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Tirupati Balaji
Pilgrimage Destinations of India


Tirupati Balaji

Destination: Tirupati Balaji Temple, Tirupati

INTRODUCTION

The opulence of Lord Balaji, the Preserver of the Universe, is reflected in his richly ornamented life-size idol in the Tirumala Tirupati temple. The sacred shrine is visited by millions of devotees from far and wide and has been worshipped consistently since the past thirteen years. The legendary temple is situated in Chittoor district in southern Andhra Pradesh. The temple is famous for being the most-visited shrine in the world and the patron deity for being the richest God in the world. The temple’s treasury receives an overwhelming five hundred million rupees in a year as offerings.

Lord Venkateshwara is also renowned for his wish-fulfilling nature. His devotees vouch for the benevolent God’s mercifulness and vow to give him anything—even their hair!

MYTH

Myth has it that long time ago, Tirumala was a hilltop sanctum, then known as Sheshachalam. The place was idyllic. Narada, the great sage, had impressed upon Lord Vishnu, of the immense beauty of this place. Once, after a dispute with Lakshmi, his wife, Lord Vishnu became so disturbed that he thought of spending some time in complete solitude. Thus, he went to Seshachalam and started meditating. The Lord was covered by an anthill as time passed by. A cowherd informed the king about this mysterious mound who eventually unearthed the image of Lord Vishnu from the mound. The king erected a beautiful shrine at the hilltop location. It was this deity, which came to be known as Tirupati Balaji

WHEN TO VISIT

Normal: Throughout the year

Special Event: The annual Brahmotsavam festival, which is held during the Hindu month of Bhadon (August/September), draws thousands of devotees to the temple.

THE PILGRIMAGE

The Journey

Tirumala can be reached either by vehicles or by climbing up the hills on foot. Those preferring vehicles can avail the buses plying between Tirupati and Tirumala every 15 minutes.

One should purchase the return journey tickets for Tirumala at Tirupati itself to avoid standing in the ticket queue at Tirumala. The tickets are valid for three days and entitle ticket holders to board any bus at any time.

Those desirous of reaching the hilltop by foot can walk up on either of the two well-made stone footpaths. From Chandragiri, Tirumala is 5 km, whereas from Alipiri, it is 11 km. Chandragiri is the more difficult of the two and Alipiri is the more commonly used. Usually pilgrims climb up the path as a part of their vow.

Rituals

Upon reaching the temple complex, one has to go for buying the entrance tickets. There is the provision for free darshan (audience) known as Dharma Darshanam. This takes a lot of time. Then, there is system of special darshan, for which tickets worth Rs. 25 and higher can be bought. Higher the cost of the ticket, lesser it takes time to stand in the queue.

The next step is to stand in the queues. For the all the pilgrims in waiting, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) provides various facilities in the Queue Halls. These include:

1.Availability of food packets at subsidized rates

2.Availability of pure milk, supplied by the Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Corporation

3.Medical facilities

4.Photographs, calendars and books by TTD publications can be bought by pilgrims

5.Clean toilets and bathrooms

6.Availability of television sets with video

7.Cloakrooms near the Vaikuntham Queue Complex

8.At the entrance to the queue halls, enclosures have been constructed where shoes can be kept free of cost.

Although most of the people prefer to purchase the special entrance tickets, which cut down the darshan time, yet everyone has to spend not less that four to six hours to get near to the idol. (It would be double the time during festivals, and other auspicious and important occasions.)

1.Sarvadarsanam is open from 0730 hours. About 18 hours are allotted for Sarvadarsanam on ordinary days, and for the peak days, the period is extended to 20 hours. The Vaikuntham Queue Complex is the entrance point for Sarvadarsanam. The number of visitors each day amounts to 50,000.

2.Special Darshan gives the pilgrims the advantage of having the darshan faster than in the Sarvadarsanam queue. There are two categories of special darshan: the Rs. 40 coupon and the Rs. 50 coupon. People paying Rs. 40 are given one free laddu apart from darshan and the pilgrims who pay Rs. 50, are given two laddus after the darshan. The queue for special darshan is separate. Their entry takes place through the PPC (queue complex).

3.Sudarsanam token is novel concept introduced by TTD. The objective is to allow the pilgrims with a prompt darshan. There are the provisions for both free and paid darshan. The free tokens bear the time of darshan and the pilgrims are accordingly allowed for the darshan upon entering the queue complex. In this system, the devotees can have the darshan in about two hours. The free tokens have to be collected from the first choultry (opposite railway station), second choultry (behind railway station), Alipiri Bus Stand, Vaikuntham Queue Complex, Pilgrim Amenities Centre (near Central Reception Office), and near Rambagicha Guesthouse at Tirumala.

It is mandatory to keep the tokens tied to the wrist until the darshan is over. The dalaris or touts are not to be trusted for any kind of service.

The darshan takes place as one moves ahead in the queue, to right in front of the deity. Each devotee gets only a few seconds for the darshan.

Prasadams are to be obtained from bank counters erected in the queue line for laddus. The prasadams are distributed free of cost by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. The anna prasadams (pulihora), chitrannam, sweet pongal and curd rice are given free to all pilgrims coming out after darshan. Pilgrims can also buy laddus at the Prasadapatteda counter outside the temple.

DON’T MISS

The beautiful temples of Sri Govindarajaswami, Kapilatirtham (at Tirupati) and Sri Padmavathi Ammavari (at Tiruchanur) are worth visiting. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swami Temple at Srinivasa Mangapuram is another attraction for the Tirupati pilgrims.

FESTIVAL

The annual festival is the Brahmotsavam. It is celebrated for twelve days when the sun enters Kanya Rashi from Aswayuja Shuddha Padyami to Aswayuja Shuddha Dasami, during September/October. The festival is named after Lord Brahma, who celebrated it for the first time. The festival program includes the taking of the Utsavamurtis around the temple on different vahanams. This is being done every morning and evening. The Garudotsavam on the fifth day and the Rathotsavam on the eighth day are the special features of the festival.

LODGING

Tirumala

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams provides the incoming pilgrims with free accommodation at large unfurnished rest houses. To avail this, one may contact the Central Reception Office near the bus stand. Sheds and dormitory halls are also available where pilgrims can take rest. Those desiring more comfortable lodging can go for the paid accommodation at the Central Reception Office.

Tirupati

The Sri Govindaraja Dharamshala and Sri Kodanda Rama Dharamshala offer free accommodation in Tirupati. To get boarding in these, the pilgrims have to contact the superintendent, Central Reception Office.

The town has some quality hotels like Bhimas Deluxe Hotel, Guestline Days, Hotel Bliss, Hotel Bhimas Paradise and Hotel Mayura.

HOW TO REACHBy Air

The nearest airport is at Reni Gunta, 15 km from Tirupati. Indian Airlines operates daily flights from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Chennai and Bangalore.

By Rail

The famed pilgrim town is well connected to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. Railway tickets for Tirumala can be bought from any station in India. Important trains are Rayalseema Express; Narayanatri Express, Venkatadri Express and Krishna Express from Hyderabad; Chennai Express; Dadar Express and Grand Trunk (GT) Express from Mumbai; Saptgiri from Chennai and Mysore Express from Bangalore.

By Road

Tirupati is linked to all the major towns and cities of South India by road. Chennai is 150 km; Bangalore, 250 km; and Hyderabad, 725 km from Tirupati. Tourist buses ply regularly between the cities. State-run buses from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are also available.



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