The most famous among the holy places of Andhra Pradesh is Tirupati. Both, the town at the foot of the seven hills and the temple of Vishnu situated at an altitude of 2,800 feet are known as Tirupati, though the sacred hill-top institution is Tirumala.

Easily accessible by train or road transport from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Chennai, and any other major town in the South, Tirupati can also be reached by plane from Chennai.

It is said that once Vishnu was so much enchanted by the hills, Seshachalam, that he sat down there for meditation. Ages passed and his body got changed into a stone image. An ant-hill enveloped him. The mountain was covered by a forest. A shepherd who led his flock into the forest observed that his best cow regularly found her way to a certain spot atop the hill and then let her flow on the ant-hill. He realized that the ant-hill hid something sacred. He ran to his king and told him about the phenomenon. The king discovered the stone idol and erected a temple over it. Through the ages the kings of different dynasties donated liberally to the temple which became one of the richest temples in India. On an average 6,000 people visit the temple daily. Many of them make offerings. The temple, through a trust, controlled by the Government, runs a number of educational, medical and other useful institutions.

The main temple is a masterpiece of South Indian architecture. The ‘Vimana’ over the sanctum is entirely covered with gold.

The temple is not located in the city of Tirupati but fifteen kilometers in the Tirumala Hills, 700 m above sea level. The seven sacred hills of Tirumala symbolize the snake-god Adisesha with seven heads on which Vishnu sleeps.

The temple itself is like a big modern building but in fact we learn that the original temple dates from the ninth century. Of course it was renovated several times. The temple itself is called Shri Venkateswara, named after a form of Vishnu who grants favors and that is precisely what attracts Hindus who seek help and favors for their business, their family. All this makes this temple the most visited religious site; there are 25,000 pilgrims a day and up to 100,000 on holidays, which is more than the visitors in Jerusalem or Rome!

It is also a rich temple! Donations are important and some days soar to more than a million dollars! The temple has annual revenues of $ 250 million. To enter the temple the "ticket" is taken but one can choose more expensive formulas accompanied by various benefits. The rich pay several lacs to come up with 10 people, do not queue, and direct access to the prayer vigils. Poor people queue for several hours, sometimes days! The administration of the temple is a real business and has 6,000 employees!

The temple is topped with a pyramidal ‘shikhar’, fully plated with gold inside. The deity is depicted in black stone and adorned with rubies and gold. The deity also wears a diamond crown which would be the most precious ornament of the world! Tirupati is a pilgrimage and Hindus visit the shrine in group or family.

One feature of this temple is that the faithful donate their hair to the deity and one can see many men and women, and also children, shorn. The hair is meant to beautify the human being and to get rid of them is considered and effort to shirk away from all vanity; the offering is made after the fulfillment of a vow and the hair is then exported to the USA and Japan where they are used to make wigs, or are sold to German and Italian pharmaceutical companies!

Worship the god Venkateswara is not an easy affair. For starters, traditional Indian clothes are required to enter the temple area. Dhotis for gentlemen, this kind of skirt that wraps around the hips, and Kurta (pants, long tunic and scarf) or saris for the ladies. It is a whirlwind of colors that wraps around us in Tirupati. The ladies especially, are dressed in their finery even if they are temporarily deprived of jasmine that perfumes usually their hair (in Tirupati flowers are reserved for religious offerings). A long queue is necessary to reach to the temple, it lasts several hours, punctuated by chants of pilgrims.

The second major activity on the sidelines of the temple, it is the factory laddus, this Indian pastry which is part of the process of purification and of pilgrimage. Weight and composition of the pastry are extremely codified, having been dictated by the god himself. It is customary to bring the pastry all around Him to get blessing and the Laddu, composed of dried fruit, condensed milk etc. has become an institution for sharing with loved as grace of God, received during the pilgrimage.

The hill-top is charming. The climb to it through the 25 km, that (pass) road either by automobile or on foot is an exciting experience. Dharmashalas are free and are available on rent for stay.

Top Things to Do in Chittoor

Enquire Now

Enquire Now