Andhra Pradesh Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple
The Tirumala Hill stands at an altitude of 853 kilometers above sea level and is spread over a sprawling area of about 10.33 square miles (27 square kilometers). It is popularly known as Seshachalam comprising of seven peaks named as Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri symbolizing the seven heads of Adisesha. The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple exists at the seventh peak Venkatadri (synonymous as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill) and known as the “Temple of Seven Hills”. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara , a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Venkateswara is also known as Balaji, Govinda and Srinivasa. The temple comprises of a conventional temple structure with numerous upbeat queue and pilgrim lodging sites and is situated on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a Holy water tank.
The Venkateswara Temple is one of the most revered and most visited holy places of worship in the world, with a headcount of 30- 40 million pilgrims visiting it on an annual basis. It also stands as one of the richest pilgrimage of any faith after the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram placed in Kerala, (at more than 50,000 crore INR). At special occasions like Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims even shoots up to a enormous half a million pilgrims making it the most visited pilgrimage center.
Amongst the several legends related to the manifestation of the Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala, one of the prominent legends states that one of the Idols of Lord Venkateswara is believed to sustain till the end of Kala Yuga, the present Yuga which the mankind is living through.
The Venkateswara Temple has the Dravidian, or the South Indian genre of architecture with a main Gopuram bearing a glided golden Cupola (Vimana) called as Ananada Nilayam crowning over the main shrine.
The Shrine comprises of three enclosures called “Prakharams” wherein the outermost enclosure bears the Dhavajsthamba (a banner post), the other enclosures bear many statues including that of the King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar and his spouses and also of Todarmal, the minister of King Akbar.
The main door or the outer Gopuram is known as “Padi Kavali Maha Dwara” standing on a rectangular base bearing the inscriptions dating back to the 13th century and having numerous stucco figures of Vaishnava Gods like Lord Hanuman, Kevala Narasimha and Lakhshmi NARASIMHA. The architecture of the alter is of the Chola Period.
“ Nandimi Padi Kavali” is the inner Gopuram, the inner entrance of the temple is reached through Dhwajasthamba Mandapa . It has wooden doors covered in silver plates and is called “Vendi Vakili”.
The path navigating the circumference of the temple is called “Pradakshinam”. The primary temple has three Prakarmas and amidst the outer and middle Prakarmas is the second pathway; the pathway for circumambulation which is known as “Samoangi Pradakshanam”. This pathway includes numerous Mandapams (halls) as in the Ranga Mandapa, Pratima Mandapa, Tirumal Raya MANDAPA, Aina Mahal, Dhwajasthamba Mandapa and is closed for pilgrims.
The inside complex of the Venkateswara temple comprises of numerous elegantly engraved doorways, mandapams and shrines. The beautiful idol of the Lord Shri Venkateswara abodes in the main sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Inside the main sanctum there are three consecutive halls i.e. Snapana Mandapam also known as Tiruvilan Kovil or square hall, the Rama Meda or the rectangular hall and the Sayana Mandapam or Ardha Mandapam which again is in a rectangular shape.
The temple also has a kitchen known as “Potu” wherein the food offered at the main temple is prepared.
How to Reach
Tirumala sustains a direct bus service to Tirupati with the buses frequently moving after every two minutes. However there are no transportation services available from Tirupati to Tirumala between 12 - 3 a.m. It also has direct bus services to Chennai, Bengaluru and Vellore. Also for pilgrims preferring better and comfortable means to climb uphill there are paid cabs available. Privately owned buses also are deployed by private bus operators for commuters commuting to Tirupati from Chennai, Hyderabad, Vizag and Bangalore.
The closest railway station to Tirumala is the Tirupati station which is approximately 26 kilometers away. This is a major railway station well equipped with all the modern facilities however only five out of the ten platforms are being used and the other five are undergoing renovation. Renigunta junction which is just a 10 minutes drive from Tirupati is located on the busy Chennai to Mumbai (and vice versa) route. Being a well connected spot to all the major parts of India especially Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad in particular, the Tirupati station is the starting point for many trains across the country. The Andhra Pradesh Sampark Kranti Express is the train starting from Tirupati station that connects to Bhopal, Gwalior and New Delhi and is also connected by Chennai sub-urban railways in the North-West Belt. Few of the cities having religious relevance like Indore, Ujjain, Jabalpur, Jaipur and Dehradun lack direct connectivity to Tirupati though.
