Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple
This temple is one of the most important Vishnu temples in India
and is also the richest. It is the most visited temple in India
and is one of the most visited religious places in the world. This
magnificent temple is located 20km up a hill from Tirupati. It is
a very peaceful place and coming to this temple is a very awe-inspiring
and devotional experience. On a spiritual tour of South India it
is an absolute must. On an average over 25,000 people visit daily,
and on festival days over 100,000 visit. In 1989, over eleven and
a half million people made their pilgrimage here.
Lord Venkateswara (Sri Balaji) is a self-manifested 2m
(6 ft) high Deity made of a jet-black stone. The Deity
is known as Venkateswara, Srinivasa, Govinda, Perumal,
His two upper arms hold a conch-shell (sankha) and disk
(cakra). The palm of his lower right hand is turned
outward offering benediction (varada), while his lower
left hand is turned inward (katyavalambita). The
Lord's eyes are covered by a large tilak like "V" made
of camphor. For it is said that Lord Venkateswara's lotus-like
eyes are so beautiful that if they were uncovered, then pilgrims
would not want to leave. It is also said that his eyes are covered
because His gaze would scorch the entire world.
diamond crown, made in Antwerp, the diamond capital of
the world, is said to be the single most valuable piece
of jewelry in the world. The Deity wears very precious
jewelry. He wears a garland of big solid-gold coins. His
two hands, opened in benediction, are covered first with
silver and then diamonds and rubies. He wears different big crowns
made of solid gold covered in diamonds, rubies and precious gems.
The Lord wears a big emerald called "Meru Pacha,"
which is 3 inches in diameter and is considered to be the biggest
emerald in the world. All the jewelry is real gold. The Lord possesses
over 250 crores (70 million dollars) worth of gems and 640 kgs
of gold. As you enter the inner sanctum the chanting becomes more
and more intense-"Om Namo Venkateswara, Om Namo Venkateswara."
is said that at Tirumala, Lord Vishnu grants the wish of
anyone who offers him their weight in something, be it
gold, fruit, cloth, or whatever. Pilgrims who make such
an offering and ask a boon or blessing generally return
(after achieving their desire) and make another offering
to the Lord, acknowledging his kindness.
What is particularly stunning is the vimana (dome),
called Ananda Nilayam, above the Deity's main room. It
is covered in hammered solid gold. The flag-pole
(dwajasthamba) is gold-plated, and the gates that
guard the inner sanctum are also covered with gold.
The average income of the temple is $25,000 (10 lakhs
rupees) a day. It has an annual income of 5 billion
rupees (125 million dollars) a year. The TTD banks Rs
40 to 50 crores (12 million dollars) yearly. The Hundi
(Deity box) collection is over 5 million dollars
yearly. It is not unusual when they open this box at the
end of the day to find gold and platinum coins and bricks inside.
Koluvu Srinivasa is brought daily after the morning
thomala-seva (worship) and seated on a silver chair.
He is the guardian Deity and supervises the temple
affairs. The calendar of the day (panchangam) and the
accounts of the temple are read to him every day.
The Venkateswara temple is 126.5m (414 ft) long, 80m
(263 ft) wide, and covers an area of 2.2 acres.
Immediately to the left of the second gopuram entrance
is a small temple dedicated to Sri Varadaraja Swami.
You will be led past this deity to get to the inner
altar, and it is traditional to offer worship to Varadaraja
first. As you come into the second gopuram (entrance), to your
right is a Deity of Lord Narasimha in his form of Yoga Narasimha.
He is sitting in a cross-legged yogic position, with his two lower
hands resting on his knees.
Many pilgrims walk the 16km (24km by bus) up the hill.
The path begins at the bottom of the hill. You can't
miss the beginning, as there is a huge gopuram (tower)
with bright lights and a big statue of Hanuman. It is
best to go in the early morning to beat the sun and
crowds. Almost the entire way there is an overhead
shelter with lights so you can walk at night or in the rain.
