Lord Sri Venkateswara Balaji at Tirumala, Tirupati
Tirupati is the place of Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy, who is the all-pervading Lord of the Universe also known as the Lord of the Seven Hills. Tirupati is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage where Lord is worshiped in the mood of awe and reverence. Tirupati is the home to the world’s richest temple, where thousands of pilgrims visit daily to take darshan of Sri Venkateswara Swamy, also popularly known as Balaji. The magnificent temple of Lord Venkateswara Swamy is located on the 7th peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) of Tirumala. It is by the Lord’s presidency over Venkatachala, that He has received the appellation, Venkateswara (Lord of the Venkata Hill).
‘Vena’ means sins, and ‘kata’ means to remove, to wash away, or to cut. ‘Venkat’, means he who cuts away, or removes all sins. ‘Venkateswara’ means that Lord, who removes all sins from the hearts of His devotees. It is these sinful propensities that stand between us and our ecstatic relationship with the Supreme Lord. When we approach the Supreme Lord, our prayers must be, “Venkateswara, O Lord, please cleanse away our propensity to enjoy separate from You, from within our heart. Remove this tendency for sense gratification and egoism that causes all these sins. And let me be Your unmotivated servant.” Lord is eager to give us, eternal wealth of the spiritual world. He is eager to give us pure bhakti. That treasure will bring about real happiness in our life.
This ancient and sacred temple is mentioned in the Rig Veda and Asthadasa Puranas, most notably the Varaha Purana and Bhavishyottara Purana, which describe Sri Venkateswara as a great bestower of boons. Lord Venkateswara resides in His sanctum sanctorum, which is situated in the main temple of an extensive complex at Tirumala. He is also known here as Balaji, Srinivasa, and Venkatachalapathy.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Tirupati during His South India tour in 1510 as stated in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madha-lila 1.107: “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu next arrived at Tirupati and Tirumala, where He saw a four-handed Deity. Then He proceeded toward Venkata Hill.” Purport: “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has actually described the chronological order of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s visit. The Tirupati temple is sometimes called Tirupatura. It is a famous holy place of pilgrimage. In pursuance of His name, Venkatesvara, the four-handed Lord Visnu, the Deity of Balaji, with His potencies named Sri and Bhu, is located on Venkata Hill, about 8 miles from Tirupati. This Venkatesvara Deity is in the form of Lord Visnu, and the place where He is situated is known as Venkata-ksetra. There are many temples in southern India, but this Balaji temple is especially opulent. A great fair is held there in the month of Asvina (Sep-Oct). Nimna-tirupati is located in the valley of Venkata Hill. There are several temples there also, among which are those of Govindaraja and Lord Ramacandra.”
In 1974 the government of Andhra Pradesh invited ISKCON Founder-acarya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as a special guest to visit Tirupati. During his stay at Tirumala, Srila Prabhupada was extremely pleased to have darshan of Lord Venkateswara. The efficient management of the temple impressed Srila Prabhupada. But his heart contemplated a much grander plan to please the Lord by spreading His message. During a discussion with the state endowments minister, Srila Prabhupada said that T.T.D should take steps for propagating and reviving the message of Bhagavad-Gita, immediately on a large scale, as it is the only way to bring peace and harmony throughout the world. Since T.T.D has the basic infrastructure it should take the assistance of the devotees of the ISKCON to conduct vigorous preaching for the benefit of all. For his followers Srila Prabhupada had another message: Build attractive temples like Balaji’s, with excellent arrangements for hosting pilgrims. By the mercy of Lord Venkateswara Swamy, prayers by Srila Prabhupada, assistance of T.T.D. and relentless humble devotional services by the devotees, now there is a magnificent Hare Krishna (ISKCON) Temple in Tirupati. Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Govinda Ji and Asta-sakhis are the presiding deities. This temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims daily, and has several facilities including Guest House, famous Govindas restaurant, Gift shops, Goshala, Auditorium and Prasadam stalls in the temple premises.
There are a number of important and ancient Temples in and around Tirupati.
Important Temples in and around Tirupati:
On Tirumala Hills:
1. Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple
2. Sri Adi Varaha Swamy Temple
3. Sri Swamy Pushkarini (Sacred Tank)
4. Srivari Padalu (Lotus Feet of Lord Venkateswara Swamy)
5. Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple and Hathiram Baba Samadhi
6. Akasha Ganga Tirtham
7. Papavinasam Tirtham
8. Silathoranam (bridge)
9. ISKCON Tirupati (Hare Krishna) - Sri Sri Radha Govinda Temple
10. Sri Padmavathi Ammavari Temple at Tiruchanoor
11. Sri Govinadaraja Swamy Temple
12. Sri Kodandarama Swamy Temple
13. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Srinivasa Mangapuram
14. Sri Kapileswara Swamy Temple
15. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Narayanavanam
16. Sri Veda Narayana Swamy Temple at Nagalapuram
17. Sri Kariya Manikya Swamy Temple at Nagari (Gajendra Moksha)
18. Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Karvetinagaram
19. Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Appalayagunta
20. Sri Kalahasti - Panchabuta Vayu kshetra
History behind Tirumala Hills and Sesadri Mountains
[Ref. His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj’s Tirupati Yatra in 1999 and 2005]
Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that during Satya yuga, Hiranyaksha, due to his exploitative activities created a situation where the earth was drowned to the bottom of the Garbhodaka ocean. At that time, the demigods approached Lord Brahma who prayed to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu then appeared from the nose of Brahma in the form of Sri Varahadev. He killed Hiryanaksha and lifted the earth, ‘Bhudevi’ with His tusks, and brought her to a safe position on top of the Garbhodaka ocean.
Bhudevi, the goddess of the earth, being an expansion of Goddess Laxmi was very much pleased to be reunited with Her Lord, Her eternal consort in the form of Sri Varahadev. In Vaikuntha ‘Bhu-Varaha’ resides eternally, so Bhudevi, who is the goddess of this earth, pleaded Lord Varahadev to remain with Her on this earth planet. Sri Varahadev decided to satisfy her desire and called for Garuda to fly to Vaikuntha and bring one of His favourite mountains down to the earth, so that He and Bhudevi could reside here together on that mountain. That mountain was brought down, and it is today called Tirumala. It is the mountain that was imported from Vaikuntha by Garuda himself.
There is also a story of Sesa, the divine expansion of the Lord who sometimes appears as His couch, sometimes as His bed, and sometimes as His slippers, the same Adisesa incarnated on this earth as the seven hills in which Tirumala is situated. Therefore the seven hills are called Seshadari. Knowing that the Supreme Lord would come to live on these hills, Sesa wanted to be there to support His divine pastimes.
Bhrgu Muni sets to find out the Supreme amongst the trinity
As the narration continues, Narada Muni once approached great sages who performed yajna. Narada Muni enquired from them, “To whom are you offering the fruits of yajna? Of all the devatas or demigods, who is the greatest?” Some rishis considered Brahma to be the greatest of the gods, some considered Vishnu, and some considered Siva to be the greatest. In an intriguing dialogue that followed amongst them, to decide who is the greatest, they all concluded that the greatest of the persons must be one, who is completely transcendental to the modes of material nature. Thus they all unanimously elected Bhrgu Muni to test these guna avatars, to see the greatest of the three.
Bhrgu rishi first went to the abode of Brahma. Brahma, the father was very happy to see his son, Bhrgu Muni. But Bhrgu Muni did not say anything to honour his father. In fact he outright ignored him. When Brahma understood that his son was completely breaching all etiquettes and basic human manners, he became very angry. Still, somehow or other he contained his anger and didn’t say anything. But Bhrgu Muni noticed that his father was very angry, and he left the place. Lord Brahma had failed the test, being come under the influence of anger.
Then Bhrgu Muni went to mount Kailash where Lord Siva sat with Mother Paravati. When Siva, Bhrgu Muni’s elder brother, saw his younger brother, he came up saying, “Oh, Bhrgu, I am so happy to see you. Welcome to Kailash.” He came to embrace Bhrgu Muni but Bhrgu Muni stopped him saying, “Get away from me. Don’t touch me. You smell terrible. You have ashes from dead bodies smeared all over your body. You wear skulls as garlands. You associate with ghosts and untouchables. If you were to touch me, I would have to immediately take bath in the Ganges, just to purify myself from the intense contamination.”
Lord Siva, upon hearing Bhrgu’s insulting words became very angry. He picked up his trident and was about to punish Bhrgu when Paravati intervened and said, “No, my Lord, he is your brother.” Lord Siva then cooled himself down and Bhrgu Muni left the place. Even Lord Siva had failed the test.
Bhrgu Muni then went to Svetadvipa, the Vaikuntha planet within this universe where Vishnu resides. Lord Vishnu lay on His bed, being served by Laxmidevi the goddess of fortune. While the Lord was lying down, Bhrgu Muni charged in and kicked Him right onto the chest. Lord Vishnu very compassionately, with folded hands said, “Oh, Bhrgu Muni please forgive me, please forgive me, that you came in and I didn’t even get up to honor you, to welcome you to my home. My chest is so hard, and your lotus feet are so soft, I am afraid; I must have caused some pain to your feet. Please let me massage your feet.”
Speaking thus, Vishnu began to very gently massage the lotus feet of Bhrgu Muni, who being so treated began to weep, and tears flowed from his eyes as he spoke “You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You are completely transcendental to the modes of material nature. You are all merciful, all compassionate even to an offender like me, please forgive me.” According to Sri Caitanya Bhagvat, after begging forgiveness, Bhrgu Muni seeing the qualities of Lord Vishnu, began to dance in ecstasy. He danced and wept and cried as his hairs stood on end and he went on loudly chanting the holy names Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Bhrgu Muni then blissfully returned to all the sages and narrated his report. Everyone from that day onwards consistently worshipped Lord Vishnu by constantly hearing His glories and chanting His Holy Names. Everything was blissful, but Laxmidevi felt very depressed and angry. Although Lord Vishnu had tolerated the offence committed by Bhrgu Muni with a very gracious heart, Laxmidevi being a chaste and faithful wife, could not tolerate the offence that was done to her husband. She said to Lord Narayana, “You may forgive this person for that is your nature. But I have seen this Brahmana whimsically kicking You right in the chest. And because I have seen this abominable act, I have incurred a very heavy unforgivable sin and the sin of witnessing You accepting this offence is so great that I cannot live here any longer. I must go away from here. I must perform severe penances in order to wash away the sin that was incurred by my seeing this offence to You.”
Lessons from the incident:
Laxmidevi considered herself to have incurred such a sin, because she witnessed an offence to the Lord. We know that an offence to the devotee of the Lord is even greater than the offence to the Lord Himself. Thus Laxmidevi thought of herself to have incurred a great sin just by seeing Bhrgu Muni kick the Lord at His chest, with his foot.
Our Vaishnava acarya’s explain that if we speak offensive about the Lord, great sin comes upon us. But even if we see an offence being committed or hear someone offending the devotees, we become sinful. This should make us meditate how careful we should be. Sometimes devotees talk and even blaspheme others, and we happen to be there. Even if we don’t agree with them, the fact that we heard it, makes the sins to have come upon us.
And sometimes so many devotees in so many places have so many difficulties and they wonder why? This is all philosophy. It is not just the minor detail of the philosophy. We are reminded of it everywhere, throughout the scriptures. And in Kaliyuga we take things very lightly. We think offences are such normal occurrences. We don’t think that they are very serious. Anybody can speak anything about anyone at any time. However the fact is, if there is an offence, to the Lord or His devotees, it is a sin.
Did Bhrgu Muni Offend Lord Vishnu? Actually Bhrgu Muni did not commit any offence. According to Sri Caitanya Bhagavat the Lord, entered into his body to specifically do that act, just because he wanted to establish the Lord’s supreme position in the world forever. Bhrgu Muni was actually doing it to glorify the Lord.
Lessons from the incident:
Delicacy of Vaishnava Etiquette: If we commit an offence to Bhrgu Muni for his act of kicking the Lord in the chest, it’s sinful for two reasons, first, because he is a Vaishnava. And second, not only is he a Vaishnava, but he was doing a very specialized, incomprehensible service. In our Vaishnava literatures, it is also explained that even Brahma and Siva were not angry at Bhrgu Muni at all but they pretended to be angry. Why? Because they wanted all of their followers and the entire creation to know that Vishnu is the supreme. They acted as if being very angry just to fail the test, so that Vishnu would win. It was their way of glorifying Lord Krishna.
Lakshmi devi and Lord Vishnu’s Descent upon Earth - Their Pastimes Thereafter
Laxmidevi then left Vaikuntha, and came to the holy place called Kolhapur and performed very severe tapasya. Kolhapur is the place to do penance for sins. Meanwhile in Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu, in separation from Laxmidevi thought, ‘What is this beautiful land of Vaikuntha without Laxmi? All the kalpavraksha trees, all the celestial lakes and rivers, all the beautiful people with four arms, they cannot give Me any pleasure without Laxmidevi. I have no reason to live without Laxmidevi.’ Thinking such, the Lord also decided to leave Vaikuntha, to come down to the earth to perform tapasya, to appease Laxmidevi. The Lord then descended to Earth and started to walk. He walked approximately half of the earth, until He came to the place, the mountain range called Seshadari, where Adisesha waited for Him with great devotion.
The Lord then found an anthill and entered into the hole at the top of the anthill, and went under the ground of the anthill, to perform meditation. The Lord performed meditation for a long time without eating, drinking or sleeping. When the demigods saw this, it brought great grief to their heart. Lord Brahma approached Lord Siva and said, “Our Lord has not taken any food for so many days. We should go down and serve Him.”
They made a plan. Lord Brahma took the form of a cow; Lord Siva took the form of a little calf and they approached Laxmidevi with their idea. Laxmidevi in order to serve the Lord agreed to temporarily accept the role of a cowherd girl.
