- December 27, 2022
Read Tirupati Temple History in Tamil
The Tirupati temple is located on the seventh of the Tirumala Hills, 853m above sea level, hence earning it the name ‘Temple of Seven Hills’. The seven hills named Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri, are part of the Seshachalam range. The Tirumala Hills are part of Seshachalam Hills range. The seven hills are said to represent the seven heads of Adisesha, the divine pedestal of Lord Vishnu. The sanctum sanctorum lies to the south of the massive Sri Swami Pushkarini (holy water tank). The surrounding town is laid out over 10.33 sq. miles. In the years of 1983 and 2000, a massive undertaking of two complexes took place to house devotees waiting to see the Lord. These queue complexes are made of rooms that can seat over 300 devotees each. Besides allowing authorities to manage the undulating crowds, the rooms also allow tired devotees to rest and recuperate while they wait in line.
Simple meals are also provided to everyone during mealtimes. As tradition goes, worshippers are said to visit the shrine of Bhu Varaha Swamy, located to the north of the Sri Swami Pushkarini, before visiting the inner sanctum. In brief, the history of Tirupati has been untroubled. There were many patrons of the temple through the years, especially in the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara dynasties. Over the course of the centuries, the temple has amassed unparalleled wealth, with some such as the Vijayanagra Emperor, Krishnadevaraya donated countless gems, jewels, gold and sanctioning the gilding of the Vimana over the inner sanctum. With the decline of the ruling class, the temple saw patrons from near and afar, ensure the stability of the temple. Many from the Kingdom and Mysore and the Gadwal Samsthanam were instrumental in the upkeep of the temple.
In the 18th century, Maratha genera Raghoji I Bhonsle instituted the first administrative body to manage the temple’s finances and proceedings. With the installation of the Madras Presidency, the temple and shrine were entrusted to Seva Dossji, of Hathiramji Mutt, as Vicaranakarta for almost a century since 1843. The TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) was established in 1932 and the temple affairs delegated to the organization. After independence, the Temple was decreed part of Andhra Pradesh, a state demarcated by a majority of Telugu speaking population. The Tirupati temple is located 435 km (270 mi) from Vijayawada, 571.9 km(355.3 mi) from Hyderabad, 138 km (86 mi)from Chennai , 291 km (181 mi) from Bangalore and 781.2 km(485.4 mi) from Visakhapatnam, allowing for easy access from any of these major cities in South India. The most available mode of transport is bus or taxi.
Historians rely heavily on any inscriptions they can find to shed light on a temple’s past or to understand the impact of the temple on the people. In that sense, Tirupati is a treasure trove of over 1000 inscriptions.These inscriptions allow us to paint a pretty picture of the historical and cultural implications of the temple. It is important to note, at this juncture, that Tirupati and Tiruchanur (Lower Tirupati) go hand in hand in most accounts and itineraries of pilgrims. The same holds true for the inscriptions and history. Although many of the inscriptions have faded or been damaged over time, the sheer number of available inscriptions grant insight into the management of the Devasthanam.
Additionally, over 3000 copper plates chronicle the works (Telugu Sankirtanas) and gifts of Tallapaka Annamacharya and his descendants. These chronicles are important to linguists and musicologists as they reveal the evolution of both language and music through time, in these parts.The inscriptions also shed light on the heavy influences of the famous dynasties of yore. Many of the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Kadavarayas, Yadavarayas and Vijayanagara Kings were patrons of the temple, and under their benevolence, Tirupati flourished.The temple has also featured in many literary works dating back to the Sangam period (500 BC – 300 AD) when it was probably a small shrine. Over the years, the temple has come to be what it is today, with notable extensions in the Chola period.
The Garbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is accessed through a succession of three gates.The outermost or first gate is called Padikavali or Mahadwaram (in Tamil it is called Periya Vasal). A 50ft gopuram constructed in 5 storeys, crowns this entrance and is topped with 7 kalasams. On either side of this entrance are the statues of Sankanidhi and Padmanidhi, installed by King Achyutta Raya, who are said to guard the Lord’s wealth. The second entrance that devotees must pass through is gilded in silver and hence called Vendi Vakili. This entrance, also known as Nadimipadikavali, is crowned by a 3 storey gopuram with 7 kalasams at the top.
The final entrance leading devotees to the Garbagriha is gilded in gold and hence called Bangaru Vakili. The Dwarapalakas, copper gilded Jaya-Vijaya, stand guard by the Bangaru Vakili. The gilded doors are covered in multiple depictions of the Dasavatharam (10 incarnations) of Vishnu. It is believed that chanting the Lord’s name ‘Govinda’ as one passes through these entrances, will bring peace to the speaker, more sweetly than an ocean of milk.
There are two paths for devotees to circumambulate the garbagriha. One circumambulation is termed as pradakshinam.The first and foremost path is the Sampangipradakshinam that devotees take as soon as they exit the sanctum sanctorum.This path between the Mahaprakaram and Sampangiprakaram has many scattered Mandapas, a Dwajasthambam, a Balipeetam, a Kshetrapalika sila, prasadam distribution area etc. The outer pradakshinam is known as the Vimanapradakhinam and the path follows the boundary of the Ananda Nilayam Vimanam.