The nearest is the Tirupati Airport close to 40 kilometers from Tirumala which is a domestic airport having direct flights to Hyderabad, Vizag, Chennai, New Delhi and Bangalore, is situated at a distance of 15 kilometers from the city center. As far as the international flight services are concerned, the closest international airport is the Chennai Airport which is 130 kilometers away from Tirupati.The Tirupati airport is undergoing up gradation for being an International Airport.
For uphill climb, the devotees have a well built and spacious walkway available to their discretion provide by TTD which they can use to step up while climbing the hills. The walkway comprising of steps head starts from the foot of the hills known as “Alipiri” and the walkway is known as Sopanamargas. The eleven kilometers stretch to the top of the hill takes minimum three hours depending from person to person. On the way uphill through out the walkway, one has rest houses, security, canteen, washrooms, drinking water stalls, medical aid Ambulances available to their discretion. TTD also provides the facility of carrying people’s luggage (free of cost) till the top of the hill.
Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram
The main stone deity of Lord Venkateshwara is known as Dhruva Beram (Beram denotes “Deity” and Dhruva stands for “Pole Star” or “Fixed”).The deity statue stands at an eight feet (2.4m) height from the top of the crown to the toes of the Lord and is revered as the main source of energy for the temple.
Katuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa
This is a small and a magnificent silver Idol of the deity almost one foot (0.3m) high, which was donated to the temple in the period 614 AD by Pallava Queen Samavai Perindevi and has been preserved in the temple since then. The deity is known as Bhoga Srinivasa as it enjoys all the Bhoga (worldly pleasures) which the Moolavirat has. The Bhoga Srinivasa is put to rest in a golden cot every night and is endowed upon with Sahasra Kaalaabhishekam every Wednesday.The deity is placed close to the left foot of Moolavirat and is always connected to the main deity by a holy Sambandha Kroocha being put up at an angle of 45 degrees facing towards the devotees, as it holds a “Prayoga Chakra” (which means ready to strike Chakra).
Snapana Beram or Ugra Srinivasa
This idol of the Lord Venkateshwara known as UGRA SRINIVASA denotes the aggressive or angered avatar of the Lord. He is placed inside the sanctum sanctorum, and is brought out from the sanctum sanctorum once a year on Kaishika Dwadesi, before the sunrise. Snapana denotes cleansing. The idol is cleansed everyday with holy water, milk, curd, ghee, sandalwood paste, turmeric etc.
This denotes the form of the Lord Venkateshwara who ventures out of the temple to see his devotees. This deity is also known as Malayappa, and His Consorts are Sridevi and Bhudevi. All these three deity idols were found in the holy Tirumala Hills inside a cave called as Malayappan Konai. At the onset, Ugra Srinivasa was the Utsava Beram (i.e. the Procession Deity) but a lot of disaster fire instances used to happen whenever the Deity was taken out for public processions. The devotees then sought the Lord for a solution for the same, for which the Lord guided the devotees to look for the suitable set of Idols hidden in the Tirumala Hills for the Utsavar ( i.e. . procession) through enlightening the devotees in their dreams (spiritual revelations). As a result of this the villagers started looking at the Tirumala Hills for the divine set of idols of the three deities and discovered Malayappa which means “King of the Hills”. Once the divine idols were brought to the Lord Venkateshwara temple, the regular activities in the temple increased in the form of Nitya Kalyanaotsavam, Sahasra Deepalankara Seva, Arjita Brahmotsavam, Nityaotsavam, and Dolotsavam amongst many other divine proceedings in the temple undertaken to worship and please the Lord. Jewels worth millions of INR have been offered to the divine idols as donations by devotees as a symbol of their gratitude and devotion to the Lord.
Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa
The “panchaloha” idol resembles the main deity Lord and represents the presiding or guardian deity of the temple and is known as Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa taking care of all the activities and rituals along with the financial proceedings in the temple. Daily offerings are made to the deity, with due presentation of accounts. Every year during the month of July The Temple celebrates “Anivar Asthanam” which is regarded as an ending of the Hindu fiscal year as per the Hindu calendar known as “Dakshinaya Sankaramana”.
The names synonymous of the main deity are Balaji, Srinivasa, Venkateshwara, Edukondalavadu (which means Lord of seven Hills in Telugu) and Venkataramana or Venkatachalapathy. The Goddess Lakshmi or Sri (Lord Vishnu’s Consort) has her abode in the chest of Venkateshwara; deeming Him as “Srinivasa” (the one in whom Sri or Goddess Lakshmi resides). The Goddess Lakshmi and the Goddess Padmavathi have their abode on either side of the Lord’s chest. The Lord is revered as the KALYUGA VARADA i.e. the boon granting LORD of KALAYUGA . KALAYUGA is regarded as the fourth and the final age out of the cycle of four ages as per the Hindu religion distinguished with their respective characteristics. The temple is revered and holds a great spiritual significance by the sect “Naimisharanya” from the northern part of India, known as the SRI VAIKHANASA/ ADI VAIKHANASA followers of SRI VIKANASA MUNI.
Lord Venkateshwara represents goodness to His worshippers and is believed to a very kind and benevolent incarnation of Lord Vishnu who grants and fulfills every wish made to him by His devotees. While travelling to Tirupati, people enchant the mantras such as “YEDU KONDALA VADA VENKATARAMANA GOVINDA GOVINDA (in Telegu) and OM NAMO NARAYANAYA or OM SRI VENKATESAYA NAMAH (in Sanskrit) to seek the LORD’S blessings.
As a matter of fact, several compositions have been composed by composers in the form of beautiful kirtanas or spiritual songs adorning the power of the mighty Lord Venkateshwara. Amongst the most notable composers are Tyagaraja and Annamacharya, who have made commendable compositions most of them in Telegu. Annamacharya has been known as a legendary devotee of the Lord Venkateshwara and has had compositions made in the form of spiritual songs composed most exclusively in reverence to the Lord Venkateshwara
Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the temple as per Vaikhanasa culture. The most ancient text of the saint Marichi i.e. the Bhagvad Shastram and Vimanarchana Kalpam clearly state that the Lord Vishnu is ought to be worshipped six times a day in the temple.
USHAKALA ARADHANA – Worship i.e. Aradhana should start and finish before sunrise
PRATHAKALA ARADHANA – Worship should start after sunrise and finish before noon.
MADHYANIKA ARADHANA – Worship should start and finish at noon.
APARAHANA ARADHANA – Worship should start when the sun starts descending.
SANDHYAKALA ARADHANA – Worship should start and finish around the sunset.
ARDHARATRI ARADHANA – Worship should start after the sky horizon is pitch dark.
All these sacred ARADHANAS are performed by the VAIKHANASA Priests who have been rendering their services to the LORD for generations in a tow. These priests have the exclusive right to touch and offer services to the LORD. These sets of ARCHAKAS are known as Mirasidars i.e. the owners and shareholders of the temple. There are four families of the Tirumala Temple who fall in this slot of Mirasidars and are known as Gollapalli, Peddintti, Paidipalli and Tirupathammagri.
For assisting the Archakas in the regular proceedings in the temple and performing rituals, other Vaikhanasa family known as Jeeyar Mattam established by Ramanuja offer their services.
Laddu is the prasadam given here at the the Tirumala Temple for which the Temple trust has exclusive patent rights of its preparation and so all across the globe only Tirumala Temple can prepare the Laddu Prasadam and no one else. Amongst other divine Prasadams are DADDOJANAM (Curd Rice), Pullihora (Tamarind Rice), Vada and Chakkera- Pongali (Sweet Pongal), Miryala- Pongali, Appam, Paayasam, Jilebi, Muruku, Dosa and Seera(Kesari). The pilgrims are served free meals on a daily basis. On every Thursday, the Tirupavadai Seva is conducted, where in food delicacies are kept as Naivedyam for the Lord Srinivasa.