There was a king and he was approached by this beautiful cowherd girl, along with the cow and calf. She said to the king, “I am selling this cow, would you like to buy?” The king asked, “How much does it cost?” She replied, “One thousand gold coins.” The king was outrageously shocked, ‘One thousand gold coins, for a cow! The king later also thought, “Oh! One thousand coins, this must be a very valuable cow. I will buy it.” The king then bought the cow, and gave the cow to his cowherd man, and told him to take her out on the pastures, and bring him the milk every day. Every day the cowherd man would come to the Seshadari Mountains, with a herd of cows and after bringing them to a nice place, with green grasses, he would find a tree and go to sleep. As he slept, this cow who was actually Lord Brahma, would immediately run away from the herd, go right to the anthill, place her udder right over the hole of the anthill and pour down all her milk. The Lord would hold his head up and open His mouth, and drink the milk. This happened every day.
One day the queen decided to supervise the milking of the cows. She watched over all the cows being milked. She also saw that very beautiful expensive cow being milked but no milk came out.
The Queen asked the cowherd man, “Why is there no milk? Did you secretly milk this cow, and keep all the milk for yourself?” The cowherd man replied, “No! Of course not! I didn’t. I didn’t. For some reason this cow never gives any milk.” Queen: “No! I do not believe you. She has a calf. I have seen her calf. She must be giving milk. Are you stealing the milk? If tomorrow this cow does not give milk, I will cut off your head.” The cowherd man then decided to find out the reason why the cow never gave milk. Next day, he brought the cows to the pastures. He saw a nice tree and lay down, pretending to be asleep, but with his eyes slightly opened, he watched over the cow. Then he started pretending to snore. Like always, the cow ran away towards the anthill. The cowherd secretly ran behind the cow. He chased behind the cow, who came to the anthill, and profusely started offering all her milk into the hole of the anthill.
The cowherd man was so angry. He thought, ‘What is this cow doing? She will be the very cause of my death, due to this whimsical behavior.’ Thinking such he lost control of his mind and senses. He picked up an axe to attack the cow and threw it towards the cow to kill her. But just at that very moment, the Supreme Personality of Godhead jumped out from the hole in the anthill and placed His head out on the axe. The axe hit Him right in the center of the forehead.
Lessons from the incident:
This wonderful incident illustrates how the Lord protects His devotees.
namo brahmana devaya go brahmana hitayacha,
jagat hitaya krsnaya govindaya namo namah
The Lord is always very much concerned with the welfare of the brahmanas and the cows. Why? For every living being the purpose of this life is self-realization. And the cow is the very emblem of religious principles. The barometer of the spirituality of any society is - how we take care of the cows. She feeds us milk like our mother. She supplies ghee for sacrifice, ghee to make wonderful preparations to offer to the Lord. And the brahmanas, they teach us the path of perfection. So the Lord, even though being merciful to every living being wants to protect mostly those who are doing the most compassionate service, to the whole of society. The Lord is always eager to protect all His devotees. In this case, even at the cost of His own well-being.
Srinivas, the incarnation of the Lord, was thus in so much pain. He sat, holding His head. At that time Brhaspati appeared and asked Him what had happened and the Lord explained. Brihaspati also told Lord of a certain herb in the forests which is very medicinal. If one places the herb on the forehead, making a paste out of it, it will relieve the pain, will heel it. The Lord while in great pain searching for this herb came upon a kunda. It is called the Swamy Puskarani tirtha. It is also a lake from Vaikuntha which Garuda had brought down for Lord Varahadev’s pleasure. While He was there, Lord Srinivas met Lord Varahadev. It was a very pleasant and loving reunion between these two Supreme Personalities. Lord Varahadev asked of Srinivas’s condition on earth and was told the whole story by the latter.
In the temple of Lord Venkateswara, the Lord is always decorated with this type of a ‘tilak’ covering most of His eyes and the center of His forehead. The Lord upon thousands of years has decided to be decorated like this, just to show the world how much He loves His devotees and just to give us the confidence that Lord Krishna will always protect His devotees.
Then Lord Srinivas told Varahadev, “I understand that actually You are the proprietor of this tract of land. In fact, You saved the earth, therefore You are really the proprietor of the earth, and especially this place where You are living. I therefore request You to kindly give Me some place where I can stay, on rent. The Lord continued, “But because the goddess Laxmi has left Me, I don’t have any money. I do not know what will I give You in rent.” Lord Varahadev replied, “I know in the future many hundreds, thousands and millions of people will come to have Your darshan here. Give me this as rent, that whoever comes to see You before worshipping You, will first come to see Me.” The Lord agreed, “Yes, all of My devotees before they come to worship Me, will first offer their prayers and worship You, in Your Varahadev form.”
Note: It is the tradition to this very day in Tirupati, that the proper way that we approach Sri Venkateswara is by first offering our prayers and worships the Varaha form.
Varahadev then declared that the area of the anthill area would now belong to Lord Venkateswara and He also told Him of a very loving motherly devotee, who personally served Him, whom, He would like to offer for the service of Sri Venkateswara. He said, “She can cook for You, she could make this herbal paste for Your wounded head, she will do everything for You; she is Your mother. Her name is Bakula Mallika, also called Bakula devi.”
Bakula devi was previously Yashoda in Lord Krishna’s lila. She is a partial expansion of mother Yashoda. And it is said that Lord Krishna left Vrindavana when He was only about ten and a half years old. And it is natural for a mother to see her children married. Devaki was involved in so many marriages of Krishna, 16,108. But Yashoda never got any opportunity to do this. So Lord Krishna knowing her heart, He promised her, “In my next incarnation you will be there to arrange for My marriage.”
Then Bakuladevi treated Lord Srinivas just as a mother treats her own child. She would go and collect nice fruits and vegetables. She used to prepare delicious prasad for Him several times a day. She would go and get the herbs and make the proper paste, and apply to His head. She would offer Him such sweet words. She loved Him with such motherly love that Srinivas was so much satisfied, living on this Venkatadari mountain (other names: Seshadari, Narayanadri).
Appearance of Padmavati
There was a king named Akaash Raj, and his wife’s name was Dharini devi. They were very great devotees. However they had no children even after many attempts. They approached the great sages and rishis and asked what could be done. If the king and the queen do not have a child they actually fail all purpose, because unless they train someone to inherit the Kingdom, then they are not doing proper service to the subjects. And besides that the duty of the king is to raise a child, make him a king so that he can go to the forest and become self-realized.
The great sages explained that previously Maharaja Dasarath as well as Maharaja Janaka, performed a particular yajna, a royal yajna for the purpose of having a child. Thus all the arrangements were being made. It was explained to the king to plough the field at the area where the yajna was to be performed and the king himself had to be the ploughman. They took the bullocks and the plough and the king went about circumambulating the field of the yajna, ploughing the field. At one particular place the hook of the plough, when it was deep in the ground, latched on to a golden box. The golden box was pulled out of the ground. It opened automatically. Within that box was a big beautiful lotus flower and upon that lotus flower was the most charming golden colored girl, smiling and waving at King Akaash Raj.
The king was very much pleased. He brought the little child to his wife Dharini, and they accepted her as their own daughter. They performed the yajna and soon, the queen was pregnant. Later, she gave birth to a son named Vasudham.
History of Padmavati’s appearance
The history of the girl child is very interesting. When she appeared, there was a voice in the sky, explaining that she was the goddess Laxmi Herself who had appeared in the form of the girl child. The brahmanas when they saw that She was born on a lotus flower named her Padmavati.
Many aspects of the previous life of Padmavati are explained in the Ramayana and in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was traveling to South India, He met a brahmana who consistently lamented, upon reading that Sita was stolen by Ravana. So much so that he didn’t even eat. Even though the actual incident happened many millions of years ago, the brahmana couldn’t get over this terrible piece of information which he read in the scriptures. He invited Lord Caitanya for prasad. It was noon, and he didn’t even start cooking. It was 3 O’ clock, and he still didn’t cook. Lord Caitanya asked “Are you going to cook?” The Brahmana replied, “How could I cook, when Sita has been stolen by Ravana? I should enter into fire. How can I live when my worshipable goddess has been stolen by this rakshasa?”
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained, “Ravana could not even touch Sita. This was a false illusory Sita. So you eat, please believe Me.” The brahmana then took a plate, to please Lord Caitanya and took prasad. Later on, Lord Caitanya continued His travel. He went to Madurai, and then He went to Rameshwaram. He found within a scripture the Kurma Purana, the story of the chaste woman. There it was explained that before Ravana stole Sita, Agni, the fire god, took the real Sita, and replaced Her with an illusory Sita which was stolen by Ravana. Later on when Ravana was killed and Lord Ramacandra conquered Lanka, He wanted to test Sita’s chastity, so She entered into fire, and this time, Agni dev brought the original Sita back.
Further detail to this particular Puranic narration -
There was a great sage named Khushadvaj and he was performing a yajna. From his chanting of Vedic hymns a beautiful young girl was born. She was a partial expansion of Laxmidevi. He named her Vedhavati. Her father understood that she was a very special person and that no one was fit to marry her except Lord Vishnu Himself. He told Vedhavati that you should go to the jungles of the Himalayas, and perform tapasya with your mind fixed on getting only Vishnu as your husband.
She was so beautiful and her charm was so glorious that many of the greatest kings and princesses were coming before her, begging to marry. But she would tell them all, “My mind is fixed on the lotus feet of Lord Narayana, I will accept no one else.” She performed tapasya for many years. One day Ravana happened to be flying overhead in his airplane. When he saw the beauty of Vedhavati he was infatuated. He landed his plane, came before Vedhavati and said, “You are so beautiful and I am so great. I am begging you, marry me now. I cannot live without you. I am the king of Lanka, I have conquered Indra, all the demigods tremble in fear of me, I will make you the prominent queen of my entire kingdom, and I will give you all riches and opulence’s. Come with me, and be my wife.” Vedhavati very respectfully told him, “I am sorry Sir, but it’s not possible. I have fixed my mind on Lord Vishnu and will accept no one else as my husband. If He does not accept me, then I will give up my body.”
Ravana then asked, “Who are you?” She replied, “My name is Vedhavati and my father is the great brahmana sage named Khusadhvaja. Ravana told her, “Then, it would be a good match. Because my father is Vishrava, my mother is Keshini, and my grandfather is Pulatsya Muni, who is the son of Brahma. Pulatsya Muni is a very great brahmana, so there is no incompatibility.” Ravana continued, “Besides that if you do not agree to marry me then I will take you by force.” She explained to him, “My life is for Vishnu and Vishnu alone.”
Lessons from the incident:
This is very much instructive also. Ravana will come to us with so many temptations in our life, but as devotees we should be faithful and chaste as the property of the Lord. Whichever way Ravana tempts us, however Maya intimidates us, challenges us, threatens us, we must remain faithful even at the cost of our lives, to our service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ravana decided that he would rape Vedhavati by force. As he came to embrace her, Vedavati very intensely meditated on Agni dev the fire god, who immediately appeared in the form of blazes of fire. Right before entering into that fire she cursed Ravana, “If ever you try to forcibly violate a woman’s chastity again, you will die. And a chaste woman like me will be the cause of the destruction of your entire dynasty.”
Then she entered the fire and disappeared. When she entered the fire, Agni dev personally brought her, in to his own care, in his own planet.
Later on Ravana with the help of Maricha, tried to kidnap Sita, in Panchavati. Maricha took the form of a golden deer and Ravana who was already completed addicted to the idea of Sita, just by hearing about her beauty from Sharupnakha, had his plan where Rama and Laxmana were forced to go away from Sita in the forest by Maricha the deer. Then Ravana disguised himself as a sadhu to beg alms from Sita, knowing that Sita is always charitable to those who are in distress.
Just before Ravana stole Sita away, Rama knowing that this danger would come He invoked Agni dev. Sita then entered to the fire of Agni and Agni replaced her with Vedhavati, who looked identical to the real Sita. So practically for one year Vedhavati was terribly, tortured, assaulted and abused by Ravana, but she remained completely faithful and chaste to Lord Rama. At the end of the battle of Lanka, when Sita was tested for her chastity by being put into fire, again Agni dev brought the real Sita and replaced Vedhavati. At that time both Agni dev and Sita appealed to Lord Ramacandra regarding Vedhavati, “For the kind of service she has offered you. You should accept her as your wife. She has done so much penance to receive your mercy. Take her as your wife.”
Sita begged Rama to take Vedhavati as her co-wife. But Lord Rama said, “No! In this life I have vowed to accept only one wife. But in my next incarnation I promise that I will marry Vedhavati.”
The meeting of Padmavati and Srinivas - Their Marriage
The same Vedhavati was born as Padmavati. She was brought up by her parents. She became the very reservoir of all attractive qualities. Soon the time was ripe for her marriage. In those days when the girl was about 14 years old and still unmarried, the parents would consider themselves to be failures. Dharini devi and Akaash Raj were thus looking all around for a wonderful husband. They sent many messengers to different kingdoms of the world. But they could find no one who could match her. They didn’t know what to do.
At that time Narada Muni came to the kingdom disguised as an old brahmana and upon looking at the palm of Padmavati, he told her, “You are the goddess of fortune Laxmi and very soon you would be married to Lord Vishnu.” She really did not take it very seriously. The name of her kingdom was Narayanpur.
One day she was playing in a very pleasing garden with her friends. On the same day Lord Srinivas told His mother Bakuladevi that He desired to go to the wild forest to scare away the wild animals, on a hunt. Bakuladevi tried to dissuade him saying that it would be very dangerous but He convinced his mother of no danger for Him. She made nice prasad and then He very happily went into the forest. While He was in the forest, He saw a wild elephant and began to chase after the wild elephant. The wild elephant ran straight into the garden where Padmavati and her friends played. The wild elephant caused great fear to them. Srinivas immediately chased the elephant away. And then He saw Padmavati. The natural love between the Supreme lord and His consort was awakened. They looked upon each other. Srinivas then approached her, introduced Himself and said, “I want to marry you. I think that you must have descended from heaven.” While Srinivas and Padmavati were talking, the maidservants of the princesses happened to notice and they thought it to be improper. They criticized, “But You are a hunter. What right does a hunter have to propose marriage to the princesses?”
Saying thus, they asked Him to leave the place and even began to throw stones at Him. Being harassed by the stones, He got on His horse and went away.
