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tirupati pilgrimage tour

The temple of Tirupati Balaji in south India is one of the most revered and sacred shrines in the country. Millions of devotees visit the temple to seek to blessings of Lord Vishnu-the patron deity of the temple.

In times of yore, Sheshachalam was a hill-top sanctum, in the Eastern Ghats of India. The idyllic locale possessed an inherent calm and tranquility unmatched by any of the other areas of seven peaks covered with dense woods, adorned the skyline. The weather was pleasant and cool, befitting the lovely environs. Narada, the great sage, had impressed upon Lord Vishnu several times, the immense beauty of this place.

Once after a dispute with Lakshmi, his wife, Lord Vishnu was so disturbed that he wanted to spend some time in complete solitude. He remembered the recommendation of sage Narada and headed for Seshachalam. Lord Vishnu was rather enchanted by the pacific harmony of the surroundings and he settled down to mediate.

Eons went by and an ant-hill completely covered Lord Vishnu, so deep was his meditation. It was by accident that a cowherd stumbled across this ant hill when he followed one of his cows who mysteriously kept disappearing up the hillside. Much was his surprise when he discovered the cow. He was stupefied when he saw her milk flowing into the ant-hill. The cowherd rushed to the king with this amazing news, who eventually unearthed an image of Lord Vishnu from under the mound. Thus the King erected a beautiful shrine at the hill-top location. The deity came to be known as Tirupati Balaji and became the most popular and worshipped god in south India. Indeed, the Tirupati Temple we know it today, is one of the most highly revered and sacred shrines in the whole country.

The environs to date are beautiful and lend an inimitable peace. The temple complex is large and spacious, surrounded by the Tirumalai range. Architecturally, the shrine is a fine sample of Dravidian achievements. The stone Gopuram is intricately facaded with celestial figurines and statues. Inside, the pillars, doorways and the Vimana of the main shrine are plated with gold. Beside it is a massive rectangular bathing ghat, enclosed on all four sides by stone steps leading down to the water. A wide street runs around the entire complex.

Throughout the day, throngs of devotees mill around this small town. A common sight is a mixed age group of men, women and children with clean shaven heads. The sacrifice of hair is of prime importance to devotees visiting Tirupati. In fact this belief is so popular that near the complex is a large hall where tonsure is carried out free of charge. Ironically, just outside this hall, sit pavement dwellers, who sell back the hair in the from of wigs, or false hair supplements.

The free darshan line was really long, so we opted for the Rs. 25/- special darshan. We had driven up from Bangalore, following the old Madras Highway, an excellent road all the way. At the base of the Tirumalai hill was a toll barrier, and the consequent hill-road was smooth, beautifully banked, and had excellent road signs along the winding route. So here we were, waiting on wooden benches along with many others.

Soon, jostling slowly along the line, down a long and narrow corridor, barred by a weathered smooth brass grill, we entered the majestic wooden entrance. Busy priests scurried about, carrying out their scheduled important tasks. We reached a bottleneck doorway, crammed with eager believers, and entered dark hall. On both sides were ornate statues of incarnations and divinities, heralding the main sanctum of Lord Tirupati Balaji. It was awe inspiring, as with folded hands, I stood for the stipulated moment in front of his statue. I was spellbound by the power radiating from there. A tall immense figure, reassuring and strong. He could grant wishes for those with true belief. I was transfixed, until the next person in line elbowed me back to reality. I stumbled on to receive blessings from the priest… and my darshan was over.

Now I knew the magnetism of this pilgrimage-how the power of divine religious can draw hundreds of thousands of devotees from distant places. It reminded me of the Mahakumba Mela in 1989 at Allahabad, where four million pilgrims had collected in January, for a holy dip in the sacred river Gangas. It was much the same driving force, except that people throng to Tirupati every day and even more so on religious festivals.

We collected our prasadam and arrived at the famous Handi of Tirupati, a big cylindrical white bag open at the top. This collection receptacle receives millions of rupees each year as offerings. Tirupati is famed to be the richest temple in the world and indeed, one of the wealthiest institutions in the country. Much of this wealth is sanctioned towards the pursuit of religious, social and educational activities. Also, the environs of the Temple and town are maintained very efficiently by the authorities to keep Tirupati beautiful and attractive for the visitor.

The massive network of boarding and loading is geared to cater to the tens of thousands who congregate on special days, for that very special darshan. The whole town is kept very clean and run in a very organized manner. Commercialism has crept in though in the form of shops selling coconuts, laddoos, framed pictures of Lord Balaji and some priests trying to take advantage of the sincere belief of simple people people, to make a quick buck. Well some bad comes in with the good and has to be accepted to an extent.

Keeping this in mind, we went about engaging a priest for my friend’s thread ceremony, a must for all Brahmins. A helpful middle-aged priest took up our cause and brought us to his house. He made us comfortable there, gave us hot piasam (rice pudding) to eat and set off to make all th4e arrangements for the sacred ritual. Having had a bath, Sanjiv shed his city clothes and donned a dhoti. He then sat surrounded by priests who conducted the ceremony with dignity and simplicity. The impartation of the Gayatri Mantra, whispered into Sanjiv’s ears, was the final step of the ritual. Now my friend had a long golden thread called janeou, around his shoulder to waist, with an added responsibility of uttering the sacred Mantra every day, for the benefit of the soul.

That evening there was a storm with thunder and lighting. The temple lit by yellow sodium vapour light, was glowing hazily. Then it drizzled and the weather took a wonderful turn. I stood in the darkness, gazing at the golden temple in the distance, enjoying the moisture laden cool breeze and reliving the awe and power I had felt facing Lord Balaji in the somber shrine interior. It was one of those rate spiritual experiences I treasured. An individual and special perception…A special darshan.

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¤ Dargahkaliyarsharif ¤ Dharamsala ¤ Dilwaratemples
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¤ Jageshwar ¤ Jambukeswaram ¤ Jambukeswaram
¤ Kailashmansarovar ¤ Kamakhya ¤ Maheshwaromkareshwar
¤ Mathura ¤ Parashuramkund ¤ Pilgrimagecenters
¤ Pilgrimagesofsikhs ¤ Rameshwaram ¤ Rishikesh
¤ Sabarimala ¤ Shatrunjayahill ¤ Shivapur
¤ Tawangmonastery ¤ Thirukalikundrum ¤ Tirupati
¤ Travelofgods ¤ Trichur ¤ Tripureshwari
¤ Tungnath ¤ Vaishnodevi ¤ Varanasi
¤ Vrindavan ¤ Yamnotri