Numerous devotees offer their hair locks to the Lord by getting their heads tonsured as a symbol of their devotion to Him. As per one of the legends, Lord Balaji was hit over his head by a shepherd as a result of which a small portion of His Scalp got bald which was noticed by Neela Devi, a Gandharva princess. She felt that “Such an attractive face must be flawless” and so she cut a portion of her hair locks instantly and implanted the same on the Lord’s scalp with her magical powers. To this sacrifice of her, Lord Balaji promised her that all His devotees coming to His Abode would render their hair to Him and she would be the recipient of the same in turn. One of the seven sacred Hills is named after her as “Neeladri “.
This offering of hair locks by the devotees is believed to be collected in tons of proportions on a daily basis. All this hair collection is put to auction to international buyers by the temple organization few times a year for its use as hair extension and other cosmetic purposes, bringing more than 6 million to the temple’s treasury
Hundi (Donation Pot)
Another legend states that the Lord Venkateshwara took credit from the Lord Kubera for his marriage with Padmavati . It is said that He took 1 crore and 14 lakh gold coins from Lord Kubera and had Vishwakarma, the heaven architect, create divine surroundings in the Seshadri Hills. Together, Lord Srinivasa and Goddess Padmavathy lived eternally there after while GODDESS LAKSHMI, considerate to the Lord’s commitment, chose to live in His heart forever. In revered remembrance of this legend, the devotees donate money in the Lord Venkateshwara’s Hundi so that he can repay the same debt to Lord Kubera. The devotees offer gold as a token of their love and devotion for the Lord. The Hundi’s collections go as high as 22.5 million INR per day and grosses 3,000 kilograms of Gold offering annually.
One of the most revered offering in the temple is the Thulabharam. It has a ritual where in the devotee sits on a weighing balance pan and the other pan is filled with materials like sugar, jiggery, tulsi leaves, bananas, gold, coins etc of a weight greater than the weight of the devotee. This is especially performed for new born babies or children.
Arjitha Seva (Paid Services)
There are various Sevas performed and offered to Dhruva Beram (the main idol of the Lord), Bhoga Srinivasa, Sri Malayappa Swami and other idols in the temple where in the pilgrims have a chance to view them and participate ( in a limited fashion though). When pilgrims purchase Arjitha Seva tickets, they get the opportunity to witness a Seva performed to the Lord, obtain prasadam in the form of Vastram (Clothing), Akshantalu (Sacred and Blessed Rice), food articles (laddu, vada, dosa, pongal, rice items) and a divine Darshan of the Utsava Murti
The Seven Hills The seven hills renowned as Saptagiri denote the Saptarishi (Seven Saints). Thus the Lord is named as Saptagirinivasa.
Vrushabhadri (The hill of Nandi, the Vahana of Lord Shiva)
Anjanadri (The Hill of Lord Hanuman)
Neeladri (The Hill of Neela Devi )– It is believed that the hair offered by the devotees to Lord Balaji is accepted by Neela Devi as per the boon bestowed on Neela Devi by Lord Venkateshwara.
Garudadri or Garudachalam (Hill of Garuda, the Vahana of Lord Vishnu)
Seshadri or Seshachalam (Hill of Sesha, the Dasa of Lord Vishnu)
Narayanadri (Hill of Narada Muni)
Venkatadri (Hill of Lord Venkateshwara)
The Tirumala town celebrates most Vaishnava Festivals, including Vaikuntha Ekadesi, Rama Navemi and Janamashtmi with lot of grandeur and splendor whereas the Brahmotsavam holds great importance amongst all the festivities and is celebrated during the month of September every year. Millions of devotees visit the temple within this divine period lasting till a week. Other major festivals of spiritual significance are Vasanthotsavam (Spring festival) celebrated during March to April, Rathasapthami (Magha Shuddha Saptami) celebrated during February wherein the Lord Venkateshwara deity is taken around for procession on the Temple Chariots.