When He reached home, Bakula saw that He was very depressed, and he had sores all over His body. She asked Him to tell her what had happened? He explained that He had seen a beautiful young princess, and that He wanted to marry her. But as He spoke to her, all her maidservants threw stones at him. He requested his mother to help him marry the princess. Bakuladevi told him that she would go and will try to make a proposal to girl’s parents. It was during that conversation the Supreme Lord explained to Bakuladevi who He was. He explained that He was Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the girl was Vedhavati in past life and He had appeared just to marry her. Bakuladevi then promised Him that she would make a proposal to her parents.
On her way to meet the parents of Padmavati, Bakuladevi came to a temple, where she found the maidservants of Padmavati worshipping and intensely praying to Lord Siva. Bakuladevi enquired of the reason for their intense prayers. They told her that they were praying because their princess, Padmavati was sick. Nobody knew how to cure her. She had not eaten, and not even drunk anything. She has even not been able to sleep, ever since she saw a hunter in the forest. Her parents brought the best doctors and they gave all types of medications but nothing seems to help. Many rishis and sages have also been consulted but nobody could cure her. They all consider it to be some mental anxiety. After hearing of the condition of Padmavati, Bakuladevi said that even she would pray along with them. Meanwhile Lord Srinivas thought of ways to help Bakuladevi make this arrangement. He disguised Himself as a gypsy fortuneteller woman and came to the town of Narayanpur and started calling out, “I am a gypsy fortune-teller woman and I can tell the future to anyone who wants to know.”
The people of the town told the queen, that maybe this gypsy woman could tell about what will happen to Padmavati. The queen immediately called for the gypsy fortune teller.
Srinivas in the disguise of a gypsy woman came into the palace. She demanded the queen for all types of articles for puja, to be brought to her along with Padmavati. When Padmavati sat before the gypsy woman, she immediately felt attracted to the gypsy woman and in the hearts of hearts she understood that the gypsy woman was but Her Lord.
The gypsy woman then went into a trance and started speaking, “Padmavati is actually the goddess of fortune Laxmi. Some time ago, while she was playing in a garden along with her friends, she was attacked by a wild elephant and she became very afraid. Just then a noble hunter came and saved her. That hunter is the Supreme Lord Vishnu, and Padmavati has found the love of that hunter. But Padmavati thinks that the hunter has gone forever. She does not know that the hunter is crying and lamenting in separation from Padmavati. And she will only feel happiness when both of them are united again in marriage, and I think that marriage will take place very soon. In fact the mother of the Lord is about to come to propose the marriage.” As she listened to the gypsy woman, the queen was bewildered. Immediately after the gypsy woman had left, Bakuladevi arrived. She was very beautiful and stately woman, so the queen honored her, brought in her palace as a guest.
Bakuladevi then spoke to the queen saying, “I come with a proposal. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna has descended in this world and is living on the banks of Venkatadri Mountains. He is living in an anthill. But even though He is living in the anthill and doesn’t have anything, He is the proprietor of the entire universe. He desires to have your daughter Padmavati’s hand in marriage. Please accept this proposal.” Dharini devi replied, “Please let me discuss this with my husband, the king.” Later the queen asked the King, “Does it make sense to you that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is living in these Seshadari Mountains? We never heard about that.”
The King then asked his ministers and they advised him to enquire from a great sage named Suka Maharishi. The king went to Suka Maharishi and enquired of the descend of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Suka Maharishi said “Srinivas is the Lord of Vaikuntha. He has descended into this world. He is living in an anthill. You should immediately arrange for the marriage of your daughter to Him.” The king Akaash Raj, his wife Dharini devi and everybody rejoiced that Padmavati had finally found the proper match in marriage. Suka himself gave a palm leaf to Srinivas with the king’s written desire that He marry his daughter. Suka first brought the letter to Bakula, and then the two of them went to the anthill. They called Srinivas out of the anthill. When He came out, Suka read the letter. Immediately upon hearing the letter, Bakuladevi started beaming with transcendental happiness. It was the fulfilment of her incarnation.
Srinivas then wrote a letter back, accepting the proposal. Lord Srinivas called Garuda and Ananta Sesa and asked them to invite all the demigods and rishis all over the universe. They all came to this hill to decide how to help the Lord in this marriage ceremony. As they were dividing up the responsibilities very nicely, Lord Brahma saw, Lord Srinivas sitting on the side of the anthill looking very unhappy. Brahma asked “What is the problem?” Srinivas said, “I have no wealth. How am I supposed to feed millions of people who are going to come? What to speak of offering them garlands and nice arrangements and things like that.” Brahma then suggested that He could take a loan from Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods who was also present.
Lord Brahma then called for Kuvera, and asked him to give Lord Srinivas a loan. Kubera replied, “He is the Lord of my life, He is the proprietor of everything. On this very day I will take all the riches of heaven and send them to your feet my Lord, please accept it.”
Lord Srinivas said, “No, I have entrusted all this wealth to you, it is not mine. And while living in this world I must live according to the customs of this world. So kindly give Me a loan and I promise to pay it back to you, with suitable interest. Until the end of Kaliyuga, I will pay you the interest of this loan and the balance of the principle as well.” Lord Brahma then drew out the contract, Srinivas signed it and several witnesses also signed it.
Note: One of the reasons why this temple is so wealthy is, it is understood that the Lord requests all devotees to come for His darshan to help Him to repay this loan to Kuvera by putting their wealth in the Hundi. So people give a lot of money to the hundi. And every day at a certain time there is a hall that is where they count all the collections of the day. There are piles and piles and mountains of jewels, rings, and big piles of money and they count it publicly. That is one of the traditions of the temple.
Finally it was all arranged. After all these arrangements were made Lord Brahma noticed that Srinivas appeared unhappy as before so he again asked Him, “What is the problem? Why do you look so unhappy?”
Srinivas replied, “I have a very heavy heart, due to separation from Laxmi, who is at Kolhapur performing tapasya.”
Lord Brahma said, “Why don’t you bring her here?” The Lord then decided that the only way she would come is, if He devises a plan. He sent a messenger to Kolhapur with a message for Laxmidevi, ‘Your Lord is living at the Seshadari Mountains and is very ill, his health is very bad. He wants to see you immediately.’
Upon receiving the message, Laxmidevi immediately asked the messanger to bring her to Lord Srinivas. When Laxmi came there, and she saw, thousands and thousands millions of demigods, sages and rishis who were all preparing for the marriage, she thought that they were all there because her Lord was sick. She felt guilt at the thought that the Lord was sick and everyone else had come and it was her who took so long to come to help him.
Lord Srinivas who was pretending to be sick, asked two of the demigods to carry Him. He leaned on them and they helped Him walk towards Laxmidevi. She said, “My Lord what happened to you? I am very sorry I have taken so long to come. How can I help you?” The Lord replied that He was not sick and nothing was wrong. Observing so many people there, she then understood the reason why the Lord had called for her.
Laxmidevi then spoke, “I have understood that You have finally come to fulfil your promise to Vedhavati. All these people are here for Your marriage, and You will soon marry Vedhavati, who has incarnated as Padmavati, and I am very happy to see this, because she has done so much sacrifice, she has worked in such a way just to please you, when I was in my form as Sita. I give you all encouragement to marry her. I will happily become just like her sister. In fact I will help you perform the ceremonial bath for this marriage ceremony.”
All the guests and great sages then rejoiced seeing that Laxmidevi was very much co-operative and in a happy mood. Laxmi and Paravati then performed the bathing ceremony for Srinivas. When He came out from His bathing ceremony he was decorated with beautiful jewels, garments.
Meanwhile the head cooks, Agni and Varun prepared a huge feast for millions of people and Vayu was appointed in-charge of serving. When the Lord saw all the bhoga which way prepared He said that the bhoga has to be offered. Brahma asked, “Whom are you going to offer it to?” Lord Srinivas then replied that, “It should be offered to Lord Nrsimhadeva.” It is said that it was offered to Ahobilam Narasimha in Ahobilam.
Note: There is special connection between Ahobilam and Tirupati. In fact every year on the day of celebrating the marriage of Srinivas and Padmavati, the Balaji temple or the Venkateswara temple sends a large donation to the Ahobilam Narasimha temple, just to show their appreciation for accepting the offerings on His marriage day.
Lord Nrsimhadeva after accepting the bhoga made it all maha-prasada for all the millions of people to honor. There were lines of devotees covering the entire seven hills and Vayudev had it all served it out very nicely and very expertly.
Then they proceeded to Narayanpur. Akaash raj, Vasudham and the brother of Akaash Raj, Thondaman greeted Srinivas and His party. Then Dharini devi brought out Padmavati. There was exchange of garlands, and the wonderful wedding took place. The festivities lasted for 11 days.
Bakuladevi told the Lord that it was time to return to their place. But since the Lord was living in an anthill and it was not a nice place to bring Padmavati, they decided to live at the hermitage of Agatsya Muni, which was also on the hills, near Tirumala.
Lord Reunites with Lakshmi Devi
After sometime Padmavati noticed that her beloved was looking very sad. She understood the reason in her heart. She said, “My Lord you are feeling separation from Laxmidevi who is living alone in Kolhapur. You should bring her here at once. We will all live together.” The Lord said, “She is angry, I don’t know if she will come.”
Padmavati then spoke the words of wisdom; the words of a woman to a man, to understand the nature of a woman. She explained, “Women are like children. They need someone to please them and someone to show great affection to them. It is not their fault. They are made that way. You should pacify her, by pleasing her and giving her this type of affection, and she will be happy to come back. I am also feeling sad that she is so lonely, living in Kolhapur.”
She told the Lord that she would stay at the hermitage and that He should go to Kolhapur to bring Laxmidevi. The Lord travelled to Kolhapur. When Laxmidevi found out that the Lord was coming to take her, she disappeared and went to the hermitage of Kapila Muni. The Lord searched all over and around Kolhapur, but He couldn’t find her anywhere. Finally, He sat beside a pond of water with a big lotus, and decided that He would perform tapasya until Laxmi would return to Him. He performed such severe tapasya, that even Indra couldn’t recognize who He was. Indra thought of Him to be a rishi trying to take over his planet through His penances. In order to prevent any such possibility, Indra sent some apsaras to distract Him.
The Lord saw the apsaras dancing, smiling and glancing at Him and the Lord became even more beautiful personality who completely eclipsed the grace and the beauty of all the apsaras. The apsaras were very embarrassed and they understood Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They reported the incident to Indra who begged forgiveness. The Lord consoled Indra and forgave him and continued His tapasya more intensely to the extent that severe transcendental flames started blazing around Him. Laxmidevi herself in Kapiladev’s hermitage could feel the spiritual effects of His tapasya.
She enquired Lord Kapiladev regarding what should she do? Lord Kapiladev asked her to return to Him. He spoke, “Bhrgu Muni may have made an offence by kicking Him on the chest. But as a result of that, it has been established for the whole world, for all time to come that Lord Vishnu is the Supreme worshipable object; that He is the ultimate lord of all Lords.” Laxmidevi then entered into the bottom of the stem of the lotus flower in the pond beside which, the lord performed His tapasya. She then travelled up the stem and came out right on top of the lotus, sitting next to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When the devatas saw Laxmi Narayan sitting together on the top of the lotus, they all rejoiced and began to worship them.
Narada Muni asked Bhrgu Muni to beg forgiveness from Laxmidevi. At that time Bhrgu Muni fell at the feet of Laxmi devi weeping and crying. He begged, “I am begging at your lotus feet. Please forgive me for my offense. I have caused you such pain in your heart, by kicking Lord Narayana, I am a fool, I am a rascal, please forgive me.” Laxmidevi replied “No, no you did no offense. Everything done by the Lord has a divine purpose. This was His transcendental pastime. You are forgiven. Be happy.” Bhrgu weeping in gratitude became very happy. At that time the Supreme Lord, Venkateswara, accepted Laxmi again, by giving her residence upon His chest. Then Laxmi and Srinivas returned to the ashram of Agatsya Muni, where Bakuladevi and Padmavati greeted them. Thus together they lived happily for long time, on the hill of Tirumala.
Srinivas ordered the brother of Akaash raj, whose name was Thondaman, to build a temple for Him. The temple was built, the demigods, the sages would come here to worship the Lord, every day, but the Lord decided that He had to return to Vaikuntha. On the request of all the demigods and the great devotees the Lord then right before their very eyes, he transformed His form into the deity of Sri Venkateswara, where He has been worshipped with great devotion by devotees, from thousands and thousands of years since.
Contest between Adi Sesha and Vayudeva
During the Dwapara yuga, Vayudeva (the Wind God) went to Vaikuntha to pay his obeisance to Lord Vishnu. The Lord was reclining in the company of Lakshmi. The doorway was guarded by Adisesha. Vayudeva was incensed when Adisesha prevented him from entering Vishnu’s mansion. Adisesha and Vayudeva began to fight with each other.
When Lord Vishnu intervened, each was boasting of his superior valour and supreme might. To test who was stronger, the Lord suggested that Adisesha encircle the Ananda hill, an off-shoot of the Meru mountain on its northern side, and that Vayudeva blow hard to try and dislodge the Ananda hill from Adisesha’s hold. The contest waxed furiously, and as the world trembled, Brahma, Indra and the other demigods requested Adisesha to yield victory to Vayudeva for the welfare of the world.
Obliging them, Adisesha released his hold on the hill. As a result, Adisesha and the Ananda hill were blown away to the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. Adisesha was dejected by his defeat. Lord Brahma and the others appealed to him by saying that he would be merged with the hill Venkatadri and Vishnu would reside on him. Adisesha then metamorphosed into the vast Seshadari, with his hood manifesting itself as Venkatadri sustaining Sri Venkateswara, his middle as Ahobila supporting Lord Nrsimhadeva, and his tail as Shrisailam bearing Lord Mallikarjuna (Lord Siva).
1. Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple
The ancient and sacred temple of Lord Venkateswara Swamy is located on the seventh peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) of the Tirupati Hill, and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swamy Pushkarini. It is by the Lord’s presidency over Venkatachala, that He has received the appellation, Venkateswara (Lord of the Venkata Hill). He is also called the Lord of the Seven Hills.