There are many small, important edifices within this prakaram with shrines dedicated to Varadaraja and Yoga Narasimha, Potu(main kitchen), Bangaru Bavi(golden well), Ankurarpana Mandapam, Yagasala, Nanala (coins) and Notla (Paper notes) Parkamani, Almyrah of Sandal paste (Chandanapu ara), cell of records, Sannidhi Bhashyakarulu, Lord’s hundi and the seat of Vishvaksena. The Vimanapradakshinam is also where devotees undertake Angapradakshinam (circumambulation using the whole body) every morning during the Suprbhata Seva.
Lord Venkateshwara resides in the garbagriha or sanctum sanctorum among many smaller idols. The Lord grants His devotees a stunning vision in the standing posture adorned in flowers, jewels and silk. He appears with four hands in view, one in varada posture, one on his thigh and the other two holding Shanka (Conch) and Chakra (Discus). The Goddesses Lakshmi and Parvathi grace the right and left sides of His chest, respectively. To enter the central shrine, devotees must walk through the gilded Bangaruvakili. However, devotees are not allowed into the garbagriha to manage the large crowds.
The main gopuram constructed over the inner sanctum is the most attractive sight in the temple. Completely gilded in gold, the gopuram sports a single gold kalasam at the top. The three storeyed gopuram has many idols carved into its faces. The carving of note however is that of Lord Venkateswara which is said to be an exact replica of the idol within, earning it the name ‘Vimana Venkateswara’. A quaint silver border highlights the same. The history of the temple and its practices can be traced back to Sage Vaikhanasa who described the method of worship in the temple. Thus, the temple is said to follow the Vaikhanasa Agama tradition of worship. His many disciples including Atri, Bhrigu, Marichi, Kasyapa are said to have propagated this tradition. Vaikhanasa is one of the oldest traditions of the Hindu faith and is associated with the worship of Lord Vishnu (and his avatars) as the Supreme God. Some traditions and rooms of note within the inner prakaram are listed below.
Bangaru Varalakshmi – For the benefit of devotees depositing their offerings in the hundi, a tall statue of bangaru Varalakshmi (golden Varalakshmi) is arranged on the left side wall. It is believed that goddess Varalakshmi grants lot of wealth to all the devotees who fulfill their vows.
Vishwaksena – After coming out from hundi enclosure one can see the small temple of Vishvaksena on the left side. He is the army chief of Lord Venkateswara. The processional statue of Vishwaksena, which plays an important role during festivals, is at present placed in Ankurarpana mandapam.
Sri Varadaraja Swami Temple – Varadaraja Swami is an incarnation of Vishnu and a dedicated shrine rests in the temple premises. The deity faces West. The path circumvents this shrine which holds a 5ft high idol topped with a pagoda. It is unclear when this shrine was installed as there are no historical accounts available.
Yoga Narasimha Temple – Narasimha Swamy is the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, where he descended as the half-lion half-man to put an end to the reign of the demon King Hiranyakasipu. Historians believe the Yoga Narasimha shrine was constructed between 1330 AD and 1360 AD in the Vimanapradakshinam, to the right of Vendivakili (silver entrance). The deity faces West in the typical posture used in meditation.
Garuthmantha Temple – Garuda, the vahana of Lord Vishnu, has a small shrine constructed right opposite the Golden Entrance. The shrine is considered a part of the Garudamandapam and houses a 6ft tall statue of Garuda facing the Lord.
Bhuvaraha Swamy Temple – The oldest shrine on the premises is said to predate that of Lord Venkateswara’s first appearance at Tirupati. Bhuvaraha Swamy shrine, dedicated to the third avatar of Vishnu, Varaha, is said to have been present to the North of the Swami Pushkarini since time immemorial. However, Varaha Swamy graciously accepted Lord Venkateswara’s presence at Tirumala under the condition that devotees offer their prayers and Nivedhana to Him before visiting the garbagriha. To this date, the same tradition is followed.
Bedi-Anjaneya Temple – The Lord Hanuman has a dedicated shrine that is known as the Bedi-Anjaneya Temple. The shrine itself is located outside the Mahadwaram and near the Akhilandam. Anjaneya has both his hands handcuffed, thus earning him the name Bedi (handcuff) Anjaneya.
Vakulamatha Sannidhi – Vakulamatha, the mother of Lord Venkateswara is said to reside just before the Varadaraja shrine. It is believed that she supervises the food preparations by watching over the kitchen (potu) staff through a hole in the shrine wall. She is ever vigilant and remains in the seated position. Other shrines of note in the Vimanapradakshinam include that of Kubera (God of Wealth) and that of Sri Ramanuja Acharya. The Kubera sannidhi faces south towards the Lord, while the Ramanuja shrine (Bhashyakara Sannidhi), built around 13th century AD, lies in the northern corridor.
