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Friday, June 2, 2023

Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala, Tirupati – Kaliyuga Vaikuntam

Venkateswara Swamy Temple is a Hindu temple located on the Venkatadri hill of the Seshachalam hill range in the town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.It is one of the eight Svayam Vyakta Kshetras of Vishnu and is the 106th and last Divyadesam mentioned in the Nalayira Divya Prabhanda, glorified by all the Alvars.

It is one of the richest and most visited temples annually.The deity here is Vishnu himself as Srinivasa who will save mankind from the trials of Kali Yuga, hence the name Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam,and the place Kaliyuga Vaikuntam. Two paths, Alipiri and Srivari Mettu, are used by devotees to travel.

The presiding deity is a well-built ten-feet murti of Venkateswara or Srinivasa with the lower right hand in Varada mudra and lower left hand in Katyavalambita Mudra resting on his thigh and the upper two hands holding the chakra and Shanka respectively, with Lakshmi and Padmavati on either sides of his chest, standing on the Brahmasthanam.

The murti is unique as it does not follow the murti-making guidelines of Agama Shastra. The mode of worship is Vaikhanasa Agama.


During Dvapara Yuga, Adishesha resided on earth as the Seshachalam Hills after losing a contest with Vayu. According to Puranas, Tirumala is regarded as Adivaraha Kshetra. After killing Hiranyaksha, Varaha resided on this hill. Sri Venkatachala Mahatyam is the widely accepted itihasa about the temple.

During Kali Yuga, Narada advised the rishis who were performing Yajna to decide who among the Trimurti will be declared as the greatest and thus can hold the fruits of the yagna. Bhrigu was sent to test the Trimurtis. The sage who had an extra eye, representing ego in the sole of his foot, visited Brahma and Shiva and went unnoticed in both these locations.

At last he visited Vishnu and the lord acted as if he had not noticed Bhrigu. Getting angered by this act, sage Bhrigu kicked Vishnu in the chest, to which Vishnu did not react and instead apologised to the Sage by massaging his feet. During this act, he squashed the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrigu’s foot.

However Devi  it as an insult to both Vishnu and herself as Lakshmi is said to reside in Vishnu’s chest. By seeing Vishnu not stand up against Bhrigu and restore her pride and dignity, Lakshmi left Vaikunta and went on Earth to Kolhapur. During her stay at Kolhapur, Lakshmi defeated the demon Kolhasura and was referred to lovingly as Ambabai. She became the Lakshmi murti at the Mahalakshmi Temple in Kolhapur.

Vishnu left Vaikunta, and bore a human form as Srinivasa who went in search of Lakshmi. Srinivasa, after searching for Lakshmi for a long time, reached Tirumala Hills and started meditating. Lakshmi came to know about the condition of Srinivasa and prayed to Shiva and Brahma. Shiva and Brahma then converted themselves into Cow and Calf and Devi Lakshmi had handed over the cow and calf to Chola king ruling over Tirumala Hills at that time.

The Cow would provide milk to Srinivasa daily while it was taken for grazing. One day the cowherd saw this and tried to beat the Cow with staff but Srinivasa had borne the injury. Getting angered by this, Srinivasa had cursed the Chola king to become a Demon as dharma says the servant’s sin should be borne by Kings. The king prayed for mercy after which Srinivasa said to him that the King should take the next birth as Akasharaja and should perform the marriage of his daughter Padmavati with Vishnu as Srinivasa.

Srinivasa, then traveled from the ant hill to Vakula Devi’s ashram. During that trip, a Gandharva princess by the name of Neela saw Srinivasa. She noticed the scar of his forehead caused by the cowherd’s axe and realized that a chunk of Srinivasa’s hair was cut off due to it. Neela devi, having pity on Srinivasa and also to show her devotion towards Vishnu, chopped off her hair and magically attached it to Srinivasa’s head on the place where his scar was. Srinivasa, sensing her true intentions and moved by her devotion, thanked her, changed her status to a goddess, and proclaimed that his devotees shall shave off their hair and donate it to her temple. Neela devi was grateful on hearing this. Vishnu blessed her and soon reached Vakula Devi’s ashram.

Vakula Devi, whose previous life was none other than Yashoda, the foster mother of Krishna, earnestly waited for Srinivasa to become her child. In her previous life as Yashoda, she was not able to witness Krishna’s wedding with Rukmini and his other queens and begged Krishna to allow her to see this.

Krishna then told his foster mother that in her next life as Vakula Devi, he will come to her as Srinivasa and then she will be able to see the wedding. This was why Srinivasa was headed towards Vakula’s ashram. After entering her ashram, he called out “Amma ” or mother to Vakula Devi. Vakula Devi saw him and adopted him as her own son. Srinivasa acted as her very own son and helped her when she needed it.

On the other hand, after being cursed by Srinivasa, the Chola king took rebirth as Akasaraja. He and his wife were childless and thus performed a lowering ceremony to appease the Gods. During the ceremony, they hit a golden lotus, where in the middle situated a baby girl. Akasaraja named her Padmavati as she was born in a golden lotus, which was found at present day Tiruchanur in Andhra Pradesh. Padmavathi was none other than Lakshmi, who after defeating Kholasura, decided to go along with Vishnu’s leela and become born as the daughter of Akasaraja. Padmavati was soon educated and grew up to become the most beautiful princess.

