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Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
Tirumala temple.JPG
Name: Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
Date built: Earliest records date to 300 A.D (probable)
Primary deity: Lord Venkateswara, form of Lord Vishnu
Location: Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh
Coordinates: 13°40′59″N 79°20′49″E / 13.68306°N 79.34694°E / 13.68306; 79.34694Coordinates: 13°40′59″N 79°20′49″E / 13.68306°N 79.34694°E / 13.68306; 79.34694

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple (Telugu : తిరుమల వెంకటేశ్వరస్వామి మందిరము)is a famous Hindu Temple of Lord Venkateswara located in the hill town Tirumala of Andhra Pradesh. The temple is built on the Venkatadri hill, one of the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills (Saptagiri in Sanskrit,. The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names - Balaji or Srinivasa.

The temple is reportedly 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 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.


Location of main shrine

TirumalaTemple Entrance
Outside view of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.

Venkateshwara's abode is in the Venkatadri hills near Tirupathi. Thus, the main temple of Venkateshwara is the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. The Tirumala temple is believed to be the richest of all the temples in the world. The temple is located in Andhra Pradesh (southern India) in Chittoor district. It is around 500 km from Hyderabad , 150 km away from Chennai and 250  km away from Bangalore

The Tirumala Hill is 3200 ft above sea level, and is about 10.33 sq miles in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name, Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara [3] is located on the seventh peak, Venkatadri (Venkata Hill), and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini. The temple complex comprises a smaller traditional temple building along with a number of modern queue and pilgrim lodging sites. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala.

The varied names ascribed to the main deity are Balaji, Srinivasa, 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).

With his conch he creates the cosmic sound from which the creation has manifested.And with his disc he destroys ignorance and ego in the beings,thus liberating them. Lord 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 Bhayankaram Annan of Kanchipuram.[4] Several composers composed beautiful kirtanas about Lord Venkateswara, the most notable amongst them being Tyagaraja and Annamacharya, who composed mostly in Telugu. Annamacharya or Annamayya is a legendary devotee of Lord Venkateswara and composed songs almost exclusively about the deity. More recently, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, former Governor-General of India, wrote the song Kurai Onrum Illai, describing the Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala.

The Seven Hills

The seven hill represent the Saptarishi. They sometimes called the Sapathagiri. Hence the Lord is named Saptagirinivasa. Following are the seven hills:

  • Vrushabadri (Hill of Nandi, the vahana of Lord Shiva)
  • Anjanadri (Hill of Lord Hanuman)
  • Neeladri (Hill of Neela Devi) - When Lord Balaji was hit by a shepard on his head, a small portion of his scalp becomes bald. There is no hair growth over there and this is noticed by a Gandharva princess Neela Devi. She feels "such an attractive face should not have a flaw". Immediately she cuts a portion of her hair and with her magical power she implants it on his scalp. Then Lord Balaji notices her sacrifice as hair is the beautiful aspect of Female, he promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him and she would be the recipient of all that hair received. Hence it is believed that hair offered by the devotees is collected by Neela devi.
  • Garudadri (Hill of Garuda, the vahana of Lord Vishnu)
  • Seshadri (Hill of Sesha, the dasa of Lord Vishnu)
  • Naraynadri (Hill of Lord Vishnu)
  • Venkatadri (Hill of Lord Venkateswara)

The "Vimanam"

The Roof with Shining Golden Exterior of the Inner Temple that houses The Main Presiding Deity is named "Vimanam" in any Hindu temple. In the Tirumala temple, it holds a very special place as the "Ananda Nilayam" (meaning Abode of Happiness or Bliss literally) with its imposing view, magnificence, and readily recognizable identity to any devotee familiar with the temple and its fame.

Bangaru Vakili

From the Tirumamani Mandapam, you can enter the Bangaru Vakili to reach the inner sanctum sanctorum. There are two tall copper images of the dwarapalakas Jaya and Vijaya on either side of the door. The thick wooden door is covered with gilt plates depicting the dasavataram of Sri Maha Vishnu.

The doorway is directly in line with the Padi Kavali and the Vendi Vakili. It admits pilgrims to the Snapana Mandapam.

Suprabhatam is sung in front of this door.


Tirumala temple, showing nighttime lighting

Sri Venkatachala Mahatmyam 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.


