The town of Tirupati is located at a distance of 67 km from Chittoor in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati is popular due to the temple of Sri Venkateswara, the Lord of Seven hills. The shrine located atop a hill in a place called Trirumala has a cluster of seven hills known as Seshachalam and is positioned at an elevated height of nearly 3000ft above the sea level.
Believed to be the richest temple in the entire world, the Tirupati temple premises are filled with a vibrant culture having a glorious history to recall. Pilgrims from all over are seen standing in queues in the wee hours of the early morning to have a glimpse of the Presiding deity and get his blessings.
Tirupati Temple Architecture-
The temple has its origins in Vaishnavism, which advocates equality and love, and prohibits animal sacrifice. The gopuram over the sanctum is covered entirely in gold plate and is known as Ananda Nilayam. The sanctum holds an awe-inspiring idol of the Lord. There are several elegantly carved doorways, mandapams and shrines inside the temple complex. The main door is called the Padi Kavali Maha Dwara, which has a quadrangular base. A number of stucco figures of gods like Vaishnava, Hanuman, Kevale Narasimha and Lakshmi Narasimha can be seen here.
There is a pradakshinam for circumbulating around the shrine. The main temple has three prakarams. Between the outermost and middle enclosure is the second circumbulatory path called Sampangi Pradakshinam and is currently closed to pilgrims. This path contains several interesting mandapas like Pratima Mandapam, Ranga Mandapam, Tirumala Raya Mandapam, Saluva Narasimha Mandapam, Aina Mahal and Dhvajasthambha Mandapam. After passing through the Padi Kavali Maha Dvara, you come to an open mandapam called the Krishna Deva Raya Mandapam or Pratima Mandapam. This mandapam gets its name from the pratimas or bronze images of the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadevaraya and his two consorts, Tirumaladevi and Chinnadevi facing the shrine with their hands joined in supplication.
In the southern wing of the mandapam, is a statue of Venkatapathi Raya of the Aravidu dynasty, who ruled over Chandragiri around 1570 AD. To the side are stone statues of Achyutha Raya and his wife Varadajiamma. This mandapam was built during the later Vijayanagara rule. It is filled with beautiful pictures of the Vijayanagara period. Vaishnava symbols or the Urdhvapundras flanked by a conch and disc are carved at the top of the two main pillars of the mandapam. The Ranga Mandapam is also called the Ranganayakula Mandapam and is located in the southeastern corner of the Sampangi Pradakshinam. The shrine is where the utsava murti of Lord Ranganadha of Srirangam was kept during the 14th century, when Muslim rulers occupied Srirangam. The Yadava ruler Sri Ranganadha Yadava Raya constructed it in Vijayanagar style between 1320 and 1360 AD.
Adjoining the Ranga Mandapam on the western side, facing the Dhvajasthambha mandapam is a large complex of pavilions known as the Tirumala Raya Mandapam or Anna Unjal Mandapam. It consists of two levels, the front at a lower level and the rear at a higher. Saluva Narasimha constructed the south or the inner portion of this mandapam in 1473 AD to celebrate the festival for Sri Venkateswara called Anna Unjal Tirunal. Araviti Bukkaraya Ramaraja, Sriranga Raja and Tirumala Raja extended the structure to what it is today. Here the utsava murthi holds his annual darbar or asthanam during the Garudadhwaja – Garuda flag on the Dhwajastamb to mark the commencement of Brahmotsava. The mandapam has a complex of pillars in Vijayanagara style – a central pillar surrounded by smaller pillars, some emit musical notes. The main pillars have rearing horses with mounted warriors. Some of the best sculptures are found here in bold relief. The bronze statues of Todermallu, his mother Matha Mohana Devi and wife Pitha Bibi are kept in a corner of the mandapam.
The Aina Mahal is on the northern side of the Tirumala Raya Mandapam and consists of two parts – an open mandapam in the front consisting of six rows comprising six pillars each, and a shrine behind it consisting of an Antarala and Garbhagriha. It has large mirrors, which reflect images. There is an unjal in the middle of the room where the Lord is seated and festivals are conducted. The Dhwajasthambha Mandapam houses the Dhwajastambha (a wooden flagpole encased in gold) and the Bali Peetha (seat for food offering). A peculiar feature of the Mandapam is that it is covered (unlike in other temples) to facilitate the conduct of rituals in all weather conditions. The relative positions of the Dhwajasthambha and the Bali Peetha are in accordance with Vaikhanasa Agamic traditions.
