Thursday, May 28, 2009


Tirumala Venkateswara Temple

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple (Telugu: తిరుమల వేంకటేశ్వర దేవాలయం) also known as Tirupati Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu Temple of Lord Venkateswara located in the hill town Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh. The temple is located on the Venkatachalam hill that forms part of the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence the temple is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills (Saptagiri in Sanskrit, Edukondalu in Telugu and Ezhumalai in Tamil). The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names - Balaji or Srinivasa or Perumal.

The temple is the richest and the most visited place of worship in the world.[1] The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily, while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it one of the most visited holy place in the world.[2]

According to the legend, the temple has a self-manifested idol murti of Lord Vishnu, with the Lord believed to have resided here for the entire Kali Yuga. In Sri Vaishnava tradition, the temple is considered one of the 108 Divya Desam sites.

1 The Temple
2 Legend
3 History
3.1 Ancient history
3.2 Medieval history
3.3 Modern history
4 Prasadam
5 Hair Tonsuring
6 Darshan and Queue System
7 Arjitha Seva (Paid Services)
8 Festivals
9 Related Temples
10 See also
11 References
12 External links

Outside view of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.
The Tirumala hills comprising of the seven hills of Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri are the abode of the Tirumala Venkateswara temple.[3] The hill town (Tirumala) and the temple (Venkateswara Temple) are located on the Seshadri or Seshachalam hill. The temple complex comprises a smaller traditional temple building along with a number of modern queue and pilgrim lodging sites.

The varied names ascribed to the main deity are Balaji, Srinivasa, Perumal, Venkateswara and Venkatachalapathy. The goddess Sri or Lakshmi (Vishnu's consort) resides on the chest of Venkateswara, and thus he is also known by the epithet Srinivasa (the one in whom Sri resides). Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Padmavathi reside on his either chests. The deity is considered the Kali yuga varada, that is 'the boon-granting Lord of Kali yuga' (the fourth and final age of the Hindu cycle of ages). The temple is held in particular reverence by the Vaishnava sect of southern India, known as the Sri Vaishnava.

For worshippers, the deity Venkateswara symbolises goodness. When people travel to Tirupati, they chant "Yedu Kondala Vada Venkataramana Govinda Govindaa" (in Telugu), "Yezhu Malaiyaane Govinda" (in Tamil) or "Tirupati Thimmappana Padakke Govinda" (in Kannada).

With his conch he creates the cosmic sound that destroys ignorance and with his disc he destroys evil. Venkateswara is believed by followers to be a very merciful deity form of Vishnu, being the fulfiller of every wish made to him by the devotees.

The Holy mantra chanted is Om Namo Venkateshaya. "The Venkateswara Suprabhatam", the morning recital of prayers and songs of awakening, is written by Prativadi Bhayankara Annan.[4] Several composers composed beautiful kirtans about Venkateswara, the most notable amongst them being Tyagaraja and Annamacharya. Annamacharya is a legendary devotee of Venkateswara and composed songs almost exclusively about the deity.

Tirumala temple, showing nighttime lighting
Main article: Legend of Tirumala
Sri Venkatachala Mahatyam is the most accepted legend with respect to Tirumala and provides the history of the temple across the various yugas. Of the other legends, the following are most known:

Ranganathaswamy at Srirangam (the main deity) is believed to have manifested on its own without any human endeavour (Swayambhu)
Discovery of the Venkateswara deity is described as an act of divine providence: there was a huge anthill at Tirupati, and one day a local farmer heard a voice from the heavens asking him to feed the ants. By chance the local king heard the voice and began supplying milk for the ants himself. His compassion resulted in the liquid uncovering the magnificent deity form of Venkateswara hidden beneath the anthill.