The Krishnadevarayala Mandapam is a grand structure and perhaps the largest mandapam on the temple premises. It was sanctioned by the Emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire, Krishnadevaraya and the heavy influences of Vijayanagara architecture are obvious. To the right of the porch are tall copper statues of the Emperor and his two consorts, Tirumala Devi and Chinna Devi. On certain occasions, these statues are placed before the Lord as a testament to their devotion. Historically, it is believed that the Emperor himself installed these statues on 2nd January, 1517 AD. There are also records of seven pilgrimage undertakings by the Emperor between 1513 AD and 1521 AD.
The records of his gifts through the years include a crown made of Navratnas, 25 silver plates and two golden bowls for Paal Aaragimpu, during his first visit, and many other jewels, villages and gold offerings during successive visits. He paid his first visit to the temple along with his two queens on 10th February 1513 AD. Of particular note is his gift of a gem-studded, golden makarathoranam in 1515 AD. He also sanctioned the gilding of the Ananda Nilayam, at a cost of over 30,000 gold coins, in September of 1518 AD.Similar to the Vijayanagara Emperor, the statue of Venkatapatirayalu, King of Chandragiri, also stands at the entrance to the Mahadwaram. He is also known to have donated many riches during the 1970’s.
One of the most fantastic mandapas on the premises is the Addala Mandapam. Located just 12 ft to the North Sri Krishnadevarayala Mandapam, this porch is made entirely of glass. Every day at 2 p.m. a service called Dolotsavam, believed to have been introduced by North Indians in 1831, is conducted on the porch.
An interesting intersection of the Srirangam and Tirupati Temples can be observed in the mandapam right opposite to the Addala Mandapam. This mandapam, called Ranganayaka Mandapam housed the idols of Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam between the years of 1320 and 1369 AD, to protect the idols against Muslim invaders. Till the statues were returned at the end of the Muslim threat, prayers were offered to the Lord everyday. The mandapam is said to have got its name, Ranganayaka Mandapam, from the King of Tirupati who sanctioned the same. He was Ranganadha Yadava Rayalu and built this mandapam especially for the daily Kalyanotsavam service. However, due to the exponential rise in pilgrims, the service is now held within the Sampangi Pradakshinam.
Another Emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire, Saluva Narasimha Rayalu, constructed the Tirumalarya Mandapam, not ten feet from the flag staff. The mandapam was a tribute to the Lord, to whom he believed he owed his countless victories and expanding empire. Since its inception, the Lord was annually placed in a cradle kept inside this madapam for five days. This service is now discontinued.
Couples who beget children after praying to the Lord donate gifts of coins, silver, candy and camphor equivalent to the child’s weight. Similarly, devotees cured of their diseases also donate valuables. This practice of weighing valuables againsts a person’s weight is called Tuladanam and takes place before the Ranganayaka Mandapam.
As we move away from the flagstaff, at about a 100 ft distance, we see three copper statues of devotees saluting the Lord with folded hands. Of them, one is Lala Khemaramu, a Kshatriya known as Raja Todarmallu, who warded off both Muslim and British invasion of Tirumala. Beside his statue are those of his mother, Mata Mohana Devi, and wife, Pita Bibi.
As we move towards the centre of the courtyard between the Addala Mandapam and Ranganayaka Mandapam, we see the towering Dwajasthambam (Flagstaff). This golden flagstaff is located at the centre of a 20 pillared pavilion, in line with the garbagriha. This pavilion was constructed in the 15th century and is known as the Dwajasthamba Mandapam. To the northeast of the flagstaff is a granite stone called Kshetrapalakasila.
The core of the flagstaff is made of wood and gilded on the outside with gold. The flagstaff is an important part of any temple and the flag of Vishnu flutters in the strong winds during the Brahmotsavam festival. It is considered an invitation to the other Gods and Goddesses to attend the festival. Traditionally devotees offering any pooja material to the Lord have to circumambulate the flagstaff first. The Lord is also made to circumambulate the flagstaff every time he leaves or enters the inner sanctum for a service or festival.
Beside the Dwajasthambam lies the Bali Peetam (Sacrificial Altar). However, traditionally, only Prasad offerings are made here subsequent to offering the food to the Lord. It is believed that all the other deities will partake in the offering as well. This offering is also akin to praying to the elemental forces of nature.
The Kshetra Palaka Sila lies to the northeast of the Dwajasthambam and is believed to march around the temple to safeguard the Lord and his wealth. Since time immemorial, priests have been placing the keys to the sanctum on this stone only to return in the morning to find it safe. However, as the story goes, a child was hurt one night during the rounds and to avoid such issues in the future, the stone was moved to ‘Gogarbha Teertham’. A part of the stone was placed in its original spot and to this day, priests touch the slab with the keys to the sanctum before opening the gates.
Built in 1470 AD by Saluva Narasimha Raya, the four corners of the Sampangi Pradakshinam have pillars, essentially turning the whole path into a mandapam. In the days before massive pilgrim turnouts, the Lord would be paraded to the four corners in all His splendor to bless devotees.