One day, while Srinivasa was on a hunt, he noticed Padmavathi Devi and was smitten with love for her. Padmavathi at that time was playing with her friends when suddenly an elephant arose and started chasing the princess. Padmavathi Devi ran towards Srinivasa and blindly fell into his arms, seeking protection.

The elephant was none other than Ganesha, and after figuring out the true identity of the elephant, Srinivasa sent him away. Padmavathi and her friends questioned Srinivasa and his identity and Srinivasa did the same. Srinivasa asked for Padmavathi’s hand in marriage, which infuriated her friends and they chased Srinivasa away, while smitten Padmavathi giggled at the situation.

Srinivasa went back to Vakula Devi and told her about his situation, to which Vakula replied that she will personally go to Akasaraja and ask that both he and Padmavathi get married. Srinivasa was afraid that the King would give the same reply to Vakula Devi as Padmavathi’s friends. So, Srinivasa took the form of a female fortune teller and went to Akasaraja’s palace.

The Queen asked her to tell the fortune of her daughter, Padmavathi, to which the fortune teller said yes. Srinivasa, in the form of the fortune teller, said that Padmavathi was to wed Vishnu who is now in the form of Srinivasa, and that a woman by the name of Vakula Devi will soon come to ask about this marriage. So when Vakula came to ask for the marriage of her son Srinivasa and Padmavathi, Akasaraja and the queen said yes to it.

The wedding commenced. Padmavathi was getting ready by her maidens who were none other than the wives of the Gods, including Saraswati, Parvati, Indrani, etc. Srinivasa on the other hand had trouble getting ready. Being that he was part of the Brahmin caste, he and his mother Vakula Devi were extremely poor.

The great Gods, Shiva, Brahma, and Indra suggested that Srinivasa should pray to Kubera, the God of Wealth. Kubera answered the prayers of Srinivasa and donated a huge amount of money, jewellry, etc, for Srinivasa to be ready and to make his wedding a huge event. However, he needed the money back, to which Srinivasa replied that he will have the help of his devotees who will donate money to his temple and his wife to repay the loan.

The contract was signed and was witnessed by Shiva, Brahma, and Indra. Srinivasa soon was ready and, along with the Gods and their wives, headed towards Akasarja’s palace. His procession was huge and they all sang and danced their way towards the palace.

Srinivasa married Padmavati at present day Narayanavanam in Andhra Pradesh and will return to Tirumala Hills. Padmavathi, who was none other than Lakshmi, after hearing the loan Srinivasa took to get ready, decided to help him pay it back by taking the form of Dhana Lakshmi, where she provided wealth and money to Srinivasa to help him pay the loan back.

Srinivasa and Padmavathi lived many long years in Tirumala before returning back to Vaikuntha as Lakshmi Narayana.

In the murti of Venkateshwara, it is said that Lakshmi as Padmavathi acquired one spot on his chest while the other spot is said to be acquired by Bhudevi, who is another wife of Vishnu as well as another incarnation of Lakshmi

There are many variations to this legend. Another popular version is that Padmavathi is not Lakshmi but a reincarnation of Vedavati, and thus is separate from Lakshmi. In this version, after a few months from the wedding of Srinivasa and Padmavati (who in this version is Vedavati), Devi Lakshmi had come to know about the marriage and went to Tirumala hills to question Srinivasa.

It is said that Srinivasa turned into Stone right when he was encountered by Lakshmi and Padmavathi. Brahma and Shiva appear before the confused queens and explain the main purpose behind all this – Srinivasa’s desire to be on the 7 hills for the emancipation of mankind from the perpetual troubles of Kali Yuga. Devi Lakshmi and Padmavathi also turn into stone deities expressing their wish to be with their husband always. Lakshmi stays with him on his chest on the left side while Padmavathi rests on his chest’s right side.

History and Architecture

The first recorded endowment was made by Pallava queen Samavai in the year 966 CE. She donated many jewels and two parcels of land (one 10 acres and other 13 acres) and ordered to use the revenues generated from that land to be used for the celebration of major festivals in the temple.

The Pallava dynasty (9th century), the Chola dynasty (10th century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th and 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Venkateswara. The temple gained most of its current wealth and size under the Vijayanagara Empire, with the donation of diamonds and gold.

In 1517, Vijayanagara Emperor Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels, enabling the Ananda Nilayam (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, leaders from states such as the Kingdom of Mysore and the Gadwal Samsthanam worshiped as pilgrims and gave ornaments and valuables to the temple. Maratha general Raghoji I Bhonsle (died 1755) visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple.

Maha Dwaram is the main entrance of the Temple. It provides access from outside of the temple to Sampangi Pradakshinam which is separated by an outer compound wall (Maha Prakaram). A five storied gopuram(Temple Tower) of 50 feet was built on this entrance with seven Kalasams at its apex. It is also known as ‘Padikavali’ or ‘SimhaDwaram’. On either side of this entrance there are two panchaloha (metal) statues dedicated for Sankanidhi and Padmanidhi who are believed to be guardians of navanidhi (Treasures of Bhagwan Venkateswara).

