopanamargas starts from Alipiri at the foot of the hills. This footpath is 11 km in length and is the commonly used route. The other sopanamarga (Srivari mettu) starts from Chandragiri and is only about 6 km in length.