Viraja River (Prohibited Area)
It is believed that the river Viraja of Vaikuntam flows beneath the feet of the Lord Venkateswara. The well within the complex is said to be a part of the same river. However, laymen are prohibited from visiting this area of the temple. It is also known as the toy well as many small idols are carved and placed within it.
The next portion of the temple is the kitchen, also known as the Potu. This is located in the Sampangi Pradakshinam and is where all the food that is offered to the Lord is prepared. It is one of the largest kitchens as sweetmeats are prepared through the day to give as prasadam to every single devotee.
To the east of the Potu is the Flower Chamber where all the flowers used during the different sevas are stored. The chamber is also known as Yamunottarai and has recently been moved to the Vimana Pradakshinam. As legend has it, the Lord wished to always be swathed in flowers and hence all of the flowers grown on the seven hills are offered only to the Lord. The procession of flowers to the inner sanctum is itself a sight to watch as the Jiyyangas circumambulate the Dwajasthambam before heading in, with trumpeters and drummers in tow.
Flower Well (WELL Of Flowers)
Since flowers on the hills are meant only for the Lord, unlike in other temples, none of them are given to devotees as prasadam. The used flowers were deposited within the confines of a dedicated flower well, but of late, the flowers are strewn over the seven hills as the well is unable to accommodate the vast quantity of flowers.
Sreeranganathudu Sri Ranganadha
The Angapradakshinam undertaken by devotees begins at the small shrine housing Sri Ranganatha who graces his devotees while kneeling on Adisesha. Beside Him are two small, gold plated idols of Sri Varadaraja Swami and Sri Venkateswara Swami. In August of 1991, Vijay Mallya, the Chairman of United Breweries Group sanctioned the gilding of the entire shrine (both inside and out), to the tune of 55 lakh rupees. It is believed that those who successfully complete the Angapradakshinam will be granted the favor of the Lord.
The Snapana Mandapam is an integral part of the inner sanctum. As devotees cross the golden doors (Bangaruvakili), they can see the inside of the Lord’s court where he is brought to every day after the Thomala Seva so that he may hold court and tend to the affairs of his realm. During the court proceedings, the daily almanac is read out complete with events and expenses.
There are two more rooms in the shrine, one where the money (Hundi) is kept for accepting donations from devotees and the other to store the Lord’s jewels. The jewels are categorized under three sections and brought out only for specific purposes. For example, the Sada Samarpana jewels are used every day and are the responsibility of the chief priest. The jewels are valued at around 10 million rupees. The Vishesha Samarpana jewels are reserved for special events, sevas and festivals, and also displayed when VIPs visit the temple. Some examples of the Vishesha Samarpana jewels are the gem studded crown, shanku and chakra, that are the responsibility of a special officer (Parupathyadaru).
These jewels are valued at over 20 million rupees. The third and most fantastic of the jewelry are reserved for the biggest festival, Brahmotsavam. The antique jewelry that adorns the Lord are placed under the care of the TTD Treasury. They are of greater historical importance than compared to their monetary value. These jewels were donated by the King and Queen of Gadwal.
The Sayana Mandapam is the Lord’s bedroom and is an exquisite room with a gold cot in the centre, topped with a silk mattress. The entire cot is hung up on chains and devotees have a chance to see the Lord resting on his silken bed with offerings of prasadam and riches before him.
Tirumala Tirupati Temple is fondly called Nitya Kalyanam Paccha Thoranam to reflect its status as the Paradise on Earth where every day is a festival. Over 433 festivals are celebrated annually.
The largest of the festivals is the Brahmotsavam. It is celebrated over nine days in the month of October where the processional deity, Malayappa, is taken in procession around the temple premises with his consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, accompanying him. Every day sees the Lord on a different vahanam (vehicle), including those of Dwajarohanam, Pedda Sesha Vahanam, Chinna Sesha Vahanam, Hamsa Vahanam, Simha Vahanam, Muthaypu pandiri Vahanam, Kalpavriksha Vahanam, Sarava Bhoopala Vahanam, Mohini Avataram, Garuda Vahanam, Hanumantha Vahanam, Swarna Rathotsavam (Golden Chariot, Gajavahanam, Rathotsavam(Chariot), Ashwa Vahanam, Chakra Snanam. The temple witnesses a massive influx of devotees during the Brahmotsavam, especially for the Garuda Vahanam.
The second most important festival is celebrated on the day of Vaikunta Ekadasi which is when the gates to Vaikuntam (Heaven) are opened. Up to 1.5 lakhs of devotees flood the temple premises in a bid to catch a glimpse of the Lord after passing through the metaphorical gates of Heaven, called Vaikunta Dwaram.
Celebrated in the month of February, Rathasapthami is another major festival where Malayappa is taken around the temple in procession on seven different vahanas through the day.
Other major festivals include Rama Navami, Janmashtami, Ugadi, Teppotsavam (Float Festival), Sri Padmavati Parinayotsavams, Pushpa Yagam, Pushpa Pallaki, Vasanthotsavam (Spring Festival) conducted in March–April.
