One of the most famous Maha Vishnu temple in India is the Thirumalai Venkateswara temple, in Andhra Pradesh and is situated in Chittor district in the hill town of Tirumala. Besides the Sree Padmanabha Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, kerala, it is the richest pilgrimage centre with an average of 75,000 daily pilgrims and thus making the temple the most visited holy place of worship in the world. It stretches out through an area of 27 kms, encompassed in seven hills or peaks , which symbolizes Adhi shesha’s seven heads. These seven hills are named as Sheshadri – named after shesha naga, Neeladri – named after Neela devi – a gandharva princess, Garudadri – named after garuda, Anjanadri – named after anjaneya, Vrushabadri – named after Nandi – lord Siva’s vehicle, Narayanadri and Venkatadri / Venkatachala / Venkata hill – the main temple on the banks of swami Pushkarni river. It is the 7th peak and popularly known as Temple of Seven Hills. It is also believed that these seven hills represent seven sages or Saptha Rishis.
Lord Mahavishnu’s another form of incarnation; Lord Venkateswara is the main god of worship. Devotees worship the Lord using different names such as Balaji, Sreenivasa, Malayappa, Kaliyugavarada, Venkatachalapathy etc. The word Thirumala means Holy Mountain and Venkateswara means the supreme God, who redeems from all the sins of those who visits or submits themselves to HIM and showers holy grace upon them. In Vedas ( Rigveda ), hindu puranas and Shastras, we can find established versions that Venkateswara is the most kind towards the worshipers and during this kaliyuga , worshiping Venkatachalapathy is the only way to reach Parabhrama / attain moksha
The Pallavas of 9th century AD, The Cholas of the 10th C AD, Vijayanagar Pradhans of 14th and 15th C were the greatest devotees of Lord Venkateswara and gifted a huge amount of gold , diamonds and ornaments , which made the temple acquire its present financial position. We can see the statues of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and his wife Raja Todar Mal inside the temple premises. In 1932 with TTD Act, Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanam was established and the whole temple activities , administration and management came under the control of an Executive Officer (EO), appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh.
Famous musicians – Tallapaka Annamacharya, Purandadasa, Ramabhaktha, Sri Tyagaraja , all these are sincere devotees of Lord Srinivasa, who wrote thousands of bhakhti songs praizing his grace and glory and boundless blessings.
The main idol of Venkateswara is inside the golden roofed tower called ‘The Vimanam’ is placed inside the glittered dome known as Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. It is believed that the main deity or Mulaberam is self evolved and self dressed, as no human has the capability to adorn the Lord so perfectly and proportionately. Mulaberam is adorned in its full glory with golden crown, golden earrings and HIS body wrapped in yellow silk, hooked with golden string and golden belt. Padmavathy Devi rests on HIS left part and Lakshmi Devi dwells on HIS right part. Gold framed feet are adorned with golden anklets. Through the Tirumani Mandapam we reach the Bangaru Vakili (golden entrance) – way to inner main temple where the main diety resides. Lord Venkateswara is guarded by two dwarapalaka’s ( jaya and vijaya)’s huge cupper images. Dasavatharam is inscribed on the huge wooden doors add to its antique beauty.
Main Deities in the temple are: – Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram – (fixed stone idol), is the idol of Lord Venkateswara having a height of 8 ft and it is the prime force of energy to the temple.
Kautuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa – a small silver idol of one feet inch length and was gifted by the Pallava Queen Samavai Perindevi in 614 AD, remains there till now. It rests beside the Druva Beram on the left side and is tied to it by a holy string- Sambandha Kroocha. This tiny idol enjoys all the earthly happiness, same as the MoolaVirat, hence named as Bhoga Srinivasa. Sahasra kalashabhiskhekom is done every Wednesday and after all the daily rituals, this deity is placed on a golden cot at night.
Snapan Beram or Ugra Srinivasa – this deity is the anger part of Lord Venkareswara and it is brought outside on kaishika Dwadasi, once in a year, for snapana or cleansing with abhishekams using milk , curd , ghee, turmeric, holy water from holy rivers and oceans.
Utsava Beram is also known as Malayappa because this idol was seen along with the idols of Sreedevi and Bhudevi in the Malayappan Konai Cave. After getting this, it was used for utsavam – this deity is brought outside to bless the devotees.
- Bali Beram, – panchaloha idol same as the prime deity, is considered as the guardian of all the functioning of the temple including administration and financial dealings
- Lord Venkateswara is worshipped six times a day.
- Ushakala aradhana – starts and finishes before early morning.
- Prathakala aradahana – starts after sunrise and ends before noon.
- Madhyanakala aradhana – starts and ends at mid day.
- Aparahnakala aradhana – starts and ends around dawn.
- Ardharathri aradhana – after sunset
Tirupathi Trust is giving many prasadams as the blessings from the Lord Venkateswara. The most popular one is the Laddu. Some other items are Chakkara ponkal, Curd rice, Payasam, Murukku, Appam, Tamarind rice, Jilebi etc. Devotees can avail free meals daily.
One of the famous rituals is offering hair to the Lord. Many pilgrims tonsure their head and offer their hair to God and all these hair offered by the devotees symbolically is given to Neela Devi, a Gandharva princess, who with her magical powers replaced the balded part of Sree Balaji with her own hair. Then onwards Lord Srinivasa gave her word for the hair of all the devotees, who visit the Lord.
Hundi or Donation Pot is the major source of income for the temple. This is based on the bellief that Lord Venkatesawara, during his marriage with Padmavathy, borrowed huge amount of gold and money from Lord Kubera inorder to construct the godly palace on seven hills. To repay the debt to Kubera, Devotees are donating money and gold for Lord Venkateswara as a symbol of love and affection.
Thulabharam , another famous ritual – submitting an equal amount of materials such as gold sugar, jaggerry, plantain etc to the weight of devottes, weighing on a balance.
Arjitha seva – with the paid service tickets , but to a permitted numbers, pilgrims can see the poojas done to Dhruva Beram, Bhoga Srinivasa, Sri Malayappa Swami and Utsava Murti,and also gets special prasadams. The most important festival is the Brahmotsavam conducted on September yearly. Other main occasions include Vaikunda Ekadasi, Rama Navami, Janmashtami, Vasantholsavam in March – April and Ratha Sapthami in February.
Sree Kalahasti Temple, Srinivasa Mangapuram Sree Padmavathy Devi Alayam, Sri Govinda Raja Swami Temple, Sri kodanda Rama Swami Temple, Sri Kapileswara Swami Temple, Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swami Temple are some of the nearest and famous temples of historical importance.