Tirupathi Tirumala temple starts its day with Suprabhatam (Awakening the Lord) as early as 3:00 a.m. and ends with the Ekantha Seva (Putting the Lord to Sleep) around 1:00 a.m. the following morning. For Darshans, timings vary on each day during the week
All Darshan timings i.e. the Sarvadarsanam, Seegra Darsan and the Divya Darshan follow the same time schedules during the week.
“Sarvadarsanam” which denotes “Darshan for All” is conducted for close to 18 hours a day on most of the days in a week and is extended to 20 hours during special festivities and holidays. On any typical day at the Temple, an average of about 50 thousand pilgrims goes for Sarvadarsanam.
Seeghra Darshan (Special Entry Darshan)
The Seeghra Darshanam facility was introduced of late in 2009 making the pilgrims jump the long queues for Sarvadarsanam by buying a ticket costing 300 INR per pilgrim which is available at the Vaikuntam Queue Complex. Having a ticket entitles the pilgrims to directly access the queue for Darshan with those for Sarvadarsanam.
The Divya Darshan facility has been started as an exclusive facility for those pilgrims coming to the Tirumala Temple by foot through Gali Gopuram or Srivari Mettu.
Weather and Time to Visit
The best season to visit Tirupati is during September till March although the temple is open through out the year.Tirupati has hot summers and pleasant wintertime.
Winters (December – February) are quite pleasant here with minimum temperature level of 15 degrees making it a most favored season by the travelers.
Summertime (March- June) are burning hot with maximum temperature level soaring as high as 42 degrees to 45 degrees Celsius making it less favored by the tourists to visit the place especially during April and May.
Monsoons (July- September) come as a relief to the killing heat with mild showers and during this period the natural beauty of Tirupati can be seen basking in its glory.
Provided the fact that Sri Venkateshwara Temple is one of the most revered Holy pilgrimage destination, it can be visited through out the year however the best and most comfortable period to visit Tirupati is between October to March.
The Tirupati temple is also frequented by newly married couples in South India with their families to seek the blessings of the Lord Venkateshwara prior to their honeymoon.
TTD has provided the facility of rented cottages in Tirumala for the pilgrims visiting the Holy Temple. Based on the location; the accommodation facilities can be categorized in three major categories:
Sri Padmavathi Guest House Area (Tariffs ranging from 100 INR to 250 INR for non air conditioned accommodation; 500 INR – 2500 INR for air conditioned accommodation).
Sri Venkateshwara Guest House Area (100 INR – 250 INR for non air conditioned accommodation; 600 INR – 750 INR for air conditioned accommodation).
Sri Varahaswami Guest House, Rambagicha, HUDC, Traveler’s Bungalow Cottages Area (15 INR – 150 INR for non air conditioned accommodation).
There is an option for free accommodation as well provided by TTD in Chou tries for which the pilgrims can contact the Central Reception Office (near bus stand)
Reservations for both air conditioned and non air conditioned accommodation options over and above 100 INR per day can be done at the Central Reception Office, Tirumala. For reservation of options under 100 INR per day, a prior thirty days reservation is required to be made by the pilgrims.
Reservations could be made in person at the TTD Information Centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Vishakhapatnam and other district head quarters in AP, by paying the requisite amount.
There is also an option of sending a Demand Draft (DD) for 100 INR drawn on any Indian Nationalized Bank in favor of “Assistant executive Officer” which has to be posted to Assistant Executive Officer (Reception- I) TTD, Tirumala – 517504
For making general donation, or donating to a particular scheme, one can send the amount through an International Money Order or a Demand Draft drawn in favor of the Executive Officer, TTD ; and payable at Tirupati. The International Money Order/ Demand Draft is supposed to be sent to:
Donate Online through E- Hundi
For further information about Hundi donations via online transfer option; call upon the contact numbers as under mentioned.