An interesting tradition followed in the Tirupati Temple during the Brahmotsavam festival is that of the exchange of garlands worn by Andal and Sri Venkateswara. Every year, when the Lord takes the form of Maha Vishnu during Garuda Vahanam day, the garland adorned by Andal in Srivilliputhur Temple is placed on the Lord. This garland is made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi. The garland worn by the Lord is then returned to Andal and placed around her shoulders signifying their marriage. In this way, devotees are privy to the love and devotion of Andal towards Vishnu.
The main idol, Sri Venkateswara, within the sanctum sanctorum is also known as the Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram. Dhruva Beram is a reference to his fixed identity of the place. The deity itself measures 8ft in height and is considered the primary source of energy of the temple. The Lord rests on a pedestal called Brahmasthana and is considered the oldest Swayambhu Vishnu on Earth, meaning that the deity is self-manifested. This is backed by the fact that the idol doesn’t follow the instructions laid out by the Agama Sastra.
The Agama Sastra is the sculptor’s guide to sculpting the perfect idol. Many of the idols features however, don’t indicate strict adherence to the Sastra. The Lord appears with long locks, half closed eyes with long lashes, long fingers and well-built muscles. All in all, the physical appearance is beyond the scope of any mortal sculptor. The double tilak on the forehead of the Lord sparkles brilliantly and catches everyone’s attention. It is also said that the Lord perspires after ‘Abhishekam’ and sweat is seen on the idol. The Silathoranam in Tirumala is said to be 2500 million years old, and many scientists have also spoken to its ancient nature.
Besides the main deity, there are other idols of the Lord used in different Sevas or representing various forms of Lord Venkateswara. Of them, one is the Kautuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa. The foot-high idol was a gift from the Pallava Queen Samavai Perundevi in 614 AD and is made of silver. An inscription on one of the temple walls, considered to be the oldest, records the same. The queen also arranged for innumerable treasures and gifts to be donated to the temple for its upkeep. Lands endowed to the temple were not taxed and ensured that the temple would always be provided for.
The name Bhoga Srinivasa is in reference to the fact that the idol enjoys all the worldly pleasures unlike the main idol. The idol is the recipient of the Sahasra Kalashabhishekam every Wednesday and lays on silken sheets in a golden cot, every night. During the day, the idol remains to the left of the Moolavirat and is connected to the main idol via a holy cord termed Sambandha Kroocha. Additionally, the deity is placed at a 45 degree angle towards devotees as it holds a Prayoga (ready to strike) Chakra. This idol is also the recipient of the Ekanta Seva held every month, except during the month of Dhanurmasa when the Krishna idol is the recipient.
Another idol of the Lord is called the Snapana Beram or Ugra Srinivasa. This idol of the Lord represents the angry part of Lord Venkateswara. He remains inside the sanctum sanctorum, and comes out on only one day every year on Kaishika Dwadasi, before the sunrise. Snapana means cleansing and the idol is cleansed daily with holy waters, milk, curds, ghee, sandalwood paste, turmeric. The idol is protected from sunlight and hence is only brought out after sunset.
The procession deity of Tirupati is fondly called Malayappa, while the more accurate terminology is Utsava Beram. The three idols, Lord Venkateswara and his two consorts, were found in a cave on one of the hills. At this place, the hill was bowed low leading to the name ‘Malai Kuniya Ninra Perumal’, which was later shortened to Malayappa. As legend goes, initially, Ugra Srinivasa was used as the procession deity. However, untoward events always occurred during such times. It is believed that the Lord appeared to devotees after much penance and told them to find suitable idols hidden in the hills somewhere. Thus Malayappa and his consorts came to be the procession idols. The earliest epigraphical reference to Malayappa is from 1339 AD.
Following the introduction of these idols to the temple, many new services and festivals were performed. Examples of some include Nitya Kalyanaotsavam, Sahasra Deepalankara Seva, Arjita Brahmotsavam, Nithyotsavam, Dolotsavam, among others. Jewels worth millions of rupees have been donated as offerings to these idols.
The last of the idols representing the Lord in various services, is the Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa. Resembling the main deity, this idol steps in as the guardian of the realm and handles the daily court proceedings in place of Moolavirat. A special celebration occurs every July when the temple celebrates the end of the fiscal year,Anivar Asthanam.
Within the garbagriha there is an idol of Lord Krishna in the Navanitha Nritya pose along with his consort Rukmini. The grace and beauty of the Lord is apparent in the craftsmanship of the idol. The first mention of this idol is in 1100 AD. However, this does not reveal the history of the idol. This idol is also special in that the Ekanta Seva is performed to it in the month of Dhanurmasa. The annual Krishna Jayanti festival is also a celebration of the Lord Krishna in whose stead stands this idol. When taken out of the garbagriha in procession, the idol gets offerings as recorded in epigraphs dating back to the Vijayanagara period (12.8.1486).
It is important to note that while the Lord Venkateswara is roused each morning with a rendition of Suprabhatam. However, in the December month (Margazhi), the songs of Andal are sung to rouse Sri Krishna. This is because the Lord Venkateswara is believed to be the manifestation of Sri Krishna Himself at the start of the Dwapara Yugam.