The Meaning of Venkateswara: ‘Vena’ means sin, like the great king Vena (as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), as he is the king of sins). ‘Vena’ means sins, and ‘kata’ means to remove, to wash away, or to cut. ‘Venkat’, means he who cuts away, or removes all sins. ‘Venkateswara’ means that Lord, who removes all sins from the hearts of His devotees.
It is these sinful propensities that stand between us and our ecstatic relationship with the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Many people come here asking for material benedictions. But when we approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, why should we ask Him for something as cheap and temporary and useless as something material. He is eager to give us, eternal wealth of the spiritual world. He is eager to give us pure bhakti. That treasure will bring about real happiness in our life. But as long as we have these sinful propensities, we cannot actually find real happiness.
In a higher sense any desire separate from pleasing Lord Krishna is sinful, because everyone is the property of God. Our mind is the property of the Lord, our body is the property of the Lord. To want to use anything for our own pleasure is actually stealing what belongs to the Lord for ourself. To claim proprietorship over anything is in the highest spiritual sense sinful, stealing. Even pious people are sinful from the spiritual point of view.
Meditations: So this is our prayer, Ven-kat-eshwar, we are not just concerned with that. The Lord removes the sinful reactions for our past sins; we are more concerned that He cleanses away that propensity to enjoy separate from Him, from within our heart. In the Christian religion and many other religions people go to the church, or the mosque, or the temple and pray to the lord to forgive for their sins. And certainly that begging for the forgiveness of our sins is required. However a real Vaishanva goes way beyond that. In fact a devotee doesn’t really want to avoid the reactions of sins. ‘My Lord if I have sinned then do whatever You want to punish me, I deserve worst. But please forgive me- give me whatever sinful reaction, give me whatever punishment is necessary, but please forgive me.’ And a devotee prays, ‘Please remove this tendency to enjoy apart from You. Remove this tendency for sense gratification and egoism that causes all these sins. And let me be Your unmotivated servant.’ This is a prayer of a Vaishanva. “na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye mama janmani janmaisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki” I do not want wealth or women, I do not want fame, or followers, not even liberation from sins. My Lord I want to serve you, unconditionally, birth after birth after birth. So the Lord here is called upon by the name Venkateswara. If we pray properly He will certainly respond to our prayers, and remove from the core of our heart desires for material enjoyment. That was Prahalad’s prayer to Lord Nrsimhadeva.
Garbha Gruha or sanctum is where the main deity of Lord Sri Venkateswara resides. Sri Venkateswara Swamy stands majestically in the Garbha Gruha, directly beneath a gilt dome called the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. This exquisitely-wrought deity called the Mulaberam, is self-manifested. Further, no human being is known to have installed it in the shrine. Ordinarily, the Lord wears a gold kiritam which has a large emerald embedded in front. On special occasions, He is adorned with a diamond kiritam. On His forehead, the Lord has a thick double patch of up wrought namam drawn with refined camphor, which screens his eyes. In between the two white patches is a kasturitilakam. His ears are bedecked with shining golden makara kundalas. The fist of His raised right hind hand is implanted with a gem-set chakra, and the corresponding left fist with the sankha. The slightly outstretched front right hand, has its fingers pointing to His lotus feet, as the only recourse for His devotees is to surrender to Him. His front left hand is akimbo to assure His devotees of protection, and to show that the samsara sagara is only hip-deep if they seek His refuge.
His body is clothed with a pitambaram tied with gold string, and a gold belt to which are attached tiny, jingling gold bells. He is adorned with precious ornaments. He has a yajno pavita flowing down cross-wise from His left shoulder. He bears Sri Lakshmi Devi on His right chest and Sri Padmavathi Devi on His left chest. He bears Nagabharanam ornaments on both shoulders. His lotus feet are covered with gold frames and decked with clinging gold anklets. A strong curved belt of gold encompasses His legs. During Abhishekam, we can have darshan of Lakshmi. Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the Garbha Gruha (beyond Kulasekara step).
Sapthagiri by-pass at Alipiri-Tirupati on the way to Tirumala Hills
Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple
Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple
Queue of devotees to have darshan of Lord Venkateswara Swamy and beautiful gardens around the Temple
A replica of Sanctum Sanctorum (Garba Griha) of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. Sri Devi, Bhu Devi, Sametha Malayappa Swamy (left), Lord Venkateswara Main Deity (center), Koluvu Srinivasa (center bottom, who dispenses daily rations and has previous day’s accounts read to Him around 4:30 am every morning), Ugra Srinivasa, Sri Sri Sita Rama Laxmana, Sri Krishna, Rukhmini (right).
Lord Venkateswara Balaji
Malayappa Swamy (Sri Venkateshwar Utsav murthi)
Festival at Tirumala
Abhishek of Lord Venkateswara Swamy (Utsava murti)
Devotees at Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vari Temple
Sri Venkateswara Swamy’s famous Ladoo Prasadam
Sri Anantacarya and Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati
[Ref. His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj’s Tirupati Yatra 2005]
One day, the great Ramanujacarya was giving a lecture on the writings of Nammalvar. He was glorifying Sri Tirupati. In the Sri Sampradaya, Sri Ranganatha at Srirangam is famous as the deity who enjoys wonderful bhoga. Sri Varadaraja in Kanchipuram is the Lord who makes great sacrifices for the welfare of His devotees. Sri Venkateswara in Tirumala especially enjoys accepting wonderful ornaments of flowers from His devotees. Sri Ramanujacarya was speaking in his headquarters in Srirangam surrounded by devotees. He inquired from those devotees, "Is there anyone amongst you who would go to Tirupati and live on that mountain to grow beautiful gardens of flowers and offer them to Balaji?" There was complete silence. In those days, approximately 900 years ago during the time of Sri Ramanujacarya, Tirumala was a very, very isolated place. Surrounded by forest, thick forest, with fierce, dangerous animals, no conveniences whatsoever, and worse than that, their Guru Maharaj, Ramanujacarya was living in Srirangam. Who wants to leave their Guru Maharaj to live in a far, distant place? The silence continued.
Then, one devotee of the name Anantacarya spoke up. "My dear Guru Maharaj, if it is your desire that I should go to Tirupati to make a flower garden for Balaji, then I will go with your blessing." Ramanujacarya's heart melted with happiness. He extolled the glories of this disciple who was so very dear to him, willing to make such sacrifices to execute the order of guru. Anantacarya at once, along with his wife, departed for the top of the mountain in the forest of Tirumala, walking all the way from Srirangam. He established a beautiful flower garden with his own hands. Every morning and evening he was offering those flowers in garlands to Venkateswara. He wanted to dig with his own hands, a nice tank of water for the pleasure of the deities. After completing it, he wanted to expand it to a bigger size. He had a spade. He was digging the earth, and putting it in a bucket. He would hand it to his wife. While he was continuing his digging with spade, his wife would empty the bucket some distance away. In this way, they were moving the dirt.
Balaji was so pleased to see their surrender, but he could not tolerate seeing them working so hard. So He took the form of a very beautiful young brahmana boy. He was wearing a nice golden dothi and jewelled earrings. The boy pleaded with Anantacarya: "You are working so hard, but I am young and strong. Please take Me with you today, I want to help you." Anantacarya responded that "You are a very young boy. Your body is very delicate. You should be enjoying life in your youth. I am an older man. My body is meant for this hard labour, so you enjoy your youthful pastimes, my child, and let me do this hard work." But the boy insisted, "Please, let Me help you. Take Me with you." Anantacarya became very emotional. He said, "My service is my nourishment, my food. It is my very life. If you take away my service, you take away my life. If you want to do something for the Lord, then go somewhere else and do it."
Balaji was disappointed. After some time, Anantacarya's wife became pregnant with child. In the disguise of that same brahmana, Balaji went to his wife secretly. "My dear lady, please, let Me help you to carry these buckets of dirt." "No, this is not possible," she said. "My husband already rejected Your proposal." Balaji told her, "You are working so hard, and you are carrying a baby in your womb." With a very enchanting voice, He said, "Let your husband fill the bucket. You take the bucket until you are out of his sight, then I'll take it, and I'll bring it the rest of the distance, and bring it back to you, and he will never know." She said, "Yes." After some time, Anantacarya asked his wife, "How is it that you are bringing the bucket back so fast?" She told him the whole story about this brahmana boy. He was very disturbed. This person was taking away their service to the Lord.
Devotional service is not a chore. It is not work. Devotional service is the greatest honour and the most cherished benediction. There are 8,400,000 species of life. The human form is very rare (durlabha manava-janma sat-sange). In this human form of life, the rarest thing is the association of devotees. Because in that association, we learn the process of service to the Lord. It is our eternal constitutional position (jivera svarupa loye krsnera nitya dasa), that the spirit's soul is the eternal servant of the Lord. Any service, it is such a great benediction. It has taken us millions of births to achieve. We should never take it as something ordinary.
Anantacarya had full realization of this truth. "Ha, this child is trying to take away my service to the Lord? There are so many different services this child could be doing for the Lord, why does He want to take the little service I have?" He became angry, picked up his digging spade, and chased after the little boy. The boy ran away, but He was running right behind. The boy climbed the tree. Anantacarya called out, "Come down, come down," but he refused to come down. Finally, the boy said, "I will give you My golden dothi and My earring." Anantacarya pretended to agree with Him. The boy came down, and immediately Anantacarya ran to punish Him. The little boy ran, and he ran, and just with a desire to scare Him, just to stop Him, he threw his spade in the direction of the boy. But it happened to scrape the boy's chin. The little boy kept running. Anantacarya was chasing after, the little boy ran right into Balaji's temple. Jumped in the deity room and closed the doors and locked them.
Some hours later, the pujari came. Anantacarya said, "A little boy ran in the deity room and He is still there, he hasn't come out yet." With great effort, he opened the door. Anantacarya saw something that melted his heart. That ancient, merciful deity of Sri Venkateswara, was standing giving his darshan with blood flowing from His chin. Anantacarya understood now that that little boy was the Lord Himself. He offered his obeisances again and again and begged forgiveness from the Lord. He made a mixture of camphor and other herbs and put it as a salve on the chin of the Lord. Lord Balaji spoke to him. He said, "I am very pleased with you, My devotee. You are so deeply absorbed in attachment to your devotional service to please Me. You have conquered My heart." The Lord bestowed all blessings upon him, and even to this day, for almost 900 years, Balaji has that camphor and herb potion put on His chin every day to glorify His devotee. And in the gopuram leading to Sri Balaji's temple, even to this day, is the spade of Anantacarya.
Sri Anantacarya in his old age lived in a beautiful garden and that garden is still there just a few minutes’ walk from Balaji's temple. The tank that he dug with his wife and the spade is still there. One day a year pujaries bring the deity out and they circumambulate the temple. Instead of keeping it on the right, they keep on the left. Would you like to know the reason? Because when Balaji was running away from Anantacarya after He was cut with the spade in the chin as He was running away. Before entering into the altar, He ran around the temple keeping it on His left side. Even today, almost a millennium later, the pujaris once a year in honour of Balaji's love for Anantacarya bring the deity on processions circumambulating the temple keeping to the left.
Sri Anantacarya, the disciple of Sri Ramanujacarya established a beautiful flower garden with his own hands for Lord Venkateswara about 900 years ago.
Sri Anantacarya Gardens at Tirumala
The tank that Sri Anantacarya dug with his wife
Anna Prasada Centre at Tirumala
Padi Potu: The Potu or main kitchen where the food-offerings for the main temple are prepared, is to the south of the Varadaraja Swamy shrine. Inside the Potu, there is a small shrine dedicated to Sri Maha Lakshmi, who is also called Potu Amma (lady of the kitchen) or Madapuli Nachiyar. She is identified with Vakulamalika, who was, according to the Puranas, sent by Varaha Swamy to be the house-keeper of Sri Venkateswara, when he resided on the hill. Vakulamalika is said to have arranged Lord Sri Venkateswara’s marriage with Padmavathi. In reality, she is regarded as Sri Maha Lakshmi and is worshipped as such. She is worshipped during Varalakshmi Vratam, in the month of Sravana. There is a similar deity of Sri Maha Lakshmi in the Padi Potu, another kitchen located in the Sampangi Pradakshinam. Rice prasadam is prepared in the inner Potu, while other Panyarams like laddus, vadas appams etc., are prepared in the Padi Potu.
There is special connection between Ahobilam and Tirupati. During the pastime of Lord Venkateswara’s marriage with Padmavati, the head cooks, Agni and Varun prepared a huge feast for millions of people and Vayu was appointed in-charge of serving. When the Lord saw all the bhoga which was prepared, He said that the bhoga has to be offered. Brahma asked, “Whom are You going to offer it to?” Lord Srinivas then replied that, “It should be offered to Lord Nrsimhadeva.” It is said that bhoga was offered to Ahobilam Narasimha in Ahobilam. In fact every year on the day of celebrating the marriage of Srinivas and Padmavati, the Sri Venkateswara temple sends a large donation to the Ahobilam Narasimha temple, just to show their appreciation for accepting the offerings on His marriage day.
2. Sri Adi Varaha Swamy Temple
According to legend, Tirumala was originally Adi Varaha Kshetra (dwelling place of Sri Bhu Varaha Swamy). According to Brahma Purana, it was with His permission that Lord Sri Venkateswara took up residence here. As a thanks giving gesture, Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy had gifted the privilege that pilgrims should first offer first darshan and first naivedyam (obeisances) to Sri Adi Varaha Swamy before visiting the Sri Venkateswara Temple. Sri Varaha Swamy Temple in Tirumala is to the north of the Sri Venkateswara Temple, on the banks of Swamy Pushkarini.
Pastime: As related in detail about this pastime above, while Varahadev was there, Lord Srinivas met Him. It was a very pleasant and loving reunion between these two Supreme Personalities. Lord Varahadev asked of Srinivas’s condition on earth and was told the whole story by the latter. Then Lord Srinivas told Varahadev, “I understand that actually You are the proprietor of this tract of land. In fact, You saved the earth, therefore You are really the proprietor of the earth, and especially this place where You are living. I therefore request You to kindly give Me some place where I can stay, on rent.” The Lord continued, “But because the goddess Laxmi has left Me, I don’t have any money. I do not know what will I give You in rent.” The Lord agreed, “Yes, all of My devotees before they come to worship Me, will first offer their prayers and worship You, in Your Varahadev form.”
