Tirupati Balaji Darshan


The town of Tirupati is one of the most ancient and spectacular places of pilgrimage in India. It is situated in the Chittoor district in southern Andhra Pradesh. The town owes its existence to the sacred temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara situated on the Tirumala Hill adjoining it. With a history that dates back to over twelve centuries, the temple is the jewel in the crown of ancient places of worship in southern India.

The Tirumala Hill is 3200 ft above sea level, and is about 10.33 sq miles in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name, Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The ancient and sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara is located on the seventh peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) of the Tirupati Hill, and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini.

It is by the Lord’s presidency over Venkatachala, that He has received the appellation, Venkateswara (Lord of the Venkata Hill). He is also called the Lord of the Seven Hills. The temple of Sri Venkateswara has acquired unique sanctity in Indian religious lore. The Sastras, Puranas, Sthala Mahatyams and Alwar hymns unequivocally declare that, in the Kali Yuga, one can attain mukti, only by worshipping Venkata Nayaka or Sri Venkateswara.

The benefits acquired by a piligrimage to Venkatachala are mentioned in the Rig Veda and Asthadasa Puranas. In these epics, Sri Venkateswara is described as the great bestower of boons. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord at Tirumala.

The temple has its origins in Vaishnavism, an ancient sect which advocates the principles of equality and love, and prohibits animal sacrifice. The sanctum sanctorum which houses the awe - inspiring idol of the Lord of the Seven Hills is situated in the main temple complex of Tirumala.

History
There is ample literary and epigraphic testimony to the antiquity of the temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara. All the great dynasties of rulers of the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateswara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Thanjavur (a century later), the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar (14th - 15th century AD) were devotees of the Lord and they competed with one another in endowing the temple with rich offerings and contributions.

It was during the rule of the Vijayanagar dynasty that the contributions to the temple increased. Sri Krishnadevaraya had statues of himself and his consorts installed at the portals of the temple, and these statues can be seen to this day. There is also a statue of Venkatapati Raya in the main temple.

After the decline of the Vijayanagar dynasty, nobles and chieftains from all parts of the country continued to pay their homage and offer gifts to the temple. The Maratha general, Raghoji Bhonsle, visited the temple and set up a permanent endowment for the conduct of worship in the temple. He also presented valuable jewels to the Lord, including a large emerald which is still preserved in a box named after the General. Among the later rulers who have endowed large amounts are the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal.

After the fall of the Hindu kingdoms, the Muslim rulers of Karnataka and then the Britishers took over, and many of the temples came under their supervisory and protective control. In 1843 AD, the East India Company divested itself of the direct management of non - Christian places of worship and native religious institutions. The administration of the shrine of Sri Venkateswara and a number of estates were then entrusted to Sri Seva Dossji of the Hatiramji Mutt at Tirumala, and the temple remained under the administration of the Mahants for nearly a century, till 1933 AD. Other Tourist Attracation.

SRI GOVINDRAJASWAMY TEMPLE

The temple of Sri Govindarajaswami is one of the most visited temples in Tirupati - Balaji. The temple has an imposing gopuram (elaborate gateway) that can be seen from a distance. The temple was consecrated by Saint Ramanujacharya in AD 1130. The main sanctuaries in the temple are dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna.

SRI KAPILESWARASWAMI TEMPLE

Situated at about 3 km to the north of Tirupati - Balaji, at the foot of the Tirumala Hill, is Sri Kapileswaraswami Temple. Amidst all the Vaishnava temples in

Tirupati - Balaji, Sri Kapileswaraswami Temple is the only temple dedicated to Lord Siva. The temple has an attractive setting and there is a sacred waterfall called Kapila Teertham or Alwar Teertham located here.

SRI KODANDARAMASWAMI TEMPLE

Built by a Chola king during the tenth century AD, Sri Kodandaramaswami Temple is situated in the heart of Tirupati - Balaji town. The temple has Rama, Sita and Lakshmana as the presiding deities. Legend has it that this temple commemorates the visit of Lord Rama to Tirupati - Balaji. The temple of Anjaneyaswami, which is directly opposite, is a sub - shrine of this temple.

TIRUCHANUR
Also known as Alamelumangapuram, Tiruchanur is situated at about 5 km from Tirupati - Balaji. Here one can find a temple of Sri Padmavathi Devi or Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Sri Venkateswara. It is said that a visit to Tirumalai is fruitful only after visiting the Sri Padmavathi Devi temple. The sub - temples in its premises include the Sri Krishnaswamy Temple, Sri Sundara Rajaswamivari Temple, and Sri Suryanarayana Swamivari Temple.