Ancient history

The origins of the site are legendary [5] . Its beginnings are shrouded in great antiquity and its origins are still a matter of scholarly debate. Srivaishnavite experts opine that the Rig Veda verse X.155.1 makes an indirect reference to the temple [6][7]. One such translation goes as [7]:

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, ruler of the ancient Thondaimandalam (present day Kanchipuram) (capital: Kanchipuram, just south of modern day Chennai)[8], is believed to have first built the temple after visualizing Lord Vishnu in his dream. He built the Gopuram and the Prakhara, and arranged for regular prayers to be conducted in the temple. Later on the Chola dynasty vastly improved the temple and gave rich endowments. To date, you will find the various Tamil Grantha script within the Temple prakara walls. 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 [9]. In fact, a fairly detailed description of the deity is given in lines 41 to 51 of book 11 of the Silapadikaram [10]. 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.)

Puranic literature which was composed roughly around the [[post-Mauryan]] and [[early-Gupta era ]]also mentions of Tirupati as the Aadhi Varaha Kshetra. The Puranas associate the site with Lord Varaha one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha shrine holds great importance in Tirupati and is said to be older than the main sanctum of Venkateswara. There is also the Ranga Mandapam, which is to the left side of the temple as we enter. This is where the main deity "Sri Ranganatha Swamy" of SriRangam Temple (Trichy) was protected, for a period of almost 60 years, during attacks byMalik Kafur in the 14th Century.

Medieval history

It was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained the majority of its current opulence[11] 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.

Modern history

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.

The temple brings around 60,000 pilgrims every day.[12] 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.[13].


Laddu is the world famous prasadam given at Tirumala Temple.[14] recently the Trust has taken copy right of Laddu prasaddam, hence, no one can prepare the same Laddu. Many other delicious prasadams are also available including curd rice, puliodharai (tamarind rice), vada and chakkera-pongal (sweet pongal). Free meals are given daily to the pilgrims, and on Thursdays, the Tirupavadai seva occurs, where food items are kept for naivedyam to Lord Srinivasa.

Hair tonsuring

Many devotees also have their head tonsured as an offer. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton.[15] 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,[16] bringing over $6 million to the temple's treasury.[citation needed] As per puranas hair given by devotees is to coverup the lost hair(it is a very small portion) of lord venkateshwara swamy[15]

Darshan and queue system

Tirumala Temple and Vaikuntam Queue Complex (Semicircular building in the foreground) as seen from Srivari Padalu on Narayanagiri hill

Tirumala possibly has the most elaborate arrangement in India to sequence and guide the visiting devotees through the holy shrine. Because of the ever increasing daily rush of devotees, the temple authorities have set up a virtual queue system, where the devotees are given a specific time, only after which they will be allowed into the queue complex. This has resulted in a steep drop (by a factor of five) in the time that devotees need to spend within the Queue Complex leading to the main temple.

There are two major kinds of Darshan (meaning "a glimpse of the Lord") at the temple. The first one being Dharma Darshanam - free darshan, which on average takes about 10 hours from the time you enter the Queue Complex. It is worth noting that during a high season (festivals, holidays, weekends and special occasions) Dharma darshanam can take as long as a whole day, while sometimes during low seasons it might take only an hour and can be quicker than any paid darshan. The second major type is Sudarshanam - costs Rs 50 and on average takes about 3 hours. Sheegra darshan - costs Rs 300 and takes only 0.45 - 1.5 hrs for darshan. There are also special queues for senior citizens (above 75 years old) and for people with children (below 3 years). One other person is usually allowed to accompany the senior or the child to assist them in the darshan line. Devotees who fall in this category should be sure to inquire with temple officials about the special queue, as it can significantly reduce the time and effort needed for darshan.

Individual devotees for Sudarshanam, as well as free darshanam are required to register (get a ticket/token) at any of the many queue offices situated near the main shrine, or at the local rail and bus stations in Tirumala and Tirupati, or at TTD offices in other key cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai,Delhi,Bhubaneswar and many more. At registration, devotees can choose the expected date and time of entry into the Vaikuntam Queue Complex. At the time of registration, biometrics (finger printing and photo) are taken to eliminate the involvement of middlemen. Devotees contributing for Special Darshan or Puja Darshan tickets are moved up the queue virtually as well as physically inside the temple complex, though all devotees are treated equally from the point of entry into the sanctum sanctorum. During high season (festival periods, holidays, weekends and special temple puja periods) the queues at the ticket offices itself can be quite overwhelming. Hence it is recommended that the devotee get his ticket (if possible) in advance from TTD offices nearest to their hometown and not in Tirupati.

The queue does not literally mean standing - these are huge halls in the queue complex each accommodating about 300 persons, where you can sit (and watch religious programs on a TV which also telecasts rituals from inside the temple). There are toilets, and for those seeking the free Dharma Darsanam, free food (sambar rice/curd rice) and coffee/tea served every couple of hours. Once the gates exiting the halls are opened, the devotee joins the actual queue, and from this point in the queue it might take about 60–90 minutes (standing/walking) to reach the sanctum sanctorum and have Darshan. Typically, one gets to see the idol of the Lord for about 10–15 seconds during high season to about sixty seconds during low season, and there's hustling by the volunteers to ensure that the queue progresses quickly.[17]

Arjitha seva (paid services)

Pilgrims can view and participate (in a limited fashion) in the various sevas performed to Dhruva bera (main idol), Bhoga Srinivasa, Sri Malayappa swami and other idols in the temple.