Note: It is the tradition to this very day in Tirupati, that the proper way that we approach Sri Venkateshwar is by first offering our prayers and worships the Varaha form.
Varahadev then declared that the area of the anthill area would now belong to Lord Venkateshwar and He also told Him of a very loving motherly devotee, who personally served Him, whom, He would like to offer for the service of Sri Venkateshwar. He said, “She can cook for You, she could make this herbal paste for Your wounded head, she will do everything for You; she is Your mother. Her name is Bakula Mallika, also called Bakula devi.” According to Atri Samhita (Samurtarchanadhikara), the Varaha avatara is worshipped in three forms: Adi Varaha, Pralaya Varaha, Yajna Varaha. The deity of Sri Varaha Swamy in Tirumala is that of Adi Varaha, as it resembles the description of the Adi Varaha murti in Vaikhanasa Agama texts. Special abhishekam is performed every year, to the presiding deity in the holy month of Shravana on the auspicious occasion of Lord Varaha's appearance day.
Sri Adi Varaha Swamy at Tirumala
Sri Adi Varaha Swamy at Tirumala
3. Sri Swamy Pushkarini (Sacred Tank)
Sri Swamy Pushkarini is a lake from Vaikuntha which Garuda had brought down for Lord Varahadev’s pleasure. It was set on Earth by Garuda, for the sport of Sri Venkateswara. It is adjacent to the Sri Venkateswara temple. Pilgrims bathe here before entering the main temple.
The mukkoti of Swamy Pushkarini (the merging of over three crore tirthams in Swamy Pushkarini) occurs on Mukkoti Dwadasi (the 12th day of the fortnight of Dhanur Masa). Therefore, it is believed that bathing in the Swamy Pushkarini on this day, is equivalent to bathing in the holy river, Ganges. On the western bank of the Swamy Pushkarini is the Sri Varaha Swamy temple, while on its southern bank is the Sri Venkateswara temple. The wooden-float festival of Lord Sri Venkateswara in the month of Feb/Mar and Avabhrudhasnanam or Chakrasnanam during Brahmotsavam takes place in the Swamy Pushkarini.
Sri Swamy Pushkarini (Sacred Tank)
4. Srivari Padalu (Lotus Feet of Lord Venkateswara Swamy)
Srivari Padalu means “Lord Venkateswara’s Feet”. is the very place where Lord Venkateswara set His feet first. It is the first place on the Narayanagiri Hills, one of the seven divine hills, where His sacred feet touched the ground. Narayanagiri Hills is said to be the highest hill among all the Tirumala Hills. This place is mentioned in the Vedas. Srivari Padalu is in Tirumala, about 3km from Sri Venkateswara Temple near Silathoranam. Pilgrims can reach the site after climbing more than 300 steps and offer prayers. Due to some unforeseen situations accompanied by exposure to harsh weather conditions led to slight damage of the relic. Owing to this, TTD has made arrangements that now the divine footprints of the Lord Venkateswara are enclosed in a glass frame, positioned on a stable rock foundation.
Srivari Padalu - Lotus Feet of Lord Venkateswara Swamy
5. Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple and Hathiram Baba Samadhi
Sri Venu Gopla Swamy temple is located in Tirumala on the route to Papavinsam tirtham.
Hathiram Baba or Saint Bhavaji in Tirupati:
Lord Venkateswara Balaji Himself playing the game of dice with great devotee Hathiram Baba
An ardent devotee of Lord Ramacandra from Northern part of India visited Tirumala on pilgrimage. His name was Bhavaji. He was so fascinated by the majestic appearance of the Lord that he decided to stay in Tirumala forever, having darshan of the Lord all the time. He constructed a Mutt (a place where the saints live near the temples) and settled there. Bhavaji used to have the darshan of the Lord at least thrice a day. Still, he wasn’t satisfied of his darshan. He used to look at the Lord unmoved for long. This continued for a few weeks. Temple employees have observed Bhavaji visiting the temple and gazing at the lord continuously for longer times. Finding suspicious about his acts, they reported the matter to the Temple Authorities. Next day when Bhavaji entered the temple premises to have the darshan of the Lord, he was pushed out of the temple without allowing him to have his Rama’s darshan. He pleaded not to separate him from his Lord Rama. No one listened to his cry. Instead, he was warned not to enter the temple for Lord’s darshan again. A sad and dejected Bhavaji returned to his Mutt.
After getting back to the Mutt, he cried with the Lord. Hey Lord! My Rama! What is my fault? Is it a sin to have your darshan? You know it very well that I can’t live without having your darshan. Why you punished me this way? What am I supposed to do now? Next morning, Bhavaji went to the temple as usual to have the darshan of the Lord. But, he was pushed out of the gate. A dejected Bhavaji retuned back to his Mutt. He was not sure how to pass his time without having the Lord’s darshan. He then took up a dice board and started playing the dice himself assuming that he was playing with the Lord on the other side. He himself used to throw his dice and the Lord’s dice on His behalf. In this way, he played the game all along the day and fell asleep. When he was in a deep sleep at night, he heard a pleasant voice calling, Bhavaji! Wake up! It’s me, Your Rama! Bhavaji opened his eyes and saw the Lord standing in front of him. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Is it real or a dream? Amazed Bhavaji asked the Lord. The Lord replied that it wasn’t his dream. He really visited him to play dice with him. There was no boundary to the happiness of Bhavaji. A jubilant Bhavaji laid a mat on the floor and sat with the Lord Balaji to play the dice. Bhavaji defeated the Lord in his game. The Lord then asked Bhavaji to seek any boon against his victory over Him. Bhavaji politely said, Hey Lord, what can I ask You more than this? I am satisfied with Your Vishwaroopa darshan. I do not need any material pleasure or wealth. Give me a little place at Your feet to serve You. I need no favour than this. A pleased Lord blessed Bhavaji and vanished with a promise to get back for the game again.
Next day, Bhavaji excitedly waited for the sun to set so that he again plays dice with the Lord. Finally the wait was over. When the temple doors were shut at night, the Lord moved out of his Ananda Nilayam and visited Bhavaji to play the game of dice. After finishing the game, the Lord returned back to Ananda Nilayam promising to come back again. It became a regular practice for the Lord to visit the Mutt and spend time playing dice with Bhavaji at night when the temple doors were closed. One day when the Lord was playing dice with Bhavaji, He heard a voice of someone calling Bhavaji. The Lord asked Bhavaji to go and check it out. When Bhavaji went out to see if anyone was there, he found none. He then returned back to inform the Lord, but he found that the Lord has already left the place without informing him. When he picked up the dice board to keep it safe, he saw a diamond studded necklace of the Lord lying at the board. He picked up the necklace and kept it safe thinking that the Lord might have forgotten it and he would return when He comes back to play next time.
Next morning when Pradhana Archaka was getting ready to give bath to the Lord, noticed a missing necklace. He then took it to the notice of Temple Authorities. The Temple Authority was worried about the theft of Lord’s necklace. All the employees were called up on and enquired about the missing necklace. The Pradhana Archaka informed the management about the incident of Bhavaji in the recent past and straightaway raised suspicion over him. The Temple authorities ordered to get Bhavaji for enquiry.
On the other hand Bhavaji was waiting for Lord’s arrival to play the game of dice. For long, the Lord hasn’t come to play. In the meantime, he heard someone shouting his name at the doorsteps. By the time he reached there, the soldiers got in and started searching all over the place. Bhavaji was surprised to see them searching all over. He tried to enquire what was going on. He was told that someone has stolen the Lord’s necklace. Bhavaji immediately understood what they were looking for and got the necklace he held it safely to return the Lord when he visits again. Is this the necklace you were looking for? Asked Bhavaji! One of the soldier said, here you go. You have stolen the Lord’s necklace. You are under arrest! Bhavaji pleaded his innocence but they haven’t listened any of his word. They arrested and took him to the temple authorities. On enquiry by the Temple authorities, Bhavaji told them that the Lord used to visit his Mutt and play dice with him every night when the temple doors were shut. The Lord had forgotten His necklace at my Mutt after playing the game yesterday. When I noticed, I picked up the necklace and kept it safe to return back when He comes again. The Pradhana Archaka of the temple raised his eyebrows and said; we have been doing all sorts of poojas and sevas every day to the Lord for so many years, the Lord hasn’t appeared to us and He appeared to you? Moreover He played dice game with you? Whom are you bluffing? Are you a greater devotee than us? There should be a limit of speaking false. Some of the Authorities suggested presenting him before the King’s courtyard for justice. The next morning, he was presented in the courtyard of the Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya, as a culprit who had stolen the necklace of the Lord. After listening to the charges, Sri Krishnadevaraya asked Bhavaji’s explanation. Bhavaji explained all that had happened with him. The Emperor felt him very innocent. He thought it would be unjust to punish him without sufficient proof and proper investigation. He therefore, decided to put Bhavaji on test. Sri Krishnadevaraya told Bhavaji that he will be given an opportunity to prove himself innocent. For this, he will be dumped with heaps of sugarcane in the cell and if he succeeds in consuming the entire heaps of sugarcane by the wake of the dawn tomorrow; he will be released innocent and if he fails to do so, he will be punished for the theft.
Bhavaji never perturbed. He had no choice but to accept the Emperor’s decision. He was then taken to the prison cell and tons of sugarcane heaps were dumped before him and locked the doors of the cell. Bhavaji sat in the corner, closed his eyes and prayed the Lord. Hey Lord! I am innocent and you know the fact very well. I have been charged of theft and put on test of eating this sugarcane heaps. Hey Rama! It’s not my test. They have put You on test. They want to test Your existence in this world. If anything I need in this life is a little place before Your feet to serve You till my last breath. He left everything on the shoulders of the Lord and immersed in deep penance. A little later, a giant Elephant appeared in the cell and by the wake of the dawn, the Elephant ate all the heaps of sugarcane dumped there for Bhavaji. The Elephant then awake Bhavaji from his penance with its trunk. Bhavaji was surprised to see an Elephant in the cell. When he saw the entire heaps of sugarcane were finished, he realized that his Rama has arrived for his rescue and immediately fell upon His feet and cried Rama…! Oh Rama..! My Rama…! You have come up for my rescue. How lucky am I? The Elephant then blessed Bhavaji with its trunk and trumpeted at loud. On hearing the Elephant’s trumpet, the guards peeped through the key wholes and wondered to see an Elephant inside a locked cell. They immediately rushed to the authorities and informed the matter. Meanwhile, the Elephant broke open the doors and ran away immediately. Some guards tried to follow the Elephant but it disappeared thereafter.
When the Emperor visited Bhavaji, he was found gazed at the direction where the Elephant has left, repeatedly uttering a word “Hathiram..!” When asked, who was Hathiram and how the elephant entered the prison cell? Bhavaji told that his Rama has come in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) to save him. Everyone who had assaulted him on the charges of theft exclaimed at the great devotion of Bhavaji. One and all had accepted his devotion to Lord Balaji is eternal. The Pradhan Archaka in particular begged his pardon for the assaults made on him out of pride and ego.
Sri Krishnadevaraya relieved him of all charges and appointed Bhavaji as the Pradhana Archaka of the temple of Tirumala. He happily obeyed the orders of the Emperor as he got a life time opportunity to serve his Lord. Since the Baba Bhavaji’s beloved Lord “Sri Rama” has personally come to the rescue of Bhavaji in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) he has been named as Hathiram Baba. As a Pradhana Archaka of the Temple, Bhavaji served the Lord for many years. He later sacrificed his soul to the Lord and entered into a Jeeva Samadhi. His body was cremated near Venu Gopala Swamy Temple on the way to Papavinasam on the hills of Tirumala. A Samadhi of Hathiram Baba had been constructed there and daily pooja is being performed even today. People visiting Venu Gopala Swamy Temple pay their homage to this great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. The Hathiram Baba Mutt built on the southern side of the main Balaji temple in Tirumala is in his remembrance.
Conclusion: I hope many might have now really understood that Hathiram Baba’s real name was Bhavaji and he was called Hathiram Baba not because he was fat like a Hathi or Elephant but because his beloved Lord Ramacandra has come to his rescue in the form of a Hathi, when he was in danger. The Jeeva Samadhi of great saint Hathiram Baba still exists near Venu Gopala Swamy Temple on the way to Papavinasam on Tirumala Hills. Pilgrims visiting Venu Gopala Swamy surely pays homage to this great saint’s Samadhi and seeks his blessings. If anybody had been there and returned back without paying homage to this great saint’s Samadhi in ignorance, please do so if you visit the Samadhi next time around. You can also find the Samadhi of many other saints all around the place out there. You can find Hathiram Baba Mutt on the southern side of the Venkateswara Temple of Tirumala near the main entrance built up at an elevated place, in remembrance of the great saint Hathiram. You can also visit there to know more about this great saint.
Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Tirumala
Lord Venkateswara Balaji Himself playing the game of dice with great devotee Hathiram Baba
Samadhi of Hathiram Baba
Lord Sri Venu Gopala
6. Akasha Ganga Tirtham
Located 3 km north of Tirumala main temple, Akasha Ganga Tirtham is the most sacred waterfall near Tirupati. Akasha Ganga literally means Ganga from the heavens. Here, however, Akash Ganga tirtham refers to a waterfall on the Tirumala hills. Pastime: Once, Tirumalai Nambi, one of the most ardent devotees of the Lord, was carrying water from Papavinasam to the temple. He was met along the way by an old hunter, who asked him for water to quench his thirst. Tirumalai Nambi refused, saying that the water was meant for the Lord; and not for an untouchable like the hunter. At this, the hunter pierced the pot with his arrow and drank all the water. When Tirumalai Nambi protested, the hunter drew his bow and directed an arrow at the hillock, from which gushed out water. As Tirumalai Nambi stood, mesmerized by the sight, the hunter asked the sage to use the pure water for the Lord’s bath, and disappeared. Tirumalai Nambi was now convinced that the hunter was none other than the Lord himself, and from then, water from here is used for the Lord. It is believed that this waterfall originates at the feet of the Lord himself!
