For a devout Hindu, a personal visit to Tirumala fulfils a life’s spiritual aspiration. The religious sanctuary attracts thousands of Hindus from all over the world seeking divine blessings, on a daily basis.
Tirumala Through Time
In line with Vaishnava tradition in Hindu mythology, Tirumala is believed to be the only Vaikuntha on this planet and home to the revered Lord Venkateshwara, Lord Balaji, Lord Narayana and Lord Srinivasa.
Tirumala is surrounded by seven hills said to represent the Seven Hoods of Adi Sesha. References to Tirumala, known as Thrivengadam at the time, go back to ancient Tamil texts of the period between 500 B.C and 300 A.D. The Tirumala Balaji temple is said to be one of the 108 sacred shrines of the Vaishnava sect.
The temples were further nurtured by rulers belonging to the Chola, Pandya and Pallava kingdoms. They were devout followers of the Vaishnava tradition and contributed to the management of the temples and propagation of the Hindu philosophy.
The temple continued to prosper with more followers visiting the temple complex under the Vijayanagara rulers, and subsequently the Maratha General Raghoji Bhonsle. Later, the management came under the British, who handed over the management to Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) in 1933. Ever since, TTD has been managing the temple complex and undertaking several social welfare activities in and around Tirupati.
For the devout, a visit to Tirumala goes far beyond a holy visit, it’s a deep spiritual journey to experience the divine. Each pilgrim experiences a personal connect with the Lord as he or she enters the holy sanctum for a personal ‘Darshan’.
So strong is the pull that over 70,000 pilgrims happen to visit Tirumala on a daily basis, with numbers more than doubling on special occasions.
Humble Submission to the Lord
Pilgrims reach Tirumala with humility and part of that humbling process is donation to the Lord. Parting with one’s precious assets and earnings by way of cash or jewellery, has been part of a long tradition through time. So much so, that last year alone, TTD set an all-time record by receiving Rs 1,065 crore from Hundi collections.
Tirupati Tirumala temple is said to be the second richest temple in the world, in addition to receiving the second largest number of pilgrims.
Given the large number of people visiting daily, TTD has streamlined the process of various Darshans through the day. Pilgrims who wish to visit Tirumala for Darshan need to buy the tickets that are available online, as a well as through physical counters. Tickets can be purchased 3 days in advance and upto a maximum period of 90 days in advance.
The Darshan / Sewa includes:
- Archananthara Darshanam
- Nilapada Darshanam
- Archana Sewa
- Visesha Pooja
- Thomala Sewa
- Tirupavada Sewa
- Astadala Pada Padmaradhanamu Sewa
- Sahasra Kalabhishekam
Pilgrims have a choice of reaching Tirupati by air, train or road. Direct flights connect Tirupati with Chennai and Hyderabad. Having its own railway station enables several trains to pass through Tirupati. Adequate buses connect various places in Andhra Pradesh directly with Tirupati.
From Tirupati, Tirumala can be reached by foot, as many pilgrims prefer, but those wishing otherwise, TTD runs free bus service to the temple complex.
The Spiritual Walk to the Sanctum Sanctorum
Pilgrims wishing to walk from Tirupati to Tirumala have several facilities extended to them. They can hand over their luggage to TTD management against a receipt and collect the same as they reach the temple complex at the top of the hill.
For many, walking to the hill top is part of a vow they have taken and for them the spiritual experience begins as they make their way through the 9-km-long stone-laid paths, Sopanamargas.
Any mention of a visit to Tirumala would be incomplete without mentioning the much sought after Prasadam. The famous Tirupati Ladoo is specially made by automatic German machines and remains popular among pilgrims to take back home, post their visit.
Pilgrims are offered free Prasadam along the route, as they meander through the Sopanamargas; they are given free food by way of Prasadam when they complete the Darshan. Fifteen thousand people are fed everyday.
For the faithful, a visit to Tirumala is incomplete without tonsuring one’s hair as a submission to the Lord. Such is the belief that the sheer volume of hair collected every day is actually processed and exported overseas. The collection from sale of hair goes towards welfare activities and related social causes.
The spiritual journey and divine experience of pilgrims to Tirumala has been beautifully captured in camera and the same is being aired on National Geographic on March 27, 2017. Watch it.