Tirumala Tirupati is without controversy the most popular temple in India in terms of numbes of devotees visiting per year. Tirumala gets through very conservative estimated in excess of forty million (4 crores) visitors per year and rapidly growing. Tirumala – sacred hill , is located near the town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh state. The temple is of timeless antiquity. Much of the current construction of the temple dates to the Vijayanagara empire in the late 15th and the early 16th century CE.
Tirupati is located close to the state boundary between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The region was historically a bilingual area with Tamil and Telugu easily intermixing. The earliest surviving name for the region is Tondainadu / Tondaimandalam / Aruvanadu. There is much scholarly speculation that the name Tondai is simply the Tamil name for the Pallavas.
The region was ruled in sequence by the (possibly Shatavahanas), the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Vijayanagara the Marathas, the Nizam and then the British.
The site of the temple is associated with a large collection of legends. The location has clear references in several of the Puranas. It is therefore beyond doubt that it is of great antiquity.
The Vaikhanasa Tradition derives from Rishi Vaikhanasa. The tradition is aligned with the Krishna Yajurveda and follows a Vaikhanasa Kalpasutra. About half of all the Vishnu temples of southern India belong to the Vaikhanasa tradition.
While appearing to be integrally part of the Vaishnava tradition, the Tirumala temple belongs to a distinct order called the Vaikhanasa Sampradaya. The Vaishnavas emphasise the vedic system of philosophies, such as the purva and uttara mimamsa, and develop substantial commentaries upon such. The Vaikhanasa tradition is far more oriented towards the Achara for the worship of Sri Maha Vishnu.
The Seven Hills
The Tirumala is a series of seven hills, representing the seven heads of Adi Sesha. These are
- Vrushabhadri – Hill of Nandi, the vahana of Mahadeva Shiva
- Anjanadri – Hill of Lord Hanuman. The birthplace of Sri Hanuman.
- Neeladri – Hill of Neela Devi – It is believed that hair offered by the devotees is accepted by Neela Devi. It is because of boon granted by Sri Venkateswara to Neela Devi.
- Garudadri or Garudachalam – Hill of Garuda, the vahana of Sri Maha Vishnu
- Seshadri or Seshachalam – Hill of Sesha, the dasa of Sri Maha Vishnu
- Narayanadri– Hill of Narada Muni
- Venkatadri – Hill of Sri Venkateswara
During the eight thousand yugas (the time equivalent to a day and night for Brahma, the Creator), there was a raging fire, and everything on Earth was reduced to ashes. Man had to forsake the Earth and seek refuge in Janaloka. At the approach of night (for Brahma), Vayu, the Wind God, blew furiously. Huge clouds were formed, there was a torrential rain, which resulted in Pralaya Kalpa (the Great Deluge). The Earth sank into the Patala loka, and remained in that state for a thousand years (during a part of that night of Brahma).
Sri Maha Vishnu, who decided to save Bhoodevi, assumed the form of Adi Varaha, a giant wild boar and proceeded to Patala loka. He fought a fierce duel with the demon king Hiranyaksha and killed him. He then brought Bhoodevi up by carrying her on his huge tusks.
Brahma, the Devas and the sages extolled Adi Varaha’s virtues, by chanting the Vedic mantras. They prayed to him to re-establish Bhoodevi as a glorious refuge for all life. Adi Varaha obliged them, and called upon Brahma to recreate the Universe. He resolved to reside on the Earth to protect all of its life forms. He commanded his vehicle, Garuda to fetch Kridachala (a massive natural hill with lofty peaks, embedded with gold and precious stones resembling Adisesha in shape) from Vaikuntham. Garuda brought Kridachala and placed it on a sacred spot, the East of Swami Pushkarini, chosen by Adi Varaha himself. Adi Varaha stood within the divine vimana of Kridachala, which glittered with many splendorous gem-studded gopuras.
Brahma and the other holy personages requested the fearsome-looking Adi Varaha to assume a tranquil and composed look, and rest on the hill to protect all life and grant boons to people unable to reach God through Dhyana Yoga and Karma Yoga. Adi Varaha with his consort Bhoodevi appeared with four arms and a blissful countenance, adorning an array of jewels. He established his divine residence at Venkatadri, under a divya vimana, to answer the prayers of his devotees.