You pass nice forests, gardens and a zoo.
There are refreshment stands on the way. On the way up
the hill is a small temple dedicated to
Ramanujacharya. The walk up the hill is about 4,000
steps, which takes two to four hours of steady
climbing and is hard work.
Murti of Agastya Muni on the way to Balaji.
is where the Venkateswara (Sri Balaji) Temple is
located. Tirumala is located on Vyenkata Hill at an
altitude of 840m (2,800 ft). Vyenkateswara means "the
Lord of Vyenkatachala." Vyenkatachala is a chain of
The temple is situated on the top of seven adjoining hills, also
called Seshachalam Hills, which are said to be an incarnation of
Vayu and Sesa entered into a disagreement over who was
stronger. Sesa wrapped his long body around Mount Meru
and challenged Vayu to move it. Vayu tried but failed.
Vayu pretended to be exhausted and stopped blowing. Then
Sesa opened his mouth to breathe. At that moment, Vayu
blew off part of the hill. After the hill had traveled a great
distance, Mount Meru asked Vayu to leave it there...
of his defeat, Sesa did penance, meditating on Lord Vishnu. When
Lord Vishnu appeared and offered a boon, Sesa assumed the shape
of the hill and requested the Lord to stay on his head. This hill
is called Sesachalam...
appearance in Tirumala is mentioned in about 12
different Puranas. According to the Brahma Purana, Lord
Vishnu wanted a change from Vaikuntha, so he inquired
from Narada Muni about a place on earth for diversion
and sport. Narada suggested Sesachalam (the head of Ananta Sesa).
It is said that when Ramanuja visited here, he walked up
the hill on his knees to avoid stepping on Sesa Naga.
Nrsimhadeva on the way to Balaji.
All the property at the top of the hill at Tirumala
belongs to the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD),
which is recycles much of its wealth to such
humanitarian works as schools, orphanages and
hospitals. Tirumala is an unusual place for India in that
the streets are totally clean of trash. There is no wonder that
Srila Prabhupada wanted his managers in ISKCON to take example
from management in Tirupati.
There is a temple staff of over 6,000. The worship in
the temple is performed by Sri-sampradaya Vaishnava
Brahmins, in the line of Ramanujacharya. Every pilgrim
is entitled to free food, accommodation (very basic),
and medical treatment. The inner shrines of the temple
are not officially open to non-Hindus. Foreigners may be
asked to sign a paper saying they believe in Hinduism. If they
sign the paper, they can enter the temple.
Swami Pushkarini tank
There is a large water tank next to this temple called Swami Pushkarini
tank, where pilgrims take bath before their darshan.
Varaha Purana says Swami Pushkarini was a pond used by
Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha for recreation. Tradition says
that Garuda put this tank here. Next to the tank is the
Varaha Swami Temple.
It is stated in the Puranas that Lord Varaha was on
Sesachala before Sri Venkateswara, and he granted
space to Venkateswara to live on Sesachala Hill. It is
a tradition to visit this temple before going into the
Tirumala is more like a city than a temple, and one
could easily spend a whole day just walking around.
There are sacred water tanks and smaller temples that
house various paraphernalia, such as the chariot that
carries the small processional Deities (utsava Deity)
Akasa Ganga is a sacred waterfall, 5km south of the
temple. Water is brought from here for Lord
Venkateswara's abhiseka (bathing). On the way to Akasa
Ganga is Papavinasha Tirtha.
are two queues available to the public for viewing the
Deity. One is a free sarva-darshan line, which has a
number of good-sized auditoriums with marble steps to
sit on. When the auditorium next to yours empties you
move to the next one and the gates are locked behind you (fenced
auditoriums can be seen on the picture left and down).
is a new system of entry to the temple called
Su-darshanam. You now report to any Su-darshanam counter
in either Tirumala or Tirupati. You then receive a
bar-coded band that states the approximate time that you
can have darshan. You then return for darshan at the stated
time and the average time you have to wait around is around an hour
to view the Deities, if you have a special darshan ticket. This
can reduce the waiting time by several hours.