The area which circumambulates the outer and inner compound walls is called Sampangi Pradakshinam. In olden days Magnolia champaca Flowers (Telugu:Sampangi) were grown in this area hence it got the name Sampangi Pradakshinam. Sampangi Pradakshinam includes Krishnadevarayala Mandapam(Pratima Mandapam), Addala Mandapam, Ranganayaka Mandapam, Tirumalaraya Mandapam, Dwajasthambha Mandapam, Kalyanotsava Mandapam, Ugranam (Storehouse), Balipeetam(Altar), Kshetra palaka sila, Tulabharam.

It also includes idols of Vijayanagara Kings Sri Krishnadevarayalu and his two consorts, Tirumala Devi and Chinnadevi, Venkatapathi Rayalu, Lala khemaramu, Lala’s mother Mata Mohana Devi and Lala’s wife Pita Bibi. Dwajasthambam- the golden flagstaff is found in between Mahadwaram and Vendi vakili in Dwajasthambam mandapam.

While entering or leaving Inner sanctorum one has to circumambulate Dwajasthambam including Venkateswara. During Sri Venkateswara Brahmotsavams the imprint of garuda is hoisted on this flagstaff inviting all Gods and Goddesses to the festival. During the invasion of Srirangam by Malik Kafur in 1310–11 AD, the Ranganayaka Mandapam of the temple served as the shelter for the presiding deity of Srirangam, Ranganathaswamy.

The Ananda Nilayam is a monumental tower with a golden roof. Its inner temple or vimanam houses the main deity, Bhagwan Sri Venkateswara. The deity stands directly beneath a gilt dome called the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. This exquisitely wrought deity, called the Dhruva beram, is believed to be self-manifested, and no human being is known to have installed it in the shrine.

Bhagwan wears a gold crown with a large emerald embedded in the front. On special occasions, he is adorned with a diamond crown. Bhagwan has a thick double tilaka drawn on his forehead with raw camphor, which screens his eyes. His ears are decorated with golden earrings. The right hand is in Varada mudra. His left hand is in Katyavalambita mudra.

His body is dressed with yellow clothing tied with a gold string and a gold belt with gold bells. He has a yajnopavita (sacred thread) flowing down crosswise from his left shoulder. He bears Lakshmi Devi and Padmavathi Devi on the left and right sides of his chest. His feet are covered with gold frames and decked with gold anklets. A curved gold belt encompasses his legs.

The Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana was covered with gilt copper plates and surmounted with a golden vase in the 13th century, during the reign of the Vijayanagara king Yadava Raya.The processional deities Malayappa Swamy along with Ugra Srinivasa, Bhoga Srinivasa, Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Krishna and Rukmini are also present.

Swami Pushkarini is the temple pond located on the northern side of the main temple. The pond which is spread over 1.5 acres is believed to be brought by Garuda from Vaikuntam to Tirumala Hills and hence considered most sacred. The tank had a mandapam at its centre which was constructed by Saluva King Narasimha Raya in 1468.

A harathi will be given to the Pushkarni daily during the evening by Temple priests. Every year Sri Venkateswara Annual Theppotsavam (Float festival) is conducted in this pond, where the processional deities of the temple are taken to float over the pond. Chakrasnanam- a celestial bath to Chakrathalwar, Malayappa and his concerts- is conducted at this pond during the last day of Srivari Brahmotsavams.

Many saints such as Tallapaka Annamacharya, Matrusri Tarigonda Vengamamba, Hathiram Bavaji have visited this temple and stayed here.

Unique Features

1. The temple was shut for 12 years because a king punished 12 people by hanging them on the walls of this temple, due to which Vimana Venkateswara appeared on the temple Vimanam.

2. During the Margazhi month,the songs of Andal are sung for the deity as he is the manifestation of Krishna just after the end of Dwapara Yuga.

3. Usually,camphor causes cracks in rocks.However,the namam of raw camphor applied to the deity does not crack the idol.

4. The deity keeps perspiring even after abhishekam and applying of chandanam, and hence is wiped with a cloth.

5. The Ugra Srinivasa or Snapana Beram murti is taken out only on Kaishika Dwadashi otherwise if not, it can set the seven hills on fire due to the sun rays touching the idol.

6. The special flowers, items for Abhishekam are procured from an unknown village 20km from Tirupati. No one goes there except for the residents of that village.

7. The flowers offered to the deity are put to unknown waterfalls at the back of the Garbhagriha.

8. The Dhruva Beram has camphor on its chin due to the injury that was unknowingly inflicted by Ananthalvar.

9. On the way to Tirumala, there is a natural arch structure that is exactly the height of Srinivasa which is highly unusual.

10. The Tilaka made of raw camphor is applied to reduce the intensity of the light from the eyes of the Moolavairat.

11. The Pradhana Archaka of the Deekshitulu family is the only surviving member due to Tarigonda Vengamamba’s curse.






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