The Nadimi Padi Kavali or Inner Gopuram is the inner entrance to the temple, which is reached through the Dhvajasthambha mandapam. Its wooden doors are covered in silver plates and are also called Vendi Vakili. The doors are smaller than that of the outer Gopuram. There are numerous inscriptions here, the earliest belonging to the Pandyan monarch, Jata Varma Sundarapandya. The Vimana Pradakshinam is commonly used as circumambulatory path around the central shrine. The vimana over the sanctum can be seen from this pathway. Pilgrims who have taken a vow of performing Angapradakshinam perform it in the Vimana Pradakshinam. There is an independent shrine of Sri Varadarajaswami on the eastern side of the vimana. The idol faces the west and is standing with a disc and conch in the upper right and left hands respectively. The lower right hand is in the abhaya pose and the lower left, in the katyavalambika pose- a giver of boons.
The Potu or main kitchen where the food-offerings for the main temple are prepared is to the south of the Varadarajaswami shrine. Inside the Potu is a small shrine dedicated to Lakshmi and she is also called Potu Amma (lady of the kitchen) or Madapuli Nachiyar. She is acknowledged as Vakulamalika, who according to the Puranas was sent by Varahaswami to be the housekeeper of Sri Venkateswara, when he resided on the hill. She is also said to have arranged Lord Venkateswara‘s marriage with Padmavathi. She is Lakshmi, and is worshipped so during Varalakshmi Vratam, in the month of Sravana. An icon of Lakshmi can be seen at Padi Potu, another kitchen is located in the Sampangi Pradakshinam. The rice prasadam is prepared in the inner Potu, while other laddus, vadas appams etc., are prepared in the Padi potu.
The main shrine includes the sanctum and three consecutive halls in front right up till Bangaru Vakili. These are the Snapana Mandapam – a square hall, Ramar Meda – a rectangular hall, and Sayana Mandapam – also rectangular in shape, where the Ekanta Seva is performed. Adjacent to the porch of Bhashyakara Sannidhi on the west side is a small room called Talapakamara or Sankeertana Bhandara. It was constructed to preserve the collection of sankeertanas composed by the Talapaka poets – Talapaka Annamacharya, his son Pedda Tirumalacharya and grandson Chinna Tirumalacharya, who were the minstrels attached to the temple. In front of the Potu is a well called Bangaru Bavi. The site as mentioned in the Vaikhanasa Agamas was constructed according to Vijayanagara style.
The Snapana Mandapam is also called the Tiruvilan kovil. It has four central pillars, with the sculptures of Bala Krishna, Yoga Narasimha and Kaliayamardhana. One such impressive sculpture is that of Vishnu seated with four arms – the upper arms hold the chakra and the shankha. The Lord’s consorts are seated in Sukh asana on either side. Ramar Meda, is an elevated platform for Rama housed the icons of Rama, Sita and Laxmana, but has been moved to the sanctum. Utsava Murthis of Vishvaksena and Garuda have their own shrines.
The Sayana Mandapam, also called the Ardha Mandapam, is directly in front of the sanctum. This is as close as the pilgrims can get to the inner sanctum. The mandapam is connected to the sanctum by a gate called kulasekhara-padi named after an Alwar saint who wished to be reborn as the threshold to the Lord’s shrine. This mandapam is used to perform rituals that cannot take place in the sanctum. The garbha griha or sanctum is where the main idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara resides. Sanctum is where the idol of the Lord stands. In between the sanctum and the Sayana Mandapam, is the threshold called the Kulasekhara-padi. The idol stands directly beneath the gilt dome called Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the garbha griha.
The kalyanotsavam or marriage festival is celebrated in the Kalyana Mandapam. It is similar to the Tirumala Raya Mandapam. To the west is a small mandapam carried on slender cut-stone pillars and surmounted by a vimana. To the south is the Yagasala where yagyas related to Brahmotsavam and other festivals are performed. Close to the Sangeeta Bhandara in the northern corridor of the Vimana Pradakshinam is the shrine of Sri Ramanuja and is also called the Bhashyakara Sannidhi. Ramanuja was the architect of Tirupati and the father of the Sri Vaishnava community here.
This shrine was built around the 13th century and it overlooks the western end of the Tirumamani Mandapam. The Pandyan emblem of two fish and a hook is carved on the wall next to the entrance. The right hand of the image has the gesture of exposition (vyakhyana mudra), and the left hand in boon bestowal (varada hasta), or holding a book (pustaka hasta). The shrine is prominent during the festival of Adhyayanotsavam. Special prayers are conducted here during Gandhapodi Utsavam and Bhashyakara Utsavam. The utsava murthi of Ramanuja is taken in a grand procession to meet Malayappa near the Padi Kavali.