the temple you can purchase delicious round luglus made
of dried fruits and nuts to take home, as they keep for
long periods. Demand for these sweets are high. Every
day 100,000 luglus (fruit and nuts sweets) are made. The
demand is much more, but the tradition is that all the
luglus must be cooked in the temple kitchens. The cooks
receive 52 luglus for every 1000 they make, as payment for their
||You can visit the
huge head-shaving center, which looks something like a
South Indian temple. Devotees offer their hair in
expectation of pleasing the Lord. Head shaving
(tonsuring) is done by many people (many of them women). The hair
is sold for wig making, and these proceeds are used for increasing
the prosperity of the Deities and the upkeep of the town, etc. Three
or four crore rupees (over a million dollars) is raised from this
process each year.
(Aug/Sept), which lasts for 11 days, is the main festival. According
to the Bhavishottara and Varaha Puranas, this festival has the name
Brahmotsavam because Lord Brahma came to earth with all the gods
to perform utsavam, or worship of the Lord...
...It is said that Kubera, the god of wealth, lent Sri
Balaji some money. Each year there is a ceremony, in
which the descendants of Kubera seek to collect the
loan. The Deity is put behind gold bars. On that day
the offerings to the Deity are colossal, as people
rush to bail out Balaji.
At Kapila-teertham, a sacred tank two km from Tirupati,
is the Kapileswara Siva Temple where the sage Kapila
was granted darshan of Lord Siva and his consort.
Bathing in Kapila-teertham is supposed to extinguish
all sins. This temple is situated in an attractive
In this Tirupati temple there are two main shrines. In the northern
shrine is Sri Govindaraja, who is Lord Vishnu lying on Ananta.
He is considered to be Lord Venkateswara's brother. The other
main shrine has Deities of Sri Parthasarathi (Krishna as the charioteer
of Arjuna), Rukmini and Satyabhama (Krishna's wives). This is
a big temple. It has a seven-storey gopuram, built in 1628.
In Tiruchanur, five km from Tirupati, is this large temple dedicated
to goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji).
A visit to Tirupati is not considered complete without seeing Sri
Padmavathi. Sri Padmavathi is seated in Padmasana, holding a lotus
in both of her upper hands. Her lower hands are in poses of abhaya,
fearlessness, and varada, benediction. Also in this temple are the
Deities of Sri Krishna, Balarama, Sundararaja Swami, and Surya-narayana
Swami. It is traditional to first worship Sri Krishna and then to
take darshan of Sri Padmavathi.
Once a year there is a large festival that celebrates
the marriage of Lord Venkateswara to Padmavathi Devi.
Padmavathi Devi arrives at Tirumala on the back of a
splendid elephant decorated with tilaka of solid gold
as Lord Sri Venkateswara comes out to meet her.
(It is believed that the actual place of the marriage of Lord
Venkateswara and the goddess Padmavathi was at Narayanavanam,
36km from Tirupati on the road to Chennai. There is a temple dedicated
to Lord Kalyana Venkateswara Swami. After marrying Sri Padmavathi,
Sri Venkateswara stayed here for a while before going to Tirumala.)
The main festival, Brahmotsavam, is in Nov/Dec. The
ninth day of this festival is the appearance day of
Sri Padmavathi. On this day Lord Sri Venkateswara
presents his consort birthday gifts, which are brought
from Tirumala on a magnificently decorated elephant,
covered with jewels and pearls.
(Hare Rama, Hare Krishna)
is located at the foot of Tirumala Hill, on a piece of land given
by the TTD. The Deities here are Radha-Govinda. The temple has a
beautiful small garden.
The temple is open 4.30 am to 1 pm and 4.30 to 8.30 pm.
This temple is included in the daily bus tours of
Tirupati as well as famous Kothanda Rama Swami Temple
built in 1481. Sri Chaitanya had darshan of Lord
More information can be found on www.tirupati.org