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Tirupathi
more than just a temple.

Lord VenkateswaraSouth India is synonymous for temples and places of pilgrimage. TIRUPATHI is perhaps one of the few temple towns in these parts of the country that has activity throughout the year. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims throng to Tirupathi, especially during festival times, and stand for hours on end in long, winding queues for just the few seconds of "Darshan" (invoke blessings) in front of the deity.

A weekend pilgrimage to Tirupathi can also double as a holiday, not necessary that one has to be religiously inclined. With the new system of entry into the shrine going hi-tech a night halt is inevitable. Make the best use of this pilgrimage-cum-much-needed-break. There's no law that says you cannot mix pilgrimage and pleasure.

The main TempleTirumala Hill
Once you've paid the toll tax at Alipiri junction at the foothills of Tirumala, the 40-minute, 25-kilometer up hill drive from Tirupathi town is picturesque, since Tirumala is around 2800 feet above sea level. The winding ghat roads are fairly broad and in good shape. Most importantly, there is no oncoming traffic, since there is a separate road leading out of Tirumala. Someone out there surely cares.

When you reach the peak of Tirumala, you're in for a surprise. The place is so crowded with people and with each busload more are pouring in. There's a sea of humanity out there. All winding their way to the various entry points, to join the thousands already in the long, serpentine queue. For the next 2-3 hours, the queue literary inches forward and as one nears the Sanctum Sanctorum, chant of "Govinda, Govinda" fills the air. With folded hands, devotes enter the dark passage that leads to the black idol of Lord Venkateswara, decked with jewels and the diamond crown resting on its head. A bow before the idol is the highpoint of this entire exercise that lasts just a split-second. The next thing you know is that you are literary pushed forward by the dozen or so volunteers marshalling smooth flow of human traffic inside the sanctorum.

The drive up the hill begins here, Alipiri junctionThat done and having received the much sought after blessings, time to join another queue, though small this time, to take the "Free Prasadam" (Offering) - rice cooked with jaggery, mixed with nuts, cardamom and raisins served in a small dried leaf container. The Srivari Hundi is the place where you should drop your contribution of money or gold and these contributions are for charitable causes. After you come out of the main temple complex, join another queue to collect the "Laddu" (a ball-shaped eatable made out of sugar).

The pilgrimage is complete. You feel rejuvenated. There is a sort of peace and order within your. Time to head home. From wherever you came and back to the grind.

It is said, "The Lord Venkateswara was born on earth as a Saviour to help and protect men. He is an incarnation of Maha Vishnu on Earth. He is the God visible - Prathyaksha Daivam. He is always ready to answer the calls of His Bhakthas (devotees). He comes to their aid in difficulties - at all times and in all circumstances. Those who visit His Shrine and have His Darshan will be devoid of rebirth and attain Mukhti.

There you have it. All ye blessed Ones.

The Legend
The Tirumala Hill range actually comprises of seven peaks, that represent the seven hoods of the serpent "Adhisesha" and each hill represents a hood of the serpent. The seven peaks are called, Seshadri, Vedadri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The sacred temple of Lord Venkateswara is on the seventh peak of Venkatadri.

The place where the main idol of Lord Venkateswara is installed is called the "Garbha Griha". The idol itself is eight feet in height and directly above it is the gold-gilded dome called the "Ananda Nilayam". According to legend, no human being is known to have sculpted or installed the idol at the shrine.

Legend has it that God Vishnu revealed Himself in His previous reincarnation as Varahaswamy on the banks where the present temple is located. He is also known as Sri Hari or Narayana, whose consort was Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

The New Token system for Special Entrance Tickets
Frequent visitors to Tirupathi would have noticed that the place is slowly going Hi-Tech. There was a time when one had to spend as much as 8-10 hours, shacked up in cages awaiting the time to invoke blessings from the Lord. Things have changed now. For better or worse - that's an individual opinion based on personal experience.

This is how it works.

The crowds at TirumalaTirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams (TTD) has these token counters in various places, both in Tirupathi Town and in Tirumala Hill. The one in Tirupathi town is opposite to the railway station and one more at the Alipiri junction. Pay the required token fee that suits your pocket - Rs.50/-, which entitles you to 2 free Laddus or Rs. 40/- that entitles you to 1 Free Laddu. The chappie at the counter gives you a ticket and makes an entry into the computer. A white ribbon-like band stamped with a bar code is wrapped around your wrist and sealed. This plastic sort of thing, which actually feels like cloth and is waterproof, has the reporting time and date printed on it. This is your "passport" into the shrine. Be there at least half hour before the time mentioned on the wristband and find the gate from which you have to enter. Under no circumstances should you try to remove the wristband till you have finished the Darshan. The bar code is scanned at the entry points. And make sure you are not late. You will not be let in. Period. Also, hold onto the ticket without which you will not receive the Free Laddu.

Two familiar sights will greet you in most temples. One is a sign that says "Beware of pickpockets and thieves" and the other is of touts. Watch out for both. Don't buy tickets or wristbands from any other place except the designated counters of TTD.

Tonsuring
Tonsuring of hair is a ritual practiced by many pilgrims at Tirumala. Sacrifice of ones hair to the Lord is considered to be a very holy practice and is normally done before you enter the shrine for Darshan. So, if you have vowed to sacrifice your hair, then it's all the more important that you reach Tirumala much ahead of the time stipulated on your wristband.

Reaching There
Tirupathi is easily accessible by road, train or air. Best is to drive down from Ban galore. The roads are good and it takes just about 5 hours to reach Tirupathi. Many Bus service operators offer package tours to Tirupathi, which includes the cost of the entrance ticket.

Arjitha Sevas at Sri Vari Temple, Tirumala
Besides the Special Darshan, there are many paid Sevas available at the temple in Tirumala. Performed daily or weekly many religious die-hards are known to perform these Sevas some of which commence as early as 3.00 a.m.
Seva Day Cost per ticket Persons entitled
Suprabhatham
Thomala Seva (except Fridays)
Archana (except Sat & Sunday)
Ekantha Seva
Kalyanotsavam
Special Kalyanotsavam
Arjitha Brahmotsavam
Dolotsavam
Sahasra Deepalankara Seva
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Rs.120
Rs.220
Rs.220
Rs.120
Rs.2500
Rs.750
Rs.1000
Rs.1000
Rs.1000
One
One
One
One
Five
Two
Five
Five
One
Week Day Sevas
Archananathara Darsanam
Vishesha Pooja
Astadala Pada Padmaradhanamu
Sahasra Kalasabhishekam
Thiruppavada Seva
Poorabhishekam
Civet Vessel (Punugu Ginne)
Musk Vessel (Kasturi Ginne)
Nijapada Darsanam
Vastralankara Seva
Fridays
Mondays
Tuesdays
Wednesdays
Thursdays
Fridays
Fridays
Fridays
Fridays
Fridays
Rs.100
Rs.3000
Rs.3500
Rs.5000
Rs.5000
Rs.750
Rs.300
Rs.150
Rs.100
Rs.12,250
Five
Five
Five
Six
Six
One
One
One
One
Two
Periodical Sevas
Vasanthotsavam
Padmavathi Srinivasulu Parinayam
Abhidheyaka Abhishekam
Pushpa Pallaki
Pavitrotsavam
Pushpa Yagam
Koil Alwar Tirumanjanam
Float Festival
April
May
June
July
August
November
4 times per year
5 days per year
Rs.3000
Rs.5000
Rs.2000
Rs.1000
Rs.7500
Rs.3500
Rs.3000
Rs.2500
Ten
Five
Five
Five
Five
Five
Ten
Five

 
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