It is from this falls, water has been carried for abhisekam (bathing) the main deity of Sri Venkateswara Swamy. In ancient period, priestess walks on the rough terrain into the Jungle where the Akash Ganga Waterfalls is situated to bring the water in early hours of morning. Now after the establishment of Tirupathi Thirumala Devasthanam (TTD), pipelines were laid out to simplify the task.
Akasha Ganga Tirtham
Akash Ganga Tirtham
7. Papavinasam Tirtham
Papavinasam is one of the sacred and prominent tirtham in Tirumala located 6 km from the main temple. A holy bath in this tirtha will purify the sins of the devotees. The prominence of this tirtha are also mentioned in Skanda Purana. It is believed that this water comes from the lotus feet of Lord. This was a natural waterfall, but the water is arranged to flow from the mouth of lions shaped sculptures.
8. Silathoranam (bridge)
Silathoranam is one of the few natural bridges or arches to be found in Asia. It is a natural rock formation and has the peculiar shape that appears to be the hood of a serpent and a conch. This is perhaps why it is believed that the deity of Lord Venkateswara at the Tirumala is exactly of the same height as the Silathoranam. The assessed geological age of the rock arch is 2.5 million years.
Silathoranam (bridge) at Tirumala
Other Tirtha’s in Tirumala:
Besides above, there are several tirthas in Tirumala, some of them are Pandava Tirtha, Kumaradhara Tirtha, Tumbhuru Tirtha, Ramakrishna Tirtha, Chakra Tirtha, Vaikuntha Tirtha, Sesha Tirtha, Sitamma Tirtha, Pasupu Tirtha, Jupali Tirtha, Sanaka Sanandana Tirtha.
9. ISKCON Tirupati (Hare Krishna) - Sri Sri Radha Govinda Temple
Goloka in Vaikuntha
ISKCON has a magnificent Temple in Tirupati - Sri Sri Radha Govinda Ji and Asta-sakhis, which is visited by hundreds of pilgrims daily. Temple is situated at the foot hills of Tirumala. Temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims daily, and has several facilities including Guest House, famous Govindas restaurant, Gift shops, Goshala, Auditorium and Prasadam stalls in the temple premises.
The Beginning days: When ISKCON’s Founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, visited Tirumala and Tirupati in 1974, he spoke with administrators of the Venkateswara temple. He encouraged them to join with ISKCON for the glorification of Lord Venkateswara (Krishna) throughout the world. Indian-born Sankha-bhrt dasa heard these discussions and took heart. Over the years Sankha-bhrt dasa served in nearby Bangalore and Hyderabad. As a natural result of his preaching activities, he developed good relations with the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the board of trustees in charge of the management and development in the region. In 1981 Sankha-bhrt decided to preach in Tirupati. Mr. P.V.K. Prasad, the executive officer of the TTD at that time, provided an apartment for Sankha-bhrt and his family. Sankha-bhrt dasa and his wife began to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books and Back to Godhead magazine door to door and at the bus and train stations. Sankha-bhrt: “My idea was to have a big book distribution program, taking the help of TTD for printing books in the South Indian languages. Later on, HH Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja visited, and he was very impressed with the potential here for preaching. He thought we should build here, so he advised me to request Mr. Prasad to donate a hundred acres of land. Our proposal was rejected. Mr. Prasad, seeing that I was alone, felt we couldn’t make use of so much land.” At every opportunity Sankha-bhrt reminded Mr. Prasad of Srila Prabhupada’s vision: TTD and ISKCON working together in the service of Lord Venkateswara. Gradually other devotees joined, and Sankha-bhrt expanded his preaching programs. In 1982-83, HH Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the scientific preaching arm of ISKCON, arranged a number of conferences and seminars in the local schools and colleges. This greatly impressed the people of Tirupati with the scope and purity of ISKCON’s programs for presenting Krishna consciousness on all levels and to all people.
In 1983 Mr. Prasad paid a visit to Sridham Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya and the site of ISKCON’s largest project in India. Sankha-bhrt: “When Mr. Prasad returned from Mayapur, he was very enthusiastic to do something to help us. It was a crucial time, because his term as executive officer was coming to an end. I had no idea if the next officer would be as favorable as Mr. Prasad, so I said, ‘Forget about the one hundred acres. I humbly beg you to give me a piece of land, whatever you can manage, and we will develop something on it.” He said, “O.K. Tomorrow morning come early to my office. I have a place in mind.”
“The next morning I went to Mr. Prasad’s office, but they told me he had gone to my apartment. I rushed back and found him with a crew of about 20 workers marking off some property and clearing the land. It was about 50 acres covered with thorns and bushes, and it was very uneven. Mr. Prasad said, “I am allotting you this piece of land, and these people will clear it for you.” He could see I was a little disappointed because the land looked so rough and so out of the way, but he said to me, “Don’t worry. You don’t know the future of this place. It will be one of the best locations in Tirupati, considering the plans for development of this city. It will be a good place for your preaching work.” He also gave 70,000 rupees for us to build an asrama and bhajana hall.” Soon a small temple was constructed to temporarily house the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, who had been installed in the summer of 1984. At present, Sankha-bhrt is busily raising funds for developing the property. Plans include an ornate temple, a 300-room modern guesthouse, a gurukula school and landscaped gardens.
Sankha-bhrt: “From here we will be able to preach to people all over the world, just by preaching in Tirupati. Everyone comes here on their way to Tirumala. I prayed very hard to Srila Prabhupada to make this happen, and now it is all coming to pass. In the future the bus station will be moved near here, and all the buses will go past our project on the way to Tirumala. We’ve hardly started our work, yet already we get several busloads of people a day. We will be able to distribute Krishna conscious books in every Indian language. It is significant that the TTD has given us this land. Every religious group, yoga organization, and what-have-you in India has tried to get a place here. Some have been trying for years. They want to come because to be in Tirupati is prestigious. And Tirupati is the wealthiest temple in all of India. If the TTD, which controls a lot of that wealth, decides to back some project, that project will flourish. But the TTD hasn’t allowed any of these groups to come in. ISKCON is the exception. That’s because we are preaching the scriptural conclusions without deviating, without concocting anything. We follow the prescribed dharma for the age, chanting the holy names of the Lord, and we are convincing people to live a spiritual life. The TTD trustees like us. They want us to work with them to give people real religion. Srila Prabhupada’s vision is coming true.”
Nothing developed until 1996, when HH Jayapataka Swami, ISKCON’s governing body commissioner for Tirupati, revived the project. He appointed Revati Ramana Das temple president and asked him to wholeheartedly pursue the project’s development. Revati Ramana was willing, but progress didn’t come easy. “We began with a handful of devotees and meager finances,” said Revati Ramana, “but by the mercy of the Lord we carried on and in 1999 we held the ground-blessing ceremony for a magnificent new temple. Gradually more devotees came. With the help of a group of dedicated brahmacharis and the blessings of the Vaishnavas, things really got going.”
Building with Books: To raise money for the temple, Revati Ramana employed a strategy to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books on Krishna consciousness. Tirupati is purely a pilgrimage place, without much business or industry; the major source of livelihood for the local people is visitors. “We decided to develop a program for book sales,” said Revati Ramana. “Every day nearly 50,000 people visit this holy place.” The T.T.D. granted ISKCON permission to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books in the temples under T.T.D. jurisdiction. “The T.T.D people like us,” said Revati Ramana, “because we are preaching the same age-old sanatana-dharma that they follow.” Each day the devotees set up six book tables: two in the Tirumala Hills, one each at the Govindaraja and Padmavati temples in Tirupati, and two at the ISKCON temple. Thousands of people see the devotees and interact with them, and the devotees distribute thousands of books every day. Book sales raised nearly 60% of the cost of building the temple.
The Temple: The temple is a beautiful synthesis of traditional South Indian temple architecture and modern facilities. The temple domes display sculptures of Lord Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and Nrisimha. The temple has one svagata-gopuram (welcome tower, representing the Lord’s feet), one raja-gopuram (grand tower, representing the Lord’s navel), one vimana-gopuram (tower above the deities’ chamber, representing the Lord’s head), and four corner domes representing the four yugas, or Vedic ages. Marble steps lead visitors to the carved front doors and a 1st-floor veranda that encircles the auditorium. Two staircases in this front entry take devotees upstairs to the temple hall. The temple hall is a masterpiece of decoration.
Along the walls, huge bas-reliefs in carved wooden frames depict pastimes of the Lord. And tall three-piece windows boast colored, etched floral designs, along with images of Balaji, His consort Padmavati, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda and Their lotus feet with all the auspicious markings, and the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna. The presiding deities Sri Radha-Govinda, Ashta Sakhi (the eight principal gopis), Lord Caitanya, and Giriraja grace the temple altar.
The temple is designed to impart spiritual training and education. Thus the first floor houses a multimedia theater and auditorium. The ground floor contains both a hall that can seat one thousand devotees and dioramas along the walls that depict scriptural truths and pastimes. There is also a well-furnished five-story guesthouse with conference rooms and a Govinda’s Restaurant beside the temple.
Goloka in Vaikuntha: Tirupati is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for the Sri Vaishnavas, who worship the Lord in the awe and reverence, or the Vaikuntha mood. Now by building this temple of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, the Ashta Sakhis, and Lord Caitanya, ISKCON has brought the intimate loving mood of Vrindavana to Tirupati. Thus not only has Srila Prabhupada’s cherished desire been fulfilled, but the doors of Goloka have been opened for the residents of Vaikuntha.
ISKCON Tirupati Temple
ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Sri Sri Radha Govinda Ji and Asta-sakhis at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Sri Sri Radha Govinda Ji at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-acarya of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Garuda at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Gifts shop at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Govinda’s restaurant at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Govinda Goshala at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
ISKCON Tirupati Temple
Large auditorium at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
One of the diorama’s at ISKCON Tirupati Temple
The four pillars of Dharma are destroyed by four bad habits. The principle of Non-violence is destroyed by Meat eating (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.26.13). Illicit Sex breaks the principle of Purity (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.26.20). Intoxication breaks the principle of Austerity (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.26.29). Gambling breaks the principle of Truthfulness (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.26.19).
ISKCON Tirupati Temple
10. Sri Padmavathi Ammavari Temple, Tiruchanoor
Sri Padmavathi Temple is the temple dedicated to Goddess Padmavathi or Alamelumanga, the consort of Lord Venkateswara. Tiruchanoor, the abode of Goddess Sri Padmavati Devi, is one of the highly venerated places in the South, located 5 km from Tirupati. Temple attracts thousands of devout pilgrims every day. This pilgrim center is popularly known as “Alarmelmangapuram” (Alar-Lotus, Mel-top, Manga-Goddess, Puram-town) or Alimelumangapuram. 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 Swamy and Surya-Narayana Swamy. According to the pastime, the Padmavathi manifested Herself as Alamelu to Akasha Raja, the ruler of this region in the holy Pushkarini called Padmasarovaram in a golden lotus. A temple dedicated to Lord Surya-Narayana is situated on the eastern side of the Pushkarini. Padma Purana gives a vivid description of the advent of the Goddess and subsequent wedding with Lord Srinivasa. The manifestation of Sri Padmavati Devi occurred in the month of Kartika on Sukla Paksha Panchami. Brahmotsavam is celebrated with all pomp and glory to commemorate the auspicious occasion of Her avatara.
Tiruchanoor Sri Padmavathi Ammavari Temple
Padmasarovaram and Sri Padmavathi Temple (background), Tiruchanoor
11. Sri Govinadaraja Swamy Temple
Sri Govindaraja Swamy temple is one the most important and ancient temples located in the heart of the temple city - Tirupati. Renowned Sri Vaishnavaite, Saint Ramanujacarya consecrated this temple in 1130 AD. Before Lord Sri Govindaraja Swamy, Sri Parthasarathi Swamy was the presiding deity of this temple. Sri Govindaraja Swamy is the elder brother of Sri Venkateswara Swamy, who accomplished the ever-magnificent marriage between Sri Venkateswara Swamy and Padmavathi Ammavaru. Sri Govindaraja Swamy was the caretaker of massive wealth being obtained from king Kuvera for conducting the wedding. He efficiently utilized this wealth to conduct one of the most glorious weddings of the history.
Temple Legend: The ardent Saiva devotee a Chola King named Krimikantha had hatred towards Lord Vishnu, destroyed all the Vishnu temples in his kingdom. The deities of Sri Govindaraja Swamy in recline posture along with Sridevi and Bhudevi were immersed into sea near a sacred place called Chitrkuta (Chidambaram) at that time. Some Srivari Shnavas brought the deities of Sri Govindaraja Swamy along with His consorts to Tirupati without the knowledge of the Chola king and started performing the worship. After the situation at Chidambaram returned to normalcy, the Deity of Lord Sri Govindaraja Swamy was taken back to Chidambaram from Tirupati. One day, Sri Ramanujacarya had a vision of Lord Govindaraja Swamy in his dream. He was advised by the Lord to make arrangements for Him to reside in Tirupati. Knowing this, Sripad Ramanujacarya with the help of then king and his disciple Yadavaraya, made new deities and along with Them the Utsava-murthies brought from Chidambaram were installed at a sacred place in Tirupati and performed worship similar to that of Tirumala as per tradition of Vaikhanasaagama. By the southern side of Govindaraja Swamy is the deity of Andal (Godadevi). Since then as per instruction by Ramanujacarya the worship is being performed by T.T.D. in a systematic manner.
The sub-temples in its premises are: Sri Partha Sarathi Swamy Temple, Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple, Sri Andal Temple, Sri Salai Nachiyar Ammavari Temple, Sri Ramanuja Temple, Sri Vyasaraya Anjaneya Swamy Temple, Sri Tirumangai Alwar Temple, Sri Kurath Alwar Temple, Sri Madhurakavi Alwar Temple, Sri Chakrathalwar Temple, Sri Mudal Alwar Temple, Sri Manavala Mahamuni Temple, Sri Vedantha Desikar Temple, Sri Woolu Alwar Temple, Sri Anjaneyaswami Temple, Sri Nammalwar Temple, Sri Sanjeevaraya Swamy Temple, Sri Eduru Anjaneya Swamy Temple.