Contest Between Adisesha and Vayudeva
During the Dwaparayuga, Vayudeva went to Vaikuntham to pay his obeisance to Lord Sri Vishnu. The Lord was reclining in the company of Maha Lakshmi and the doorway was guarded by Adisesha.
Vayudeva was incensed when Adisesha prevented him from entering Sri Vishnu’s holy abode resulting in a fierce battle between them.When Lord Vishnu intervened, each was boasting of his superior valour and supreme might. To test who was stronger, the Lord suggested that Adisesha should encircle the Ananda hill, an off-shoot of the Meru Mountain on its northern side, while Vayudeva should blow hard to dislodge the Ananda hill from Adisesha’s strangle hold. The contest waxed furiously, and as the World trembled, Brahma, Indra and the other deities prevailed upon Adisesha to yield victory to Vayudeva for the welfare of the world, as a whole.
Obliging them, Adisesha released his hold on the hill, with the result, Adisesha and the Ananda hill were together blown away to the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. As Adisesha was crestfallen over his defeat, Lord Brahma and the others appeased him by saying that he would be integrated with the hill Venkatadri and would become the abode of Lord Vishnu. Adisesha then metamorphosed into the vast Seshadri hill range, while his hood manifested itself into Venkatadri, the abode of Lord Sri Venkateswara, his torso became Ahobila supporting Lord Narasimha and his tail housing Srisailam the abode of Sri Mallikarjuna.
Test of the Three Divnities
Maharishi Bhrigu in Satyalokam
Bhrigu in Kailasam
Bhrigu in Vaikuntham
Finally, Bhrigu went to Sri Vaikuntham, the abode of Lord Vishnu and found Vishnu and Sri Maha Lakshmi reclining on Adisesha unmindful of his arrival. Disgusted over this, Bhrigu, known for his intemperate nature, kicked Lord Vishnu on the chest, where Sri Maha Lakshmi was reclining. Vishnu immediately got up, massaged rishi’s foot and enquired if his foot was injured when he kicked on his hard chest. Taken aback over Vishnu’s attention and cool composure, Bhrigu returned to the rishis and advised them to dedicate the fruit of their sacrifice to Vishnu, as he deserved it best, among the divine Trinity.But, Sri Maha Lakshmi was furious. She left Vishnu in a fury and went on to stay at Karavirapura (now Kolhapur in the state of Maharashtra) to commence a deep penance. Unable to bear the solitude after Sri Maha Lakshmi’s departure, Vishnu left Vaikuntham in search of her and wandered across the forests and hills.
Manifestation of Sri Venkateswara on Venkatadri
Dejected for not finding his consort anywhere, Sri Maha Vishnu took an ant-hill on Venkatadri under a tamarind tree as a dwelling place. This was beside a Pushkarini. Brahma and Shiva, taking pity at the plight of Sri Maha Vishnu, made up their mind to serve him in the guise of a cow and calf. Surya, informed Lakshmi of this and requested her to sell the cow and calf to the king of the Chola country assuming the form of a cattle care-taker.
The Chola king sent the cow and its calf to graze on the Venkata Hill along with his herd of other cattle. Discovering Lord Vishnu in the ant-hill, the holy cow everyday emptied her udder into the ant-hill and thus fed the Lord. Over a period of time, the queen noticed that the cow was not yielding any milk and chastised the cowherd severely for its peculiar behaviour.The cowherd trying to investigate the cause, followed the cow and discovered to his utter shock that the cow was emptying her udder over the ant-hill. In his anger, the cowherd aimed a blow with his axe on the head of the cow but accidentally hit the Lord Vishnu who rose from the ant-hill to receive the blow and save the cow’s life. On seeing Lord Vishnu bleeding, the cowherd fell down and died. On the death of the cowherd, the cow returned to the king with blood stains on her body, bellowing in the presence of the Chola King. An anxious king followed the cow to the scene of the incident, the ant-hill, where the King found the cowherd lying dead on the ground.
