Tirupati town is 67-km from Chittoor in Chittoor district, the southern portion of Andhra Pradesh. The most important place of interest at the place is the historic shrine of Sri Venkateswara, the Lord of Seven Hills, who is famous all over the country.
The Tirupati Balaji shrine is located on a hill at Tirumala, a cluster of seven hills known as Seshachalam or Venkatachalam with an elevation of 853m (2,800ft.) above the sea level. Said to be the richest temple in the world, this temple is a vibrant cultural and philanthropic institution with a grand history spanning several centuries.It attracts pilgrims from all over the country who stand in line for hours together to obtain a glimpse of the presiding deity for a few fleeting seconds.
The Daily Routines
The daily program starts with 'Suprabhatam' (awakening the Lord) at three in the morning and end with the 'Ekanta Seva' (putting the Lord to sleep) at one in the night. Daily, Weekly and Periodical sevas and utsavams are performed to the Lord. Interested pilgrims can choose from the list and pay to get the 'Sevas' or 'Utsavams' done on their name. Devotees offer their gifts and donations in the "Hundi", which is the main source of income.
A Fine Example Of Dravidian Temple Architecture
The temple at Tirumala is believed to have existed from
ancient times. The dynasties like the Pallavas of Kanchipuram, the Cholas of Tanjore, the Pandyas of Madurai and the Kings and chiefs of Vijayanagara, vied with one another in endowing the Shrine and offering worship of the presiding deity. The temple with its gopuram or tower is a fine example of Dravidian architecture.
The elaborate rituals and mode of worship in the temple were prescribed by the saint Ramanujacharya and are being followed even today. Anointing the idol with camphor, and the offering by pilgrims of the hair on their heads by getting themselves shaved by licensed barbers are the important customs in vogue at this temple.
The Vimana or Cupola over the sanctum sanctorum is covered entirely with gold plate and is known as "the Ananda Nilayam". The Shrine consists of three Prakarams or enclosures. The outermost enclosure contains the 'Dhvajastambha' or the banner post and, among others, the statues of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya and his consorts, and of Todarmal, the minister of Akbar. The idol of the deity, the full figure of Lord Venkateswara or 'Venkataramana' or 'Srinivasa' or 'Balaji' (as is called in various parts of the country) has the attributes of both Vishnu and Shiva, preserving and destroying aspects of the Hindu Trinity.
Facilities for Pilgrims
TTD, or Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam manages the affairs of the temple, the well-being of the pilgrims, the upkeep of the environs in and around the Tirumala hills and sponsors several undertakings that are religious, charitable, social and educational in nature.
The TTD provides ample conveyance and halting facilities to thousands of pilgrims. Many pilgrims climb the hill by walk to fulfil the vow they have taken. Facilities like shelters, drinking waters, toilets, canteens, medical facilities etc are provided for a quick and relaxing walk uphill.
The number of pilgrims visiting Tirumala-Tirupati is increasing every year. To avoid stampedes, TTD has constructed the Vaikuntam Queue Complex, which is a series of inter-connected halls that lead to the main temple. Wide range of facilities ranging from canteen services, toilets, Television etc are provided within the queue complex.
§ Darshan :
Different darshans are arranged for the convenience of the pilgrims, The 'Sarvadarshan' (meaning darshan for all, free of cost), special darshan (paid darshan), 'Sudarshanam' (free and paid darshan minimizing the waiting time) and special darshan for the physically disabled and the aged.
§ Commutation & Food :
The buses run by the Tirumala- Tirupathi Devasthanam, starting from Tirupati, carry pilgrims and visitors up the hills through the ghat road which is over 22 Km in length. There are also buses that take you to the different places of sight seeing within Tirumala. All these bus services are free of cost.
Vegetarian meals are provided free of cost to devotees, in the Sri Venkateswara Canteen Complex, from 10.00 hrs to 23.00 hrs, everyday. One can avail this facility on production of the free meal coupon, which is distributed inside the temple after worshipping the Lord. About 20,000 pilgrims avail this facility every day.
Festivals in Tirupati
Everyday is a day of festivity at Tirumala. The most famous is the annual festival called 'Brahmotsavam', which is celebrated on grand scale for nine days in September, attracting pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the country. The fifth and ninth days of the festival are especially significant in as much as Garudostavam and Rathotavam takes place on those days.
Prime Attractions of Tirupati
§ Swami Pushkarani :
Swami Pushkarani, a tank considered highly sacred by the pilgrims is adjacent to the temple. Pilgrims take a bath here before entering the temple.
§ Other Temple Shrines :
There are many places of religious and tourist interest in Tirumala. The Varahaswami Temple, Sri Bedi Anjaneyaswami Temple, Sri Anjaneyaswami Temple, Sri Garuda Temple, Sri Yoga Narasimha Swami Temple etc are the other important shrines in Tirumala. There are also several Teerathams, which are worth a visit.
§ Silathoranam :
Silathoranam, a rare geological formation is situated at 1-km north of the temple.
§ Waterfalls :
Akasa Ganga waterfalls are about 3-km to the north of the temple. Papavinasanam waterfalls are about 5-km to the north of the temple.
§ Asthana Mandapam :
Asthana Mandapam (Sadas Hall) is the venue for the devotional programs like discourses, music concerts, harikathas and bhajans conducted under the auspices of Dharma Prachara Parishat.
§ Lepakshi Emporium :
Lepakshi Emporium, an ideal place for purchasing attractive handicrafts at moderate prices, it is situated near Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Central Reception Office. T.T.D Gardens, the beautiful ornamental gardens with rare species of plants and trees.