Sri Govindaraja Swamy Temple at Tirupati
Utsava Deities Sri Govindaraja Swamy
Deities of Alwars at Sri Govindaraja Swamy Temple
12. Sri Kodandarama Swamy Temple
The ancient Sri Kodandarama Swamy Temple is situated in the heart of Tirupati, commemorates the visit of Lord Ramacandra, Sita Devi and Laxmana to Tirupati. In token of the visit of Sri Sri Sita, Rama and Laxmana to this place, Their deities were consecrated and in later days the emperor Janamejaya renovated this temple as per the evidence available in “Sawal Jawab patti”. According to local belief, Jambavan consecrated the deities in the temple and later that was renovated by emperor Janamejaya. It was later believed that the deities were found to emperor Janamejaya in the local Ramacandra Pushkarini (a sacred tank). According to the inscriptions Sri Narasimha Mudiliar constructed this temple in year saka 1402 (1480 AD). the devotees can have the darshan of the main deity very near from Sayana mandiram. In this temple Sri Kodandarama Swamy with Laxmana to His left is in standing posture. Sita Devi is on right of Sri Kodandarama Swamy.
The Panchaberams - Mulavarlu, Koutuka murties, Utsava murties, Snapana murties, Bali murties (Dhruva murties) are being worshipped daily. Sri Bhaktaanjaneya Swamy, Sri Chakattalwar and Sri Tandava Krishna (Sayana seva) can also be seen in this temple. Lord Ramacandra is prayed with folded hands chanting the sloka: Sri Rama Rama Raameti Rame Raame manorame | Sahasranama thathulyam Ramanama varaanane || Since 2007, every year three days Float festival is being performed in Sri Ramacandra Pushkarini.
Sri Kodandarama Swamy Temple at Tirupati
Sri Kodandarama Swamy Temple
13. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple, Srinivasa Mangapuram
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy temple is situated at an easily commutable distance of 12 km to the west Tirupati. According to legend, after celebrating His marriage with Goddess Padmavathi, Lord Venkateswara did not immediately return to Tirumala hills. But instead He visited the sage Agasthya's ashram to seek blessings. Over the wish of sage Agastya, Lord Venkateswara along with His consort stayed at his humble ashram which has now become the famous temple. The divine couple stayed here for 6 months. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara and is referred to as Kalyana Venkateswara. The deity is facing west and is in standing posture.
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy temple at Srinivasa Mangapuram
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy (Utsava murti)
14. Sri Kapileswara Swamy Temple
Sri Kapileswara Swamy Temple is the only temple dedicated to Lord Siva in Tirupati. It is situated about 3 km to the north of Tirupati, at the foot of the Tirumala Hills. The sacred waterfall called Kapila Tirtham (also known as Alwar Tirtham) is located here. Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple, Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy Temple and Sri Vinayaka Swamy Temple on the Second Ghat Road are sub-temples which function under the control of the Kapileswara Swamy Temple.
Sacred waterfall called Kapila Tirtham (also known as Alwar Tirtham) is located at Sri Kapileswara Swamy Temple
Sri Kapileswara Swamy
15. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Narayanavanam
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Narayanavanam is a very special temple; Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy and Sri Padmavathi, the daughter of Akasha Raja were married here. A hand mill (grinding stone) that was used at the time of Divine marriage is still present at the temple. Padmavathi’s brother build two Temples; one is here, another in Tirumala to commemorate this occasion. It is one of the few temples where we can see Venkateswara Swamy with both Padmavathi Devi and Maha Lakshmi in a single temple complex. This temple has four small shrines of Sri Padmavati, Andal, Sri Prayaga Madhava Swamy and Sri Varadaraja Swamy. In addition to these, there are five more temples to the main one. These are dedicated to Sri Parasareswara Swamy, Sri Veerabadhra Swamy, Sri Sakthi Vinayaka Swamy, Sri Agatheeswara Swamy and Sri Avanakshamma. Temple is located at a distance of 35 km from Tirupati on the way to Chennai and is 5 km from Puttur.
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Narayanavanam near Puttur
Divine marriage of Goddess Padmavathi with Lord Venkateswara Swamy
A hand mill (grinding stone) that was used at the time of Divine marriage of Goddess Padmavathi with Lord Venkateswara Swamy is still present at the temple.
16. Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple at Nagalapuram
Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple is one of the most important temple dedicated to ‘Matsya avatar’ (Fish), the First incarnation of Lord Sri Krishna. The presiding deity is Sri Vedanarayana Perumal. This temple is called Mathsya Avatar Sthalam. According to the legend, a demon king called Somukasura once stole the four Vedas and kept them in his custody under the sea. Lord Brahma was worried as the whole world cannot function without the presence of Vedas. He went and pleaded to Lord Vishnu to save the Vedas and the universe. Lord Vishnu, took the avatar in the form of a fish (Mathsya in Sanskrit), went deep into the sea and fought with Somukasura. Somukasura was defeated in the battle by Lord Vishnu, who brought back four Vedas and handed over to Lord Brahma safely. As Lord saved Vedas here, He is known as Sri Veda Narayana Perumal. The Lord is seen here in Mathsya Avatar is in a standing posture, with His fish-like tail clearly visible, along with His consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. Another important feature is that the Sudarshana Chakra in one of His hands is ready to let loose in an attacking posture. This ancient and vast temple was built during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. Also Krishnadeva Raya had named this town as Nagalapuram in memory of his mother Nagamba.
Another rarity of this temple is the Surya Puja which happens annually on the 12th, 13th and 14th days of the month of Phalguna. The sun’s rays fall on the main deity between 18:00 hrs and 18:15 hrs. On the first day, they fall on the feet, on the second - on the chest and on the third - on the forehead, depicting worship by Sri Surya Narayana. All this happens not from the ceiling or any opening in the temple, but from the entrance of the temple. The deity is about 600 meters from the main Gopuram entrance and the Sun’s rays have to pass through such a distance to fall directly on the deity. This event signifies Sun God’s (Surya) Seva to the Lord to warm up his chilled body, as the Lord has been under water for many years during his war against Somukasura. Large numbers of people throng this temple to witness this rare event. The most important annual festivals in this temple are Brahmotsavam. Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple is located in Nagalapuram, 70 km south-east of Tirupati.
Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple at Nagalapuram
Entrance of Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple
Sri Vedanarayana Perumal ‘Matsya avatar’ (Fish), the First incarnation of Lord Sri Krishna
17. Sri Kariya Manikya Swamy Temple at Nagari (Gajendra Moksha)
This ancient temple is also called Sri Perumal Swamy Temple and is located in Nagari, 51 km from Tirupati. It is believed that Lord Sri Krishna killed Makara (a crocodile) and saved Gajendra (an elephant) at this place. This pastime is referred as Gajendra Moksham. Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 8 chapters 2 to 4 describe Gajendra moksha pastime. (http://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/8/2 )
Sri Kariya Manikya Swamy Temple at Nagari
Sri Kariya Manikya Swamy Temple is associated with Gajendra moksha pastime
Sri Perumal Swamy at Sri Kariya Manikya Swamy Temple
18. Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Karvetinagaram
At the ancient majestic location of Karvetinagaram, 42 km from Tirupati and 13 km from Puttur, there is an important Lord Krishna temple renowned as the Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple Karvetinagaram. This is the only Krishna temple located in the vicinity of Tirupati depicting the Childhood of Lord Krishna. This Temple beholds the beautiful deity of Venugopala Krishna, an eternally charming Lord Krishna holding flute and His favourite pot of butter kept at the feet. The Lord is positioned in-front of a cow. Deities of Srimati Rukmini Devi and Satyabhama are also on the main altar. This temple has rich historical background. It has been a holy place for pilgrims since many decades. Many priests and poets have spoken and written about Sri Venugopala Swamy Temple. The poet and singer, Sarangapani, has contributed more than 200 padams, admiring the Lord Sri Venugopala Swamy of Karvetinagaram and His gracious presence in our lives. Many important festivals are celebrated here with great fervour and devotion. Annual Brahmotsavams, a 10 day long festival which is celebrated during the month of April or May (Vaishaka), is one of the most popular festivals of this temple. There is another shrine for Lord Ramacandra accompanied by Sita Devi, Laxmana and Anjaneya. Also there are shrines for Parthasarthy, Avanakshamma and Renuka Parameshwari, and Skanda Pushkarini.
Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Karvetinagaram
Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Karvetinagaram
Sri Venu Gopala Swamy along with Srmati Rukmini Devi and Satyabhama
Lord Ramacandra accompanied by Sita Devi, Laxmana and Anjaneya (Hanuman)
Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple at Karvetinagaram
19. Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Appalayagunta
This place, which is 16 km from Tirupati, is believed to have been the resting place for Lord Venkateswara during His voyage to Tirumala. Lord Venkateswara also bestowed blessings on Sri Siddeshwara and other sages here after His marriage with Sri Padmavathi. This temple has its uniqueness with the presiding deity of Lord Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy in 'Abhaya Hasta Posture’ (Blessing hand). Another important feature of this ancient temple is the presence of Lord Vayu - wind God. The temple was constructed by the King of Karvetinagaram, Sri Venkata Perumalaraju Brahmadeva Maharaj in the year 1232 AD and consists shrine of Anjaneya Swamy located opposite to the temple. The temple also contains deities of Goddess Padmavathi and Andal Devi within the temple. The Abhishekam that takes place every Friday in this temple is very famous.
Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Appalayagunta
Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Appalayagunta
Lord Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy at Appalayagunta
20. Sri Kalahasti
Sri Kalahasti Temple is located in the town of Srikalahasti, 36 km from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The temple is also regarded as Dakshina Kasi. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Srikalahasti as stated in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 9.71 and in the Summary of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 9. Madhya lila 9 (Summary): "A summary of the Ninth Chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. After leaving Vidyanagara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited such places of pilgrimage as Gautami-ganga, Mallikarjuna, Ahovala-nrsimha, Siddhavata, Skanda-ksetra, Trimatha, Vrddhakasi, Bauddha-sthana, Tirupati, Tirumala, Pana-nrsimha, Siva-kanci, Visnu-kanci, Trikala-hasti, Vrddhakola, Siyali-bhairavi, Kaveri-tira and Kumbhakarna-kapala." Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 9.7: "After visiting Trimalaya, Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to see Trikala-hasti. There He saw Lord Siva and offered him all respects and obeisances.” Purport by Srila Prabhupada: “Trikala-hasti, or Sri Kala-hasti, is situated about 32 miles east of Tirupati. On its western side is a river known as Suvarna-mukhi. The temple of Trikala-hasti is located on the southern side of the river. The place is generally known as Sri Kalahasti or Kalahasti and is famous for its temple of Lord Siva. There he is called Vayu-linga Siva."
Sri Kalahasti Temple is known as Sri Kalahastheeswara Nathar Temple. The presiding Deities are Sri Kalahastheeswara Nathar (Siva) and his consort, Gnana Prasunambika Devi (Parvati). This temple is also said to be the only abode of Vayu-linga Siva. Vayu, the Wind God, incarnated as Lord Siva and worshipped the Lord here as Kalahasteeswara. As such, this temple is one of the five Pancha Bhoota Sthalalu, or Siva temples representing the elements - in this case, Wind. A lamp inside the sanctum flickers constantly, from the movement of air. The air linga can be seen to move even when no one is present in the sanctum, which has no windows. The air linga is white and is considered svayambhu, or self-manifested. The main Siva-linga is untouched by human hands. Temple priests perform abhisheka with water, milk, camphor, and panchamrita, and sandal paste, flowers and sacred thread are offered to the utsava-murti rather than the main linga.
Ancient holy place Sri Kalahasti is on the banks of Swarnamukhi river
Sri Kalahastiswara Swamy and Sri Gnana Prasunambika Devi (Parvati)
Sripad Ramanujacarya in Tirupati
[Ref. His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj’s Tirupati Yatra 2005]
Sripad Ramanujacarya in Tirupati:
Ramanujacarya decided to come on pilgrimage to Tirupati. He travelled with several of his most confidential disciples. When he came into the area, he stopped in many places. He came upon a simple sudra, pulling water out of a well. Ramanujacarya asked him, "Which is the way to Tirumala?" That sudra gave him direction. To everyone's great surprise, Ramanujacarya offered repeated Dandavat obeisances to that sudra. He was asked by his disciples, "Why? Why Guru Maharaj are you offering so many prostrated obeisances to this lower-caste person?" He said "Tirupati is Vaikuntha. This man has told me the way to reach Vaikuntha. So I accept him as my Guru Maharaj."
Ramanujacarya remained below the hill of Tirumala, and was lecturing. Meanwhile, Anantacarya was on top of the hill doing his gardening and offering his flowers to Balaji, waiting for Guru Maharaj to come, but Guru Maharaj was not coming. He approached his Guru Maharaj and said, "Please come to the top and have the darshan of Balaji and see the garden I have made for you. I have named the garden Ramanuj Garden, and I named the tank of water Ramanuj Pukur.” His Guru Maharaj responded, "I cannot walk on the hill. This mountain is worship-able, it is Vaikuntha. It is the body of Adi Sesa, I cannot put my feet upon it. I will remain in the bottom at Tirupati, and I will offer my prayers and glorifications and pujas." Anantacarya said, "Guru Maharaj, if you don't go up there, then what is my position? It is your disciples who are taking care of the deities. If you are not fit to step on this hill, then we all have to come down. If you are not fit to walk on this hill, then for all generations in the future, no one will walk on this hill. Balaji will have no one to serve Him. For the pleasure of Balaji, please come."