SRI KALYANA VENKATESWARASWAMI TEMPLE

About 12 km to the west of Tirupati - Balaji lies the Sri Kalyana Venkateswaraswami temple at Srinivasa Mangapuram. Legend has it that Lord Venkateswara stayed here after his marriage with Sri Padmavathi Devi before proceeding to Tirumala.

CHANDRAGIRI
The town of Chandragiri is located at about 11 km southwest of Tirupati - Balaji. Once the capital of the Vijayanagar rulers in AD 1600, the town is famous for the Chandragiri Fort that has been built on a 180 - metre - high rock. Here one can still come across well - preserved fortifications and some palaces and temples.

SRI KALAHASTHI
Located between two steep hills on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi about 36 km from Tirupati - Balaji, is Sri Kalahasti. Here you can find a temple dedicated to Vayu, the God of wind. The river running north touches the base of the temple.

AGASTYASWAMY TEMPLE
About 12 km from Tirupati - Balaji at the confluence of three rivers, namely, Swarnamukhi, Bhima and Kalyan, lies the Agastyaswamy Temple. The temple has three beautifully sculptured entrances that heighten the grandeur of the hall inside. A separate shrine for Goddess Parvati is also located within the temple.

Just opposite the shrine in the middle of the river is a mandap on which the statues of Balaji, Ayyappa and Ganapati have been installed. A small shrine dedicated to Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya is located near the tank.

KALYANI DAM
About 18 km from Tirupati - Balaji, in the Rangampet forest on the Tirupati - Balaji - Madanapallee Road, lies the Kalyani Dam. The dam is the main water source for Tirupati - Balaji and Tirumalai.

HORSLEY HILLS
This charming little hill station lies on the southwest border of Andhra Pradesh at an altitude of about 1,265 metres above sea level. The resort, named after the former collector of Chittoor, is a fascinating place to visit. Here you can find out valleys clad with teak, mango, sandalwood and eucalyptus plantations.

NAGALAPURAM
Nagalapuram is a small town about 65 km south - east of Tirupati - Balaji. The major attraction of this town is Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple. The temple, believed to have been constructed by the Vijayanagar emperor, Sri Krishna Devaraja at the behest of his mother, is a fine specimen of the Vijayanagar style of architecture. The sanctum sanctorum houses an image of Vishnu in his Matsya (fish) incarnation accompanied by Sri Devi and Bhu Devi on either side. An important aspect of the temple is the Sun worship. The temple has been constructed in a way that every year in the month of March the rays of the sun pass through its gopuram and fall on the idol in the sanctum for three Days.

KAILASAKONA WATERFALLS
Situated in the Nagary Valley, this beautiful waterfall is worth a visit. The water here is quite rich in minerals and is said to possess curative powers.

NARAYANAVANAM
A shrine dedicated to Kalyana Venkateswara is a major attraction at Narayanavanam, a small town situated about 22 km south - east of Tirupati - Balaji. Legend has it that Lord Venkateswara married Padmavathi Devi, the daughter of Akasa Raja, at this place. To commemorate this great event, Akasa Raja built the temple here. Events and Festivals

BRAHMOTSAVAM
The Brahmotsavam is the most important temple festival celebrated at Tirupati - Balaji. Celebrated annually in September, the festival is especially grand every third year when it is called Navratri Brahmotsavam. On the third DAY of the Brahmotsavam, the temple car festival called Rathotsavam is held. Both the temple chariot and the Lord are gaily decorated and taken around the streets of Tirumala.

On the final day of the Tirupati - Balaji festival, the image of Lord Venkateswara is taken out in procession in a spectacular white horse - drawn chariot. Before returning to his shrine, the deity bathes in the Swami Pushkarini tank followed by thousands of tonsured, white - clad devotees trying to wash off their sins. During the spectacular deepakulam ceremony, this ancient temple tank is full of decorated boats and thousands of brass lamps are reflected in the water. The entire hilltop resounds with Sanskrit mantras (sacred chants) and the music of bells, drums, cymbals, flutes, and temple horns. The perfumes of camphor, sandalwood, incense, jasmine, rose, and marigold fills the air.

VIJAYANAGAR FESTIVAL

The Vijayanagar Festival is held for three days at the historic Chandragiri Fort near Tirupati - Balaji in the third week of October every year. The fort is a living testimony to the valour of the rulers of Vijayanagar, and the festival coincides with the annual Brahmotsavam at the Tirupati - Balaji Temple. Musicians and dancers from all over the state come here to perform during the festival. The Rayalseema Food Festival is also held at the same time. During this festival, most of the local delicacies of the state are presented.

Several other festivals are held at Tirupati - Balaji all through the year. The Kalyanotsavam (marriage of the Lord) is celebrated everyday at the Kalyanmandapam except during the Brahmotsavam and on certain other festive occasions. Devotees can perform this ceremony on payment of Rs. 3000.


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