Placed within the sanctum sanctorum are four other idols of Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Sugriva. The earliest mention of these idols are in inscriptions dating back to 1476 AD. It is believed that one of the rooms in the Sampangipradakshinam, Ramarmedai, got its name from having been the perch of these four idols, before it was converted to a room in 1245 AD. Some believe that these idols were installed by Sri Ramanuja Acharya.
The amount of detail on these idols is stunning. For example, devotees can see how the arms of the idols are positioned in a very relaxed manner while the heads bear crowns and the clothing is impeccable. The Rama idol is standing with his left arm raised, holding the bow and the right hand gently holds an arrow. Similar details are obvious on the idol of Lakshmana. Sita stands to the right of Rama, holding a lotus bud in her left hand. The figure of Sugriva is in the standing pose with hands folded in prayer. It is believed that Sri Rama and Lakshmana came to Tirupati in the Threta Yugam looking for Sita when she had been kidnapped by Ravana.
In the Antarala Mandapam, outside the inner sanctum, there are numerous copper idols including those of Angada, Hanuman, Vishvaksena, Ananta and Garuda.
Chakrathalwar is considered by all to be the Lord Himself manifest. Thus, Chakrathalwar precedes Malayappa in all processions and ensure safe passage for the Lord. However, during the Ankurapuranam on Tirthavari Day of Brahmotsavam, Chakrathalwar features separately by the Pushkarini. He is also said to protect all the devotees on their pilgrimage.
These are smooth, rounded stones, usually black-colored, found in the sacred river Gandaki. Upon closer inspection, these rocks have fine lines reminiscent of a Sankhu and Chakra. Hence, these stones are worshipped as Vishnu. Many Salagramalu are worshipped at Tirupati with daily dedicated abhishekam services.
Legend of the Tirumala Temple goes all the way back to the Dwapara Yugam, which is when Adisesha descended to Earth from the Heavens and became the Seshachalam Hills, after losing a contest to Vayu. It is also said that Varaha Swamy first occupied these hills after defeating Hiranyaksha.
As for the Lord’s descent from the Heavens, the story goes like this. In the Kali Yuga, a huge Yagna was being performed by many rishis who couldn’t decide which of the Trinity (Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu) would bear the fruits of the yagna. Thus the great sage Bhrigu set off to find who was worthiest. He first visited Brahma who was completely smitten by Saraswati and interrupted their session. However, he apologized to Brahma who then forgave him. His visit to Shiva more eventful as the Lord chased him away with his trident. Upon arriving at Vaikuntalokam, Bhrigu was also riled up and he marched right in, and kicked Vishnu in the chest for not welcoming him properly. Instead of getting angry, Vishnu enquired after his foot and massaged it, thereby slyly quashing his third eye. This led Bhrigu to deem that Vishnu was the greatest of the Trinity, for being so compassionate.
However, the story does not end there, as Maha Lakshmi was furious at Vishnu. She was livid at Him for forgiving Bhrigu even after the latter stamped him on His chest, which is where Lakshmi resides. She left Vaikuntam in a huff and descended to Earth to do penance. The Lord, unable to live without Lakshmi, also descended to Earth and began to medidate. He did not eat for days together and Lakshmi, upon hearing this could not digest the fact. She beseeched Shiva and Brahma to do something and so they descended to the Earth as Cow and Calf respectively. Every day, the fed and watched the Lord.
One fine day, the Cowherd in charge of watching the cattle saw that the milk was being fed to a man, and so he tried to beat the Cow. However, the cow remained unharmed but Srinivasa (Vishnu), bore the injury. He then cursed the Chola King of that time that he would be reborn as a demon to pay for his servant’s sins. The King begged for mercy and Vishnu relented. He told the King that he would be bound to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the Lord in the next birth. Thus, Srinivasa and Padmavati were married. Upon learning of this, Lakshmi arrived in a mad rage and demanded answers. Seeing Lakshmi and Padmavati fight, he turned into stone right there. Unable to leave their beloved Lord behind, the two Goddesses also turned to stone beside him. Thus the Tirupati Sri Venkateswara came to be.
He is believed to have taken this form on Earth so that mortal men could attain salvation in the Kali Yuga. It is also believed that He is the giver of boons and one need only ask with faith.
Other stories surrounding the hills are those recorded in many puranams such as the Varaha Puranam, Bhavishyottara Purana, Padma Purana, Garuda Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Markandeya Purana, Harivamsa, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmottara Purana, Aditya Purana, and Skanda Purana. Most of these extracts describe the sanctity and antiquity of the hills around Tirumala and the numerous teerthams situated on them. According to the Varaha Purana, Adi Varaha manifested Himself on the western bank of the Swami Pushkarini, while Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara came to reside on the southern bank of the Swami Pushkarini.
