India is a culturally diversified country and of the many faiths practiced in the world period Hinduism is considered to be the oldest living religion. In India, it has endured for thousands of years and has dotted the landscape with innumerable temples. But there is one that towers atop the hills of southern India as one of the most visited Hindu religious sites anywhere on the planet. Located in the hill town of Tirumala in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, the temple dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateshwara, an incarnation of Vishnu is believed to have appeared here to save the human race from the trials and troubles of Kali Yuga.
There is something about it which magnificently attracts different races of people from all over the world. It is the land of spiritual harmony speckled by the waters of holy rivers. It is the land of gods and goddesses, leaving behind their sense of divine presence filling the atmosphere with waves of eternity.
All aspects of life are sacred which is why every significant stage from conception to cremation is celebrated as a reminder that life is a gift from God and hence, it should be duly respected and lived as per the wish of the creator. Venkateswara is known by other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa.
The word Tirumala is composite word consisting of Tiru + mala. ‘Tiru’ means ‘Holy’ or ‘Sacred’ and mala means hills. Therefore, it translates as Holy Mountains. The Architecture of Tirumala Balaji Temple is commonly known as Sthapatya. The Tirumala Temple is a towering example of Dravidian architecture – a style that dates back to the 7th century. This architecture is typified by looming pyramid-like structures known as gopurams and pillared halls known as mandapams. Gopurams and pillared walls are typically enveloped in inscriptions and handcrafted sculptures that tell stories of different dynasties.
Bound by ancient texts known as Agamas Shastras, TTD does not have the religious sanction to expand the main temple entrance, which means managing crowds through ancient doors that act as both entry and exit. “The Agama Shastra prohibits making any alterations to the existing entry points to the temple. So, there is no other second route for these two specific passages.”, as mentioned by Joint Executive Office, TTD.
Whether inside or outside, the sanctum idols are adorned in ornaments made of precious jewels. They are clothed in rich traditional weaves. The deities’ vestments aren’t the only luxurious items used in temple rituals which include some of the most exclusive natural resources found in India. The forests surrounding Tirumala are part of the Seshachalam Biosphere reserve. Amongst its most high-value plant species is Sandalwood highly sought for its scented heartwood. Sandalwood is used daily in the ritual services at the Tirumala temple.
REGULAR DAY VS BRAHMOTSAVAM
Everything about the Tirumala Tirupati Temple is larger than life. Be it the daily queue of over 60,000 people, or the lakhs of laddoos that are hand-kneaded and machine cast as prasad, or the idol of Lord Venkateswara at the sanctum sanctorum. Imagine a crowd of over one lakh devotees, slowly nudging their way towards the sanctum, chanting ‘Govinda Govinda’ for hours on end, to catch a ten second glimpse of the Lord. Imagine looking at a sea of heads, many of which will be tonsured, occasionally covered in sandal paste, moving towards a ‘prasad’ hall that can accommodate five thousand people at a time.
Every day, hundreds, if not thousands of devotees make many special offerings to Sri Venkateshwara Swamy. These donations contribute to the Tirumala temple’s resources making it, according to some estimates one of the richest Hindu temples in the world. The offerings are both grand and humble. Coconuts, a popular offering to the God are presented at an altar in direct line with the sanctum, making a mountain of over 1,00,000 coconuts each day!
Srivari Brahmotsavam is the most important annual festival celebrated at Sri Venkateshwara Temple. The event is conducted for nine days during Hindu calendar month of Asvina which falls in between the English months September and October. During the festival, grand celebrations take place both inside the sanctum and outside on the streets. Every morning and evening, the processional form of the deity Sri Malyappa Swamy will emerge from the sanctum. Depending on the day’s schedule, he will be mounted on more than a dozen different vehicles and carried along the Mada streets around the temple.
The Tirumala ranges show the face of Lord Balaji. This comprises seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri.
ABOUT THE TEMPLE
While you are here, witness iconic traditions and the jubilant celebration of Tirumala Brahmotsavam at the Tirumala temple of Sri Venkateshwara Swamy. Tirupati marks the beginning of an uphill journey through the Seshachalam or Seven Hills ranges. Spread over 8000 square kms, these hills date back over 500 million years. Standing at about 2,500 ft. above sea level, Tirumala is one of the most visited Hindu pilgrim spots on the planet. Drawing an average of 60,000 – 70,000 people a day and over 1,00,000 people on special occasions, they all seek entry to the temple dedicated to the God Sri Venkateshwara Swamy. Vishnu manifested as Sri Venkateshwara Swamy and the benevolent deity took up permanent residence in Tirumala.
Amongst the temple’s most popular traditions is the prasadam or sacred offering that devotees collect after emerging from inside the sanctum. In fact, it’s acquired quite the celebrity status amongst Indian sweets. The Tirupati laddu – so sought after is this sweet that in recent years, it has been patented. The Tirupati laddu has been given GI or Geographical Indication status which means their preparation and quality is unique to the temple.
Tirumala has endured through the 9th century Pallava Dynasty to the 11th century of Cholas of Thanjavur. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the temple town came under the influence of the Vijayanagara Dynasty. In the 1800s and through the first quarter of the 10th century, the British Empire collected revenues. Finally, in 1933, a special legislative act was passed creating an autonomous body to administer the temple and associated activities. It was named Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
There is also a priesthood of over 200 priests schooled in some of the most ancient Hindu texts that take years to master. There is a group that’s crucial to the fabric of Tirumala. They are the Jeeyars and they literally hold the keys to the entire sanctum. Opening temple doors in the morning and locking them at night. From early morning to late night, all rituals are performed in the presence of Pedda Jeeyar or his representative. The jeeyars are descendants of Sri Ramanuja, a prominent spiritual leader and reformist of the 11th century who was instrumental in prescribing many of the rituals and practices still carried out in the temple.
World famous Tirupati temple is a living example of Vaastu and its principles. Its prosperity is legendary, thanks to the excellent implementation of the principles of Vaastu Shastra. This is one of the ancient temples of India. The Pran-Pratishtha is done by Shankaracharya. Known for its Kali Yuga deva – Lord Venkateshwara, it is important from Vaastu angle that the number of hills surrounding the temple are seven. The tallest hill is on the southern side with the God positioned on the western side facing east. The entire western range of hills are highest in point and as you go towards the eastern side, you will see plains and hills descending. The valleys on the eastern side and hills on the southern and western side talk about its glorification and financial wealth. At the same time, Lord himself is the controller of finance for this entire Yuga. Anyone who goes there with a wish, gets it fulfilled and get recharged by staying there for a night. That recharge helps them fight the modern age battles for a couple of years. The energy of the temple keeps pulling their devotees again and again to fulfil their wishes and seek the blessings of Lord Balaji.
For the best experience, walk the 4000 stairs from the hills rather than driving till the temple. It takes around 3- 4 hours of time. Talk to people about their personal experiences and benefits and you will get to know many stories of people who achieved a healthier life, or success in education, or promotion at job or an improved overall married life. The devotees ask the God and the God fulfils all their wishes in abundance, proving the fact that Vaastu energy is phenomenal here. That is the message sent across by the Lord to the human race, “You come and speak to me, I will deliver” and at the same time, “D0 exactly what I do.”
Balaji temple is one of the wonders of the world and a classic display of Vaastu glory in the entire universe. One can seek not only the blessings of Lord Balaji, but also go there and study the topography of the temple, educate oneself and see the principles of Vaastu versus how the temple complex has been designed, including the safety of the people, and how the functions are organised.