So Ramanujacarya agreed, but some people say that he climbed up the hill on his knees so he would not touch it with his feet. He refused to eat, or pass water, or anything else because he did not want to de-sanctify the mountain. This was the nature of his devotion. After one day, he decided to come down, but one of his Guru Maharaj’s were living there, named Sri Sailapurna. It is interesting when Ramanujacarya first arrived in the top of the hill, Srisaila Purna personally greeted him with garlands and maha-prasad of Balaji. Ramanujacarya asked him, "Why are you coming and carrying all of this prasad and garlands for me, such a long distance? You are my respectable Guru Maharaj. Why didn't you find a junior neophyte person to make this delivery to me?" Srisaila Purna responded, "What you are saying is true. However, I looked in all directions, and I could not find anyone anywhere that was more of a neophyte than me. Everyone is senior to me, therefore I had to bring this delivery myself." Ramanujacarya and his followers were struck with wonder to see the humility of this great personality.
Srisaila Purna was Ramanujacarya's uncle, his mother's brother. He personally gave his nephew the name Ramanuja. He told his disciple that you should not leave today, because according to the sastras you should remain here for 3 days. He remained for 3 days, fasting, absorbed in performing puja and offering prayers and devotion to Sri Venkateswara. Then he came down to the bottom of the hill where we are today, and Srisaila Purna instructed Ramanujacarya in the teachings of Valmiki's Ramayana for one full year in Tirupati.
During that time, Anantacarya was begging his Guru Maharaj that, "If you leave, how will I survive in separation from you? I do not know if I will ever see you again." Anantacarya begged his Guru Maharaj, "Please, allow me to carve a deity in your presence and worship that deity throughout my life." Ramanujacarya did not deny his request. The deity was carved. Ramanujacarya, out of his ecstatic love for his disciple who surrendered everything for him, embraced that deity and in doing so, invested his presence within the form for eternity. Even to this day, to the left of Balaji's temple, is that original deity of Sri Ramanujacarya, the first deity ever made of him. It was Sri Anantacarya in love and separation for the rest of his life.
Sri Anantacarya bitten by Cobra pastime:
One day, as Anantacarya was picking Tulsi leaves to make a garland for Venkateswara, he was suddenly struck by a venomous serpent, cobra. By that time, Anantacarya had many disciples. They were horrified. His Guru Maharaj was just bit by a cobra. Anantacarya paid no attention, he just went on with his picking flowers for Balaji's service. His disciples were very disturbed. They said, "Guru Maharaj, please, let us find a doctor and take some treatment. This poison is spreading and rising throughout your body," but Anantacarya dismissed them, and would not accept any help. So the disciples didn't know what to do. They went to Balaji and prayed, "Please, tell our Guru to take medicine and see a doctor. He was bit by a cobra."
Balaji spoke to Anantacarya. Lord said, "You were bitten by a venomous cobra. There is deadly poison in your body. You have to do something about it. See a doctor. Take medicine. Do something about this poison. Aren't you going to do anything?" Anantacarya, with folded hands, spoke to the deity. If You understand this principle which we are about to reveal, you will understand the path of perfection.
Anantacarya said, "My dear Lord, please tell me which poison are you talking about? There was a cobra living within me, and he has poisoned me with false ego, pride and greed. Are you talking about this poison, or are you talking about the poison from that earthly snake that bit my body? The snake that bit my body today, its poison can only cause harm to my body but it can do nothing for my eternal soul, but the poison of ego and greed can destroy my very soul. Which poison? Which poison should I pay more attention to? Poison of false ego and greed cannot be cured by any mundane doctor of this world, my Lord. It can only be cured by Your mercy. Therefore, I am coming today to take shelter of You to surrender to You by rendering service."
The Lord replied, "My dear Anantacarya, you are so very dear to Me. I will feel great pain if you die and I will lose your association." Anantacarya replied to the Lord that: "I am a venomous snake exuding so much poison. If my poison, if I am a more powerful snake than that little snake that bit me, then I will not die, but if the snake is more powerful than me being a snake, then I will die. If that little snake is more powerful than me, then I will take my bath in the Viraja river and I will see You in Vaikuntha and serve You there. If I am a more powerful snake with more poison than that little snake, then I will live and I will take my bath in Swamy Pushkarini and I will carry on serving You by giving you tulsi, garlands and flowers, but my Lord in life or in death, I am Your eternal servant." This is the quality of a great Vaishnava. He lives to serve and he dies to serve.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed: "na dhanam na janam na sundarim, kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye, mama janmani janmanishvare, bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi." I do not want wealth or beautiful ladies, or fame and prestige, or even liberation from suffering. I only want unconditional service to you birth after birth after birth. By Sri Venkateswara’s grace, Anantacarya did not die, carried on with his service.
Ants in prasad Pastime:
One time Anantacarya took some of his disciples all the way down the mountain of Tirumala and they were traveling to the southern-most provinces. After they had travelled a long distance, they sat in a river bank and it was time to take prasad. They had brought some boxes of prasad from Sri Balaji in Tirumala. When they opened the boxes, there were thousands and thousands of ants crawling on the prasad. Anantacarya said, "Close the boxes. Let us go." They walked all the way back to Tirupati and then climbed to the top of the mountain of Tirumala, and he left the boxes there. He said, "Now let us go back to South India." His disciples asked, "Why did you make us come all the way back, put the boxes and then go all the way back again?" He said, "Because Sesachala, the hills of Venkateswara are holy place, and great devotees offer their prayers to Balaji. Let me live on these hills in your loving service in any species of life, and I will be grateful. There is a possibility that these ants may be great devotees who have taken their birth as ants just to live, and in Tirumala we must honour and respect these ants. We should not take them from this holy place." This is a quality of a great soul to offer all respect to others and to expect none for oneself.
Crane, Cock, Salt and You Pastime:
Ramanujacarya established as a successor, the head of the Sri Sampradaya, the son of his great devotee Kuresh whose name was Parasara Bhatt. One time, a devotee approached Parasara and said that I have a question: "Please tell me the symptoms of a true Vaishnava." Parasara Bhatt replied that you should go to the Balaji Temple in Tirupati and ask this question to Anantacarya. He will give you the perfect answer. This devotee walked by foot all the way from Sri Ranga Kshetra to Tirumala and fell at the lotus feet of Anantacarya: "Please tell me. Parasara Bhatt has sent me to you. What are the symptoms of a true Vaishnava?" Anantacarya did not speak a single word. The devotee was thinking that I am not worthy of receiving the answer. I have to become more humble. I have to be very patient. I should just serve Anantacarya. For the next 6 months, he rendered menial service, did not feel himself qualified to ask the question.
One day there was a festival, and Anantacarya was serving first-class feast of Balaji's prasad. Large crowds of people attended. This devotee was sitting in one of the lines, ready to get this delicious feast of prasad. Anantacarya said, "You get up and you serve. You can eat in the next round." He served. When everyone completed, he sat down for the next round of serving. Anantacarya said, "You get up and serve. Consider the next round." The next round he sat down. "You get up and serve." He served until everybody was finished. He was the very last person to take prasad. After this, Anantacarya turned to him and said, "I believe 6 months ago you asked me a question. What was that question?" With great sincerity and devotion, he inquired: "What are the symptoms of a true Vaishnava?" Anantacarya replied: "A true Vaishnava is like a crane, is like a cock, is like salt and is like you."
Then Anantacarya remained completely silent. This devotee was very confused, so he left. He returned to Sri Rangam and met with Parasara. Parasara asked, "Did you get your question answered?" He said, "I did. After 6 months of doing seva, menial service, he answered my question in such a way that I completely bewildered. I cannot understand what he meant." Parasara Bhatt said, "What did he say?" "He told me that the symptoms of a true Vaishnava is that he is like a crane, is like a cock, is like salt and is like me." Parasara understood the pure heart of Anantacarya and explained.
He said the colour of a crane is pure white. White is the symbol of pure goodness. In the same way, the heart of a Vaishnava is always completely pure without duplicity, without ulterior motives. A Vaishnava's words and a Vaishnava's actions are always for the good of others. Another quality of a crane is they stand on one leg and they carefully look into the water and they let the small fish swim by, but as soon as saw the big fish, they feast on that big fish. Similarly, a Vaishnava does not want to hear the talk of mundane people who are like little fish, but they are always eager to feast on the wisdom of the great souls, mahatmas, who are like big fish.
Srimad-Bhagavatam declares dharmaḥ svanusthitaḥ pumsam, viṣvaksena-kathasu yaḥ, notpadayed yadi ratim, srama eva hi kevalam: That whatever our occupation may be in life, our perfection is if our activities and our lifestyle culminates in developing a taste to hear about Lord Krishna. There are so many TV stations and so many cinemas, magazines, newspapers and radios. People have such a deep attraction to hear about unnecessary material topics. These are small-minded people. The great souls have developed a taste to hear about the supreme all-great personality of Godhead. Yes, a Vaishnava ignores small people speaking small things and is eager to hear the great souls speaking Hari Katha. Pariksit Maharaj was fasting for 7 days without food or water, but he told Sukadeva Gosvami that I am not feeling the slightest hunger or the slightest thirst because I am tasting the sweet nectar of the flow of the Ganges of Hari Katha from your lips. Another quality of the crane is, during the rainy season it leaves the flooding sea to go to a smaller lake. Similarly, a true Vaishnava when he sees a place is being flooded by materialistic people discussing materialistic things and engaged in materialistic activities, he take shelter of the association of devotees.
Devotee is also like a cock. The cock will go to a dustbin which is full of garbage and pick out some very wholesome seeds and eat some and feed them to its children. Similarly, a devotee is sara grahi, only considered with the essence, not concerned with superficialities. Sometimes even in the name of religion, people take so much emphasis on the ritual, they neglect the essence of what it means. A devotee in every situation is looking for the essence, the opportunity to serve and please the Lord, and considers everything else garbage and leaves it alone.
A Vaishnava is like salt. Although salt is the element that brings out the flavour of a preparation, it remains hidden. Think about it in your own life, when you tasted a very delicious preparation. Do you glorify, oh the salt is so nice? People will glorify everything else about the preparation, but they'll never say anything about the salt, but it is the salt that actually brings out the flavour but remains hidden. Similarly, a true devotee is willing to do everything, even great things, but always prefers to remain hidden. Does not want any credit or glory. A true devotee is willing to do many, many great things but never considers him or herself significant.
Our beloved Guru Maharaj A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he did what no other person had ever done in our history. He took the pure teachings of Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and spread those teachings throughout the entire world. He established the Vedic culture in every continent on earth. In history of the world, the most highly distributed and read Bhagavad-Gita, tens and millions, hundreds of temples, hundreds and thousands of devotees, but yet he never took credit. People wanted to name with the Prabhupada Society. Prabhupada said, "This is not about me, this is about Krishna." Prabhupada said, "All credit goes to my Guru Maharaj. I have done nothing. I am just a puppet." "All credit goes to my Guru Maharaj, and all credit," he said, "goes to my disciples because they have worked so hard to spread this movement all over the world." He wanted no credit for himself. He called himself a postal peon, just delivering the message. That is the quality of a true Vaishnava, like salt.
Would you like to hear something about salt? In order to give flavour to a preparation, the salt is willing to melt, to completely give up its own identity. In the same way, a Vaishnava is willing to sacrifice everything to give pleasure to the devotees.
Parasara Muni then said to the devotee, "And a great Vaishnava is also like you, because you are obedient to your Guru Maharaj and you are obedient to Anantacarya. On that feast, you served and you served and you served with great patience and great humility and great sacrifice. This is the quality of a Vaishnava. To be more concerned with others needs than one's own."
There are so many wonderful stories of great Vaishnava acaryas. Lord Caitanya said that one cannot understand the perfection of life even after studying the scriptures for thousands of births, nor by austerities for thousands of births. There is only one way to really know what is the truth of the highest goal of life. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: By following in the footsteps of great soul. These histories of great devotees, they reveal the very, their lives reveal the essence of the scriptures. They practically demonstrate the qualities that the scriptures reveal and give us faith and a path to follow. In our own lives when our beloved Guru Maharaj Srila Prabhupada, when we met him, we saw that the essence of all scriptures: the compassion, the qualities and the love of his heart embodied. He would not compromise the truth. He said there are so many philanthropic movements in this world and there are so many religious sects that are teaching people to worship God and improve their materialism in this world, but there must be a society that is teaching unmotivated, uninterrupted, unconditional love of God, because this was the message of Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is presenting the highest essential message of guru, sadhu and sastra, and therefore has transformed so many people's hearts. We are so overjoyed to see this extraordinarily beautiful temple being built in the holy place of Tirupati. It is truly amazing what the devotees are doing here, and this temple will certainly attract millions of people and present the message of Sri Guru Parampara. The message that Ramanuja, Madhva, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Gosvamis that they gave their lives to give to the people of this world. Anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamritaswadanam: That the highest happiness is the ecstasy of the awakening of love of God within our hearts, and in this age of Kali, it is most, this highest profession is accessible simply by sincerely chanting God's holy names.
Kaler dosha-nidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah. Kirtanad eva krishnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: That this age of Kali is an ocean of faults, but there is one benediction that simply chanting the names of Lord Krishna one can attain the perfection of liberation. There must be a proper quality in the way we chant, and the Yuga Avatar Krishna Himself in Lord Caitanya's has taught us the secret of how to chant the holy name and attain the highest ecstasy of love. We find this quality consistent of all the great souls we are speaking about. Trnad api sunicena: That one should be humble like a blade of grass. Taror api sahisnuna: One should be tolerant like a tree. Amanina manadena: One should offer all respect to others and expect no respect for oneself. Kirtaniya sada hari: In this mood, we can chant the holy names of the Lord constantly.
Directions to reach Tirupati:
Tirupati is approximately 140 km from Chennai and 250 km from Bangalore. Tirupati has an airport and there are regular flights from major cities of India, especially from Hyderabad to Tirupati. Tirupati is well connected to other major cities of the country via regular trains. Regular buses are available from Chennai to Tirupati and other parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Lectures by His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj at Tirupati:
(1) Part 1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AhM8Umvlc4
(2) Part 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq-5hzNRrYY
Inside Tirumala Tirupati by National Geographic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qIbIup8p4s
Tirumala Tirupati videos:
ISKCON Tirupati: www.iskcontirupati.com
Bringing Goloka to Vaikuntha: http://btg.krishna.com/iskcon-tirupati-bringing-goloka-vaikuntha
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD): www.tirumala.org
Holy Dham: www.HolyDham.com
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