To the southeast of the temple lies a building known as Mahant’s Mutt. Mahant means sage in Hindi. This Mutt was founded by Sri Hathiram Bavaji. It is believed that many years ago, Sri Bavaji came to Tirumala on a pilgrimage as per his Guru’s command. Upon seeing the beauty of the place, he decided to stay in Tirumala and built an ashram right by the sanctum. He also offered free meals to weary pilgrims and prayed every day to Lord Venkateswara who he saw as Lord Rama.
His selfless service to the Lord became widespread knowledge and soon, pilgrims began to believe that visiting the holy man was akin to seeing the Lord. It is also said that the Lord played dice with Sri Bavaji, as many of his students could hear sounds and dice clanging but never actually saw anyone. Thus his fame increased and soon the donations to the temple via the Mutt became greater. Though he fed the hungry pilgrims, he himself remained on a diet of leaves and regularly meditated.
The news of this holy man reached the then King of Chandragiri, Giridhara Raya, who was skeptical of the man’s connection with God. He challenged Bavaji to eat a cartload of sugar while playing dice with the Lord to test the latter’s claims. Bavaji managed to do this by transforming into an elephant by the grace of the Lord. Thus he earned the name, Hathiram Bavaji. Since then, the King become his disciple and spread the name of Sri Venkateswara over his realm. The Mutt also began providing provisions for the daily kitchen preparations.
With the ever increasing traffic into his Mutt, Hathiram Bavaji found it increasingly difficult to meditate. As a solution, he attained sammadhi of his own accord and is now hailed by many of his followers as a great and holy man.
One of the fewer known stories about Tirupati is that of Tarigonda Vengamba. Tarigonda is a small village about 4km from Vayalpad. A couple, Krishnaiah and Mangamma, had five sons but wished for a girl and so prayed to the Lord Venkateswara. He blessed them with a beautiful daughter named Venkamma who, from a very young age, showed great devotion and interest only in matters concerning the Lord. As she grew, her parents began to worry that she may resign herself to the life of an ascetic. To prevent that, they forcibly married her to a boy who died even before she could move in with him, leaving her a widow. In those days it was unacceptable for widows to participate in service related to the Lord.
Tarigonda Vengamamba Samadhi
The people began referring to Venkamma as Vengamamba for her continued worship of the Lord, casting aside all tradition. Her family was ostracized and they took her to Sankharacharya, to talk some sense into her. She stood before the guru with respect but didn’t salute him like the others. This annoyed the teacher and he asked her why she behaved this way. She then requested him to remove himself from his pedestal and prostrated before an empty seat which immediately caught fire. Upon seeing this, the Acharya decreed that she was indeed born on the Earth to serve the Lord. From that day forth, everyone left her alone, though not everyone agreed with her practices.
She soon moved to Tirumala, unable to stand the pettiness of the villagers, to be closer to the Lord. Since her reputation preceded her, she was welcomed with open arms into the temple and had a small hut built for her. Not one for worldly things, she continued to worship the Lord diligently every day by lighting a camphor lamp in the morning and night. She was always one of the first few people to enter the temple and usually the last to leave. As her popularity grew, the descendants of Tallapaka Annamacharya invited her to stay in the complex, in substantially more comfort. She had a little compound to herself where she grew flowers and tulsi to string garlands for the Lord. The chief priest of the temple, Akkaram Deekshitulu began to show antagonistic tendencies towards her as she was garnering more attention. He was also not appreciative of her practices of keeping kumkum and flowers, as it was against the tradition for widows. Although she ignored his taunts, once when they disturbed her meditation, she flew into a fit of rage and cursed his entire line to leave only one surviving member every generation.
Unfortunately, her troubles weren’t over. While her continued popularity with the devotees and temple officials allowed her to carry on with her daily offerings to the Lord, the priests were less than happy with the freedom she enjoyed. Unable to ignore their taunts any further, she stopped performing her daily services to the Lord. This angered the Lord and to show his disdain for the priests, He stopped the procession during the annual Brahmotsavam festival, right before her compound. The procession could only move after Vengamamba forgave the priests and took arati for the Lord. Since then, she returned to her original schedule.
So the years passed and another story relates that the Lord would visit Vengamamba every day after the daily rituals to listen to her read her poetry or prose. But he always returned in time for the morning Suprbhatam. Once however, Vengamamba wished to prolong their conversation and grabbed ahold of the Lord’s silk dhoti. But the minute the Lord heard the first words to the Suprabhatam being broadcast, he returned to the sanctum, albeit with a torn dhoti. The shocked priests set off in search for the other half of the dhoti and found it in the possession of Vengamamba. This only caused her fame to spread wider and further.
Unfortunately, all the attention she received began to interrupt her daily service to the Lord and she slowly reclused herself before attaining sammadhi. However, her works on the Lord live on as ‘Sri Venkateswara Mahatmyam.
Annamacharya was the son born to Narayana Suri and Lakkamamba after much penance. Even as a child, Annamaya wished to remain in the service of the Lord. Through the years he composed many songs praising the Lord and toured the state hoping to spread His glory. He sang of the Lord’s benevolence and of the Heaven that God had created on Earth for pilgrims to absolve themselves of sin. It was Annamayya who arranged for the Lord’s kalyanam to be conducted every day which was previously only done during Brahmotsavams and holy days.