[edit] History

[edit] Ancient history
The exact beginnings of the temple are shrouded in antiquity, and its origins are a matter of debate. Srivaishnavite experts opine that the Rig Veda verse X.155.1 makes an indirect reference to the temple [5][6]. One such translation goes as [6]:

“ The person, devoid of wealth and vision, is implored to go to the hill which burns up all evil (vikata for Venkata) and drives away all obstacles to peace and prosperity. The call of the rishi Sirimbitha has obviously not gone in vain. ”

Thondaiman, a Pallava king (capital: Mahabalipuram, just south of modern day Chennai)[7], is believed to have first built the temple after visualising Lord Vishnu in his dream. He built the Gopuram and the Prakhara, and arranged for regular prayers to be conducted in the temple. The Sangam literature of Tamil such as that of Silapadikaram and Satanar Manimekalai, dated between 500BC and 300AD, mentions Thiruvengadam (now named Tirupati) by the appellation "Nediyon Kunram" as the northernmost frontier of the Tamil kingdoms [8]. In fact, a fairly detailed description of the deity is given in lines 41 to 51 of book 11 of the Silapadikaram [9]. Again, appellation "Nediyon" for the deity occurs in these verses:

“ High on Vengadam's towering crest, with
flowing streams in flood,

Betwixt the effulgent glory, of shining Sun and Moon,

Like unto a blue cloud in lightning dresst In all the brilliance of rainbow dight, The Red-eyed great One, majestic stands

In dress of flowery brilliance with garland bright,

One lotus hand with fearsome disc adorned, and milk white conch (the other held.)

Other Indian literature dating from the Mauryan and Guptan regimes mentions the temple as the "Aadhi Varaha Kshetra" (the ancient site of Varaha). Till the time of Ramanuja, the famous Vaishnava scholar of the 12th century, the identity of the deity was still disputed until he confirmed it to be indeed Vishnu.

Adhi VarahaMurthy Temple of Tirumala
The site was an established center by the 5th century AD, and the Alvars (Vaishnava saints) belonging to the Bhakti movement in Tamilnadu sung in praise of Venkateswara. Its significance in Southern Vaishnavite tradition was at the time next only to that of Srirangam. The temple was richly endowed by the kings of various dynasties, thus adding to its current reputation as the richest and most opulent temple in the world. The imperial Pallavas (who originally built the temple), Hoysalas and kings of Vijayanagara (including Krishna Deva Raya) were some of the key contributors for building the temple, and donating gold and other ornaments to the temple.

[edit] Medieval history
It was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained the majority of its current opulence[10] and size with the donation of expensive jewellery made of diamonds and gold. The coronation ceremonies of the emperors were also held at Tirupati. In 1517, Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. The Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. Among the later rulers who endowed large benefactions were the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal.

In 1843, with the coming of the East India Company, the administration of the Sri Venkateswara temple and a number of shrines was entrusted to Seva Dossji of the Hathiramji Mutt at Tirumala as Vicaranakarta for nearly a century until 1932, when Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established as a result of TTD Act, 1932.

Swami Pushkarni of Tirumala
See TTD's Mandate for more details

TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees has increased in size through adoption of various Acts from five (1951) to fifteen (1987). The daily operation and management of TTD is the responsibility of Executive Officer (EO) who is appointed by the AP government.

Traditionally Kurubas build temples on top of the mountains and worshiped the Almighty. Venkateswara has strong following from the Backward Castes, who are traditionally Shiva worshipers in south India. Venkateswara has a significant Dalit following also.

The temple brings around 60,000 pilgrims every day.[11] The popularity of the temple can be judged by the annual budget which was estimated at Rs 10 billion in 2008 with almost everything coming directly from donations. Devotees give donations which runs into millions. TTD, the organisation running the welfare of the temple, runs various charitable trusts whose funds are derived from the budget and donations from the devotees.[12].

[edit] Prasadam
Laddu is the most famous prasadam given at Tirumala Temple.[13] Many other delicious prasadams are also available including curd rice, tamarind rice, vada and sweet pongal. Free meals are given daily to the pilgrims, and on Thursdays, the Tirupavadai seva occurs, where food items are kept for naivedya to Lord Srinivasa. Devestanam is trying to get patent for Tirumala Laddu. Also efforts are on for geotag to counter fraud.

[edit] Hair Tonsuring
Many devotees also have their head tonsured as an offer. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton.[14] The hair thus gathered is sold by the temple organization a few times a year by public auction to international buyers for use as hair extensions and in cosmetics,[15] bringing over $6 mln to the temple's treasury.[14]


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