Sri Narasimhaswami shrine
Sri Narasimhaswami shrine is located to the left of the Ramanuja shrine and hold an idol of Sri Yoga Narasimha. Built in the 15th century, it is surrounded by a polished mandapam. Dance poses are sculptured on the pillars. Yoga Narasimhaswami is also known as Girija Narasimhaswami. He is seated with his hands on his knees, and girdled by the Yogapatta. A ceremonial bath (Tiru-Manjana) is given to the idol in the sanctum on Saturdays; and on the fourteenth day of the bright half of the month of Vaisakha (according to the lunar calendar) Swati Nakshathram the idol is specially worshipped on account of Narasimha Jayanti.
The first glimpse of the Lord is seen from the Tirumamani Mandapam built by Mallanna or Madhavadasa, Chief of Chandragiri in the 15th century. 16 carved pillars, create a division of the area into three aisles, support the mandapam. The mandapam serves as an Asthana Mandapam where Koluvu Srinivasa holds court after Thomala Seva in the sanctum, he listens to the reading of the almanac, and presides over daily rations of rice and the recitation of Suprabhatam also takes place here. There are two massive bells known as Tirumani or Tirumahamani, which give the mandapam its name. These bells were used during the Naivedyam in the sanctum.
On the eastern side of the mandapam is a small shrine dedicated to Garuda. On the north side is a gangala or large brass vessel covered with a fabric, for depositing all votive offerings. From the Tirumamani you can enter the Bangaru Vakili to reach the inner sanctum. 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 Vishnu. The doorway is in direct line with the Padi Kavali and the Vendi Vakili and it admits pilgrims to the Snapana Mandapam. The Suprabhatam is sung in front of this door.
Mukkoti Pradakshinam is an enclosed path for circumambulation that runs around the sanctum and the porch. The pradakshinam has walls on three sides with the eastern wall missing. It is open to pilgrims only twice a year during Mukkoti Ekadasi and Mukkoti Dvadasi. The doors are opened on the night of the 11th day after Thiruppavai and closed on the night of the 12th day called Margali-tiru-dvadasi.
History of Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple-
The Tirumala Hill is 853 meters above sea level and is about 10.33 square miles in area. The deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Pallavas of Kanchipuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Tanjore (10th century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th and 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Lord Venkateswara. During the invasion of Srirangam by Malik Kafur in 1310-1311, the Ranga Mandapam of the temple served as the shelter for the presiding deity of Srirangam, Ranganatha Swamy. Later, under the rule of the Vijayanagara Emperor, was when the temple gained most of its current wealth and size, with the donation of diamonds and gold. In the year 1517, the Vijayanagara ruler, Sri Krishna Deva Raya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels, enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. The statues of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and his spouse stand in the premises of the temple. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, the kings from states like Mysore and Gadwal worshiped as pilgrims and gave ornaments and valuables to Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple. The Maratha General Raghoji I Bhonsle visited Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. There is an idol of Raja Todar Mal who was the revenue minister of Akbar, greeting pilgrims in the premises of Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple. In 1843, with the coming of the Madras Presidency under the British Government of India, the administration of the Tirumala 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 the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established as a result of the TTD Act in 1932. Now after the independence of India in the year 1947, Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple falls under the governance of Andhra Pradesh.
The Daily Chores in the Temple-
The early morning prayers starts at 3 am with the Suprabhatam or the awakening of the Lord and ends with the Ekanta Seva by laying the deity to rest at one in the midnight. There are daily, weekly and periodic Utsavams performed in the name of the lord. Gifts and donations are offered in the Hundi, which is the main source of income of the temple.
Festival in Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple-
The annual festival, Brahmotsavam is celebrated with great pomp and festivity for nine days in the months of September. The festival attracts pilgrims from all parts of India and abroad. The fifth and the ninth day holds the Garudostavam and the Rathotavam festivals respectively.
How to Reach
By Air: The nearest airport is at Renigunta 15 km from the temple. Tirupati is connected by air with Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.
By Rail: Tirupati temple is well connected by roads and proper transport services to the nearest railway station situated at Tirupati. It is connected with Hubbi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolhapur etc.
By Road: Tirupati temple can be reached from Tirupati by bus services. It is linked with important cities like Hyderabad, Banglore,Chennai,, Vijayawada,and Lepakshi through good roadways.
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