Tirupati Balaji Temple | India Tourist Spots | Places to Visit in India
One of the most famous Hindu temples in the world, Tirupati Balaji Temple located on the Tirumala Hill in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh is also known as Sri Venkateswara Temple. This temple is dedicated to the Supreme Lord Maha Vishnu.
The Tirumala Hill is 3,200 feet above sea level and is 26.8 km2in area. This hill range includes seven peaks, which are said to embody the seven hoods of the legendary couch of Sri Vishnu, viz., the Sheshanaag. The main Sri Venkateswara Temple is located on the seventh peak Venkatadri (Venkata Hill) of the Tirumala Hill, situated on the south bank of the sacred river Sri Swami Pushkarini. Being located atop the Venkatachala Hill, this highly revered temple is named Sri Venkateswara, as also the Lord presiding over the Seven Hills.
The sanctum sanctorum of the main temple complex is inhabited by a breathtaking idol of Lord Venkateswara. The awesome idol adorns a golden crown (kiritam), with large emeralds studded at its front. However, on festive occasions, the lord wears a diamond studded kiritam. Lord forehead is embellished by a thick patch of sandalwood paste, mixed with camphor. The parting in between the patch is adorned by a Kasturi Tilak.
His ears are bedecked with shining golden makara kundalas. The Lord bears a gem-studded Sudarshan Chakra in his raised right hand, while the parallel left hand holds the Holy Conch. The extended lower right hand points downwards, as if providing succor to the aspirants and his lower left hand is slightly raised in Varad Mudras if to offer benediction to his devotees. The Lord wears a pitambaram laced with a gold string, and his golden belt is embellished with tiny, jingling gold bells. He is adorned with precious ornaments. He bears Goddess Lakshmi on His right chest and Sri Padmavathi Devi on His left chest. He bears Nagaabharanam ornaments on His both shoulders. His highly venerable feet are draped with gold frames and bedecked with clinging golden anklets. A heavy golden belt covers his legs. During Abhishekam, the devotees are blessed with the darshan of Goddess Lakshmi.
Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the Garbh Griha (beyond Kulasekhara padi (path)). This temple is one of the leading pilgrimage sites of Vaishnavism, which practices the tenets of equality, fraternity, and love, while strictly forbidding animal sacrifice.
Apart from the Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, this temple is considered to be the richest pilgrimage center of any faith in the world with its wealth of more than 50,000 croreand being the most-visited religious site.The temple attracts on average approximately 60,000 pilgrims every day. On annual festive occasions like the Brahmotsavam, the number of visitors may far exceed even 500,000, thus breaking its own record of being the most-visited holy place in the world.
As per legends, this temple is supposed to have been first built by an ancient Tamil king Thondaiman, ruler of present day Kanchipuram, when he had a vision of Lord Vishnu in his dream. He completed the temple in his time by building the spire (Gopuram) and the Prakhara, and engaged knowledgeable Brahmins to conduct regular prayers to Lord Vishnu in the temple. Much later, it was left to the Chola dynasty to significantly improve the temple by providing substantial endowments.
Puranic literature mentions Tirupati as the site dedicated to Lord Varaha, a Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha shrine at Tirupati is one of the biggest attractions. It is considered to be much older than the main shrine of Venkateswara.
The temple attained its legendary glory, as also its resplendent wealth during the times of Vijayanagara dynasty, which offered vast amounts of gold, diamonds and other precious resources. The Vijayanagara Emperors made it a practice to organize their coronation ceremonies in the precincts of this temple. During one such occasion in 1517 AD, the newly coronated king Krishnadevaraya, apart from offering a substantial fortune in gold and jewels to the deity, ensured heavy gold-plating of the roof of the Vimana (inner shrine) of this temple. During one of his visits to the shrine, the Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle made arrangements to establish a permanent administration for sustained and regular conduct of all rituals in the temple. Similarly, later rulers of Mysore and Gadwal kingdoms offered huge donations in gold and jewels to the deity.
With the establishment of the British ascendancy in India, the East India Company entrusted the administration of the temple to Seva Dossji of the Hathiramji Mutt in 1843 AD at Tirumala as trustee, which continued for more than a century.
During the colonial period, the British Government enacted the TTD Act, 1932 to manage the daily operation and management of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) Trust. Under the provisions of the TTD Act, it is the responsibility of an Executive Officer (EO) who is appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh.
The annual budget of the temple was estimated to be Rs 10 billion in 2008, mostly through donations. The donations offered by the devotees far exceed millions of rupees. Today, the TTD, which manages the administration of the temple, administers various charitable trusts out of funds donated by the devotees.
Relevance of Temple Darshan
This temple happens to be one of the 108 most important, sacred shrines of the Sri Vaishanava tradition. As per Puranas, Lord Vishnu had ten incarnations. One of these was as Varaha (boar), when he rose up on his own (Swayambhuva) out of the holy river Pushkarini. His consort Lakshmi incarnated at Thirucharnur. It is this Sri Vishnu manifestation as Varaha, who is revered in this temple.
This temple enjoys a very special sanctity in Hindu folklore. Various subsidiary religious texts attest to the holiness of this shrine, which declare that liberation from human bondage is possible only through devotion to the Lord of Venkatachala. The wild and sustained adoration and faith of millions of pilgrims from all corners of world appears to attest this unshakeable belief.
How to reach
Sri Venkateswara Temple is located 22 km from Tirupati Main Railway Station, Andhra Pradesh. Alternatively, it is around 150 km from Chennai, or 500 km from Hyderabad, and/or 250 km from Bangalore.