While the King stood wondering how it had happened, Lord Vishnu rose from the ant-hill and cursed the king to become an Asura (Demon) for the fault of his servant. Entreated by the king who pleaded innocence, the Lord blessed him by saying that his curse would end when he was adorned with the crown presented by Akasa Raja at the time of his marriage with Sri Padmavati. To atone the sins of raising the axe against the Lord, the cowherd’s atma received a rare boon from the Lord, which is that, he and his descendants enjoy the privilege of opening the main door in the Lord’s sanctum sanctorum in due course.
In course of time, the Chola king was reborn as Akasa Raja and though he ruled well, he had no children much to his desolation. As part of a yaga for begetting children, he was ploughing the fields, he found a baby in a lotus flower and named her Alarmel mangai (Lady born in Lotus petals) and adopted her as his daughter.
Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Srinivasa as the son of an elderly woman-saint Vakula Malika Devi. Vakula Devi was Yasoda in her previous birth, Lord Krishna’s foster-mother and was unhappy in that life for not seeing his marriage. As per the boon received from Krishna, she was reborn as Vakula Devi and enjoyed the rare spectacle of witnessing the celestial wedding of the divine couple.
In course of time, Princess Padmavati grew up into a beautiful maiden and was visited by Narada muni. Narada read her palm, and he foretold that she was destined to be the spouse of Lord Vishnu himself. In due time, Sri Srinivasa on a certain journey into the jungle chased a wild elephant in the forest.
The elephant led him into a garden where Princess Padmavati and her maids were playing. The sight of the elephant frightened them and their princess. When Lord Srinivasa appeared in front of the elephant, it immediately turned round, saluted the Lord and disappeared into the forest.
Lord Srinivasa noticed princess Padmavathi and enquired about her from her maids. Enthralled by her bewitching beauty, Lord Srinivasa lost interest in other activities and told his foster mother Vakula Devi about his love for Padmavathi. He also revealed his identity as Lord Vishnu and narrated her about her past life as his foster-mother then as Yasodha.
Marriage of Sri Srinivasa and Sri Padmavati Devi
Vakula devi left her hermitage to approach Akasa Raja with the marriage proposal of marriage between Srinivasa and Padmavathi. In the mean time, an anxious Srinivasa came to the city in the disguise of a lady fortune-teller.
Princess Padmavathi had lost her heart to Srinivasa and taken ill after returning to the palace. Unable to discover the cause of her ill-health, the maids invited the fortune-teller into the palace to foretell the future of their princess. When the Lord in the guise of a lady fortune-teller revealed that Padmavathi was born with a cause to marry Lord Vishnu in his current avatar as Lord Srinivasa, she was overjoyed recovered.
As the king heard of this news, Vakula revealed the purpose of her own visit to the King and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage with her son, Srinivasa. The overjoyed king agreed and his advisor Bhrihaspati wrote the invitation for the wedding between the two celestial beings, Srinivasa and Padmavathi. Sri Srinivasa called for a conference of the Gods to announce his marriage with Princess Padmavati.
Sri Srinivas now obtained a huge loan from Kubera, the god of wealth, towards the expenses for the grand wedding matching his stature as the supreme lord of the universe.
Sri Srinivasa becomes Sri Venkateswara
In about six months after this celestial marriage, Sri Maha Lakshmi who left the lord, in the past in a huff after sage Bhrigu’s painful behaviour, came to know that her husband married again and in disbelief came to see him.
Srinivasa turned himself into a granite statue right in front of his two spouses when they together encountered him over his remarriage. Brahma and Shiva then appear before the confused queens and recounted the purpose guiding this lengthy episode, the Lord’s desire to be on the holy seven hills for the emancipation of the mankind from the perpetual trials and tribulations of Kali Yuga. Goddesses Lakshmi and Padmavathi also turn into stone idols expressing their wish to be with their Lord eternally. Goddess Lakshmi stayed with him on the left side of his chest while Goddess Padmavati rested on the right side of his chest.
Sacred Spots On Tirumala
There are many places of deep spiritual significance and also of powerful aesthetic value on the seven hills of Tirumala.
- Akasa Ganga
- Chakra Teertham
- Srivaari padaalu
- Swami Pushkarini
- Papa vinasana teertham