When pilgrims purchase arjitha seva tickets, they get the opportunity to see a seva performed to the Lord, obtain prasadam in the form of vastram (clothes), akshantalu (sacred and blessed rice) and food articles (laddus, vadas, dosas, pongal, rice items) and a darshan of the utsava murti.[18]


Elephants marching during festival at Tirumala

The town celebrates most Vaishnava festivals including Vaikunta Ekadasi, Rama Navami and Janmashtami with great splendor, while the Brahmotsavam celebrated every year during September is the most important festivals in Tirumala, when it receives millions of devotees over a short span of a week. Other major festivals include Vasanthotsavam (spring festival) conducted during March-April and Rathasapthami (Magha Shuddha Saptami) is another festival, celebrated during February, when Lord Venkateswara's deity is taken on procession around the temple chariots.

Related temples

Tirupati is one of the 108 holy temples in Vaishnavite system and is related to a number of other temples, including the ones in Uppiliappan temple, near Kumbakonam and Varagur temple, near Kumbakonam are considered to be the "divine brothers" of Lord Venkateswara.

This temple was built by ancient King "Thondaman". Ancient Hindu kings were extremely devout and patronised the arts. This temple at Thirupathi was part of a big plan. The ancient vaishnavaites did not want their religion to fade out with time. They built many temples across South India. These temples collectively became known as the Divyadesams. These temples are acclaimed for their historical and architectural significance. Encouraged by the Vaishnavaite saints and scholars, ancient kings built, maintained and donated large sums of money for the upkeep of these temples.

Traditionally Kurubas build temples on top of the mountains and worshiped the Almighty. Lord Venkateswara has strong following from the Backward Castes, who are traditionally Shiva worshipers in south India. Lord Venkateswara has a significant Dalit following a Govindaraya Vishnu temple in the Tirupati town down below the hills with Vishnu in Yoga Nidra with Sridevi and Bhumidevi next to him.

Most of these temples that are related to Tirupathi are found in and around the post-independence state of Tamil Nadu (and a few in Kerala, Karanataka and North India/Nepal as well). If you are in Chennai, the related temples that you can visit in a matter of two - three days would be:

  1. Veera Raghava Swamy temple - Thiruvallur - About 30 minutes from Chennai.
  2. Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple, Ramapuram, Chennai
  3. Bhakta Vatsala Perumal Temple - Thiruninravur - About 45 Minutes from Chennai.
  4. ThirupputKuzhi - Midway from Chennai to Vellore, this temple can be seen by the side of the highway. It is the site where Lord Rama finds dying Jetaayu, after its battle with Ravana to rescue Sita.
  5. Neervanna Perumal temple - Thiruneermalai village, near Pallavaram, in Chennai.
  6. Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple - Thiru-ida-venthai (Thiruvidandai) - Kovalam, 30 minutes from Thiruvanmiyur bus stand in Chennai .
  7. Thiruvallikeni (Parthasarathy Temple) - "Triplicane" - located in the city of Chennai.
  8. Thirukadalmallai - Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, Mahabalipuram, about 1.5 hours from Chennai.
  9. Thirukkadigai - Sholingur, near Arakkonam, about an hour and a half from both Chennai and Tirupati.


  1. ^ "NDTV Report". Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Srīnivāsadāsa and Alkondavilli Gōvindāchārya. Yatindra-mata-dipikā; or The light of the school of Srī Rāmāmnuja, pp. 16
  7. ^ a b Sri Ramakrishna Dikshitulu and Oppiliappan Koil Sri Varadachari Sathakopan. Sri Vaikhasana Bhagavad Sastram (An Introduction), pp. 16
  8. ^
  9. ^ Silappatikaram, book 8, lines 1, 2.
  10. ^ S Krishnasvami Aiyangar (1940). A History Of Tirupati,[[Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam Committee Madras]], pp. 96--98
  11. ^ Dr. N.Ramesan (1981). The Tirumala Temple. Tirumala: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. 
  12. ^ "CNN-IBN - Tirumala, the epicentre of faith". 
  13. ^ "TTD-social service activities". 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b Saritha Rai (July 14, 2004). "A Religious Tangle Over the Hair of Pious Hindus". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  16. ^ Der Spiegel: Hindu Locks Keep Human Hair Trade Humming (19/02/2008)
  17. ^
  18. ^

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