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Tirupati is 170km northwest of Chennai (Madras), in Andhra Pradesh near the Tamil Nadu border. In Tirupati there is the important Sri Govindaraja Swami Temple, Kothanda Rama Swami Temple and the famous Kapileswara Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Siva. In Tiruchanur, five km from Tirupati, is the Padmavathi Temple, dedicated to the consort of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji). The temple of Sri Venkateswara or Tirupati Balaji is situated above the actual city of Tirupati in the hilltop town of Tirumala. There is a steep staircase up the hill to Tirumala, used by pilgrims wishing to show their devotion by making the climb...

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three times bigger image in new window Sri 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.
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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, or Balaji.

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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.

three times bigger image in new window His 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.
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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."

three times bigger image in new window It 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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

three times bigger image in new window Tirumala 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 hills.
The temple is situated on the top of seven adjoining hills, also called Seshachalam Hills, which are said to be an incarnation of Ananta Sesa...
three times bigger image in new window ...Once 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...
three times bigger image in new window ...Ashamed 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...
three times bigger image in new window ...The Lord's 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).
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It is said that when Ramanuja visited here, he walked up the hill on his knees to avoid stepping on Sesa Naga.

three times bigger image in new window Temple of Nrsimhadeva on the way to Balaji.
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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.

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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.

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Swami Pushkarini tank
There is a large water tank next to this temple called Swami Pushkarini tank, where pilgrims take bath before their darshan.

three times bigger image in new window The 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.
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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 main temple.

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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) during festivals.

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.

three times bigger image in new window There 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).
three times bigger image in new window There 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.
three times bigger image in new window Outside 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 services.
three times bigger image in new window 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.
three times bigger image in new window Brahmotsavam (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...
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...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 surrounding.

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Govindaraja Temple
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.

three times bigger image in new window Padmavathi Temple
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.
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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.)

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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.

three times bigger image in new window ISKCON Temple
(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.
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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 Ramachandra Swami.

More information can be found on

English texts, selection of images, design:
Tattva-darsi das
Most texts are based on the information from Jada Bharata's book Holy Places of India,
which contains many additional information useful for travelers. It can be found on:

Photographs from their travels:
Radha-raman das, Pavan-suta das and Aisvarya Kumar


Datum vzniku:
September 2002
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