Annamayya composed about 32 thousands of songs about the Lord. He is known as pada kavita pitamaha, in recognition of this feat. Some of his compositions are inscribed on copper leaves and are stored in Sankeertana Bhandaram or storehouse.
Ananthalwar was one of Sri Ramuja Acharya’s disciples who were challenged to brave the harsh environment atop the Tirumala to grow flowers to string garlands for the Lord. Accepting this challenge, he set off with his wife and started gardening flowers atop the hill. Having learnt the skill passed on through great acharyas, he wished to begin his own garden outside the temple. For this, he began digging a well with the help of his pregnant wife, and refused to accept outside help. The Lord, pleased with his dedication, appeared to the wife as a child and helped her in removing the soil from the site of the well. Surprised at his wife’s swiftness, Ananthalwar enquired as to how it was possible. The wife then admitted to accepting the child’s help. In a fit of rage, Ananthalwar began chasing the boy but he just could not catch up to him. Finally, he flung his crowbar at the boy striking him on the chin. He then returned to the task at hand.
When Ananthalwar went to offer his evening prayers, he noticed a commotion in the inner sanctum.The idol was profusely bleeding from the chin, and priests were desperately trying to stop the bleeding with camphor. Realizing his mistake Ananthalwar immeadiately seeked pardon from the Lord, for which He benevolently replied that all was well. To this day, the idol appears with camphor on the chin.
The Alwar then continued on his mission to raise a beautiful garden and christened it after his teacher, Sri Ramanuja. It is said that the garden was so beautiful that the Lord and His consorts frequented it every night. On one such occasion, the Lord and Alamelu Manga came to the garden and could not stop picking the flowers, for each seemed sweeter than the previous. When the Alwar arrived at the garden to string garlands as he did every day, he was shocked to find them all gone! This happened for 8 straight days before the Alwar pleaded with the Lord to allow him to continue his daily service routine. It was only then that the Lord and Alamelu Manga relented their game, for they could not bear to see Ananthalwar suffer so.
Free Bus Service at Tirupati
Railway Booking Office
The Railway Booking Office is located at the Central Reception Office building, Tirumala and issues tickets for trains and road cum rail journeys.
In case of vehicle breakdowns on the ghat roads, please contact the Toll Gates either at Tirupati or at Tirumala. Or please call to 0877-2263636 for immediate help. A mechanic will be sent in a mobile van equipped with spares, to attend to the problem. Charges are on a case-to-case basis.Buses and other transport are banned on ghat road from Tirupati to Tirumala between 12 AM and 3 AM.
Tirupati to Tirumala
You can travel from Tirupati to Tirumala by road, or climb the hills on foot.
Although the idol dates back many millennia, the only recorded references to the temple are in literary works. The earliest, recorded mention of the temple is in Sangam literature. Besides this, it has also been referenced in Naal Aayira Divya Prabandam, Silappadikaram and many other works. The rich legend and mythos surrounding the temple and its premises are discussed in a previous section.
During the stronghold of the dynasties of yore, the temple was given special importance and had many patrons who ensured the constant upkeep of the temple through donations and gifts. The first expansions of the temple complex were sanctioned by the Chola Dynasty and under their rule, the temple and its reach began to grow. Successively, the temple saw many kings from the Pallava to Vijayanagara Empire, come and go. Since the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire, the temple affairs have been managed by a proper body that governs everything from finances to the number of services in favor of the Lord.
When the British invaded India, they slowly began handling temple affairs all over the country. However, they never meddled in religious affairs. To avoid religious confrontation, they requested the Mysore Kings to manage the temple. When they refused, the Jiyyangars, who had been playing a major role in managing temple affairs according to the teachings of Sri Ramanuja Acharya, requested to be put in charge. The collector shot down the idea because there were arguing factions within the Jiyyangars. Since the Hathiram Mutt was playing quite a prominent role in providing for both the temple and the devotees, the collector placed the temple under the care of the Mutt on April 21, 1843.
The temple remained under the care of the Mutt for about 90 years, till 1933, during which time 6 Mahants were in charge. Though a couple of the Mahants ensured proper use of funds, the deeds of those who misused the funds reflected poorly on them all. The last of the Mahants, Pragyadasji did the most for the pilgrims. He sanctioned countless boarding complexes, safe drinking water, tonsure halls, medical facilities and free food distribution centers. The Madras government stripped the Mutt of its powers in 1933 and seized all their property, thus leaving them as a mere symbol in the memory of a few.
The sacred temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy in Tirumala hills is easily accessible by all modes of transport. After reaching Tirupati, one can easily travel to Tirumala by road or on foot.
3 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following day. The temple is open for 18 hours a day at normal times and 20 hours a day in the peak season. Please ensure timings of specific Darshans before visiting the temple.
Tirupati Temple Contact Number: +91 8772277777
Also, read: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam T Nagar
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams,
S Mada St, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh 517504