Cascoly Travel -- India: Tirupati
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Cascoly Travel
India: Tirupati

Tirupati is a town in the foothills of the Tirumala. The meaning of Tirupati is "the Lord of Lakshmi," but this applies to the town but not for the hill Venkatadri, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara. Tirupati is the fourth largest city situated in the Chitoor district of southern Andhra Pradesh.

The temple has a history of twelve centuries and was developed and patronized by many dynasties of South India like the Pallavas of Kancheepuram in the 9th century AD, the Cholas of Thanjavur between 10th and 13th century AD, the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar from 14th to 15th century AD. The kings of these dynasties were ardent devotees of Lord Venkateshwara and contributed rich offerings to their sacred deity, and the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara started getting recognition only in 15 century during the rule Vijayanagara dynasty Kings.

Venkateshwara is the incarnation Lord Vishnu himself. Srinivasa, Balaji, Venkateshawara are some of the names of Lord Vishnu. There are several legends for how Tirumala became the abode of Lord Vishnu. Few such legends are of Saint Ramanuja was blessed by the Lord and lived for 120 years to spread the gospel of Vishnu in Kaliyug. The legends of Vekateshwara is mentioned in all the Puranas and Vedas. The legends from Varaha purana and Venkatachala Mahatmya pertain to the manifastion of Lord at Tirumala. It mentions about how the devotee Ranagadasa was blessed by the Vishnu to be born to a king as Tonadaman and latter would build a temple for Lord Venkateshwara and spread the Glory of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that in kaliyug, Padmavathi the daughter of Aksaraja who ruled Todamandalam was married to Srinivasa.

 


Set in a stunning position, surrounded by wooded hills capped by a ring of vertical red rocks, the Shri Venkateshvara temple at Tirumala, 170km northwest of Chennai, is said to be the richest and most popular place of pilgrimage in the world, drawing more devotees than either Rome or Mecca. With its many shrines and dharamshalas, the whole area around Tirumala Hill, an enervating drive 700m up in the Venkata hills, provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Hinduism practised on a large scale. The hill is 11km as the crow flies from its service town of TIRUPATI, but double that by road.

Just a five-minute walk from the railway station, the one temple in Tirupati itself that's definitely worth a visit is Govindarajaswamy, whose modern grey gopura is clearly visible from many points in town. Begun by the Nayaks in the sixteenth century, it's an interesting complex with large open courtyards decorated with lion sculptures and some ornate wooden roofs. The inner sanctum is open to non-Hindus and contains a splendid large black reclining Vishnu, coated in bronze armour and bedecked in flowers. A visit during the sanadarsanan (daily 10am-8.45pm; Rs5) will let you in to glimpse the deity, and participate in fire blessings at the main and subsidiary shrines. In its own compound by the side entrance stands the fine little Venkateshvara Museum of Temple Arts (daily 8am-8pm; Rs1). The temple's impressive tank lies 200m to the east. Between Tirupati and Tirumala Hill, the Tiruchanur Padmavati temple is another popular pilgrimage halt. A gold vimana tower with lions at each corner surmounts the sanctuary, which contains a black stone image of goddess Lakshmi with one silver eye. At the front step, water sprays wash the feet of the devotees. A Rs20 ticket allows you to jump the queue to enter the sanctuary. Photography is prohibited.

Tirumala Hill, the Venkateshvara temple and Kapilateertham There's good reason for the small shrine to Ganesh at the foot of Tirumala Hill. The journey up is hair-raising and it's worth saying a quick prayer when embarking on it, but at least separate routes up and down preclude head-on crashes. Overtaking is strictly forbidden, but drivers do anyway; virtually every bend is labelled "blind" and every instruction to drive slowly is blithely ignored. The fearless sit on the left for the best views; the most devout, of course, climb the hill by foot. The trail starts at Alipuri, 4km from the centre of Tirupati; all the pilgrim buses pass through - look out for a large Garuda statue and the soaring gopura of the first temple. The first hour consists of a flight of knee-crunching concrete steps, covered in yellow, orange and red tikka daubed by pilgrims as they ascend. The path then mercifully levels out before the final assault some two hours on. Allow at least four hours to the top - fitter pilgrims might do it half an hour quicker. The trail is covered over for most of the way, affording protection from the blistering sun, and there are drinks stalls all along the route. An early start is recommended. When you get to the top, you will see barbers busying themselves giving pilgrims tonsures as part of their devotions.

The Venkateshvara temple (aka Sri Vari) dedicated to Vishnu and started in the tenth century, has been recently renovated to provide facilities for the thousands of pilgrims who visit daily; a rabbit warren of passages and waiting rooms wind their way around the complex in which pilgrims interminably shuffle towards the inner sanctum; weekends, public holidays, and festivals are even busier. Unless your visit is intended to be particularly rigorous, on reaching the temple you should follow the signs for the special darshan that costs Rs50 (daily 6-10am & noon-9pm) as this may reduce the time it takes to get inside by quite a few hours. You can also obtain these darshan tickets from the temple tourism office near the temple bus stand on Station Road. Once inside, you'll see the somewhat incongruous sight of brahmins sitting at video monitors, observing the goings-on in the inner sanctum; the constant to-ing and fro-ing includes temple attendants bringing in supplies, truckloads of oil and other comestibles, and huge cooking pots being carried across the courtyard. You may also catch deities being hauled past on palanquins to the accompaniment of nageswaram (a South Indian oboe-like double-reed wind instrument) and tavil drum, complete with an armed guard. At the entrance is a colonnade, lined with life-sized statues of royal patrons, in copper or stone. The gopura gateway leading to the inner courtyard is decorated with sheets of embossed silver; a gold stambha (flagstaff) stands outside the inner shrine next to a gold upturned lotus on a plinth. Outside, opposite the temple, is a small museum, the Hall of Antiquities (daily 8am-8pm). Your special darshan ticket entitles you to enter the museum via a shorter queue opposite the exit and to pick up two free laddu sweets. Temple funds support a university, hospital, orphanages and schools at Tirupati as well as providing cheap, and in some cases free, accommodation for pilgrims.

At the bottom of the hill, the Sri Kapileswaraswami temple at Kapilateertham is the only Tirumala temple devoted to Shiva, and has a small Hindu pleasure garden at the entrance and a sacred waterfall which crashes into a large tank surrounded by colonnades, where pilgrims pile in for a bath.

Lord Sri Venkateshawara, the scared and the most famous deity of Hindus, one of the Avatars of Lord Vishnu, houses on the senventh peak of Tirumala hill called as Venkatadri. The Tirumala hill is also called as Seshachalam, as it represents the seven hoods of Adishesha with seven peaks Sheshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. It is not only recognized as Adi Varha Kshetra-the ancient of Varaha but also called as Kaliyug Vaikunta to where pilgrims would like to visit particularly on Vaikunta Ekadashi to earn punya, and they believe that God will forgive all their sins on this particular day, a doctrine in Vaishanavait Philosophy. Vekatadri is about 3200 ft., above sea level and 10.32 sq miles in area.

Darshan at Tirupati


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