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Friday, March 31, 2023

Know more about Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple in Tirumala and the 9-day long Srivari Brahmotsavam

Srivari Brahmotsavam is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Venkateswara Swamy Temple in Tirumala, Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh,Bharata. The word Brahmotsavam [ब्रह्मोत्सवम्] is a combination of two words Brahma and utsavam meaning festival, hence the meaning ‘festival conducted by Brahma’. It is observed in the Hindu month of Ashwayuja.

For those who are very interested in knowing about this festival,there are some lesser known facts about this festival,which is celebrated for nine days.

Brahma,the creator worshipped Srinivasa on the banks of the Pushkarini tank in Tirupati in order to honor him for taking up the onerous task to save mankind from the trials and tribulations of the present Kali Yuga. It is believed that Garuda himself invites all the deities for this festival.Before the festival starts, the temple premises are cleaned and decorated with flowers and mango leaves. The earth collecting is done and nine kinds of cereals are sown in it.

The festival commences when on the first day, Dhwajarohana is conducted by hoisting the Garuda Dhwaja (flag with the emblem of a black garuda), near the Srivari Alaya Dwajasthambam. An empty chariot,representing Brahma, precedes the main festivities. A spectacular procession of Bhagwan Venkateswara on the Pedda Sesha Vahanam is taken around the four streets of the main temple from 22:00 hrs till midnight.In commemoration of this event, He is carried in a procession around the streets of Tirumala on the Seshavahanam (vehicle shaped like Adisesha) during the first two days of Brahmotsavam (Pedda Sesha Vahanam and Chinna Sesha Vahanam).

On the second day,the deity is taken around the streets of the temple on the Chinna Sesha Vahanam in the morning. In the night, Malayappa Swami and his consorts are taken for Unjal Seva to Uyyala Mandapam and then around the streets of Tirumala on the Hamsa Vahanam.Hamsa or swan means pure and can distinguish between good and bad.

On the morning of the third day,the deities are taken out in procession on Simha Vahanam,which is the king of all the beasts. It also relates with Vishnu’s avatar as Narasimha who protected his devotee Prahlada. In the night,the Mutyala Pandiri or pearl Vahanam as a symbol of royalty is used by the Utsava Murthis after Unjal seva.

On the fourth day, the deities are carried in a Kalpavriksha Vahana in the morning. Kalpavriksham is a tree that is believed to grant boons and fulfil devotees’ wishes. The vehicle shaped like the Kalpavriksham signifies that Bhagwan grants boons and fulfils the wishes of his devotees.

In the night, after the Unjal Seva, the deities are carried in a Sarvabhoopala Vahanam. Sarva Bhoopala means ‘all the kings of Mother Earth’. According to the Hindu religion, kings, like Bhagwan Vishnu, should always protect their people (na vishnuhu prithvi patihi). To thank Bhagwan Vishnu for his ideals and pray to him, the kings take the form of the Sarvabhoopala Vahanam on the fourth day of Brahmotsavam.

On the fifth day, Mohini Avatar Utsava is celebrated to commemorate Bhagwan’s incarnation as Mohini, in the morning.According to itihasa, the Devatas and the Demons performed Ksheerasagar Mathanam that resulted in amrit (nectar which when consumed grants immortality) and other sacred qualities. The Devatas and the Demons fought for possession of the Amrit.

Bhagwan Vishnu then assumed the form of Mohini (a beautiful woman) and procured the Amrit for the Devatas. He  is dressed like Mohini, and He is taken in a procession in a Pallaki (palanquin). Bhagwan Krishna is also taken in the same procession. This is to celebrate the assistance rendered by Bhagwan Vishnu to the Devatas during Ksheerasagar Mathanam.

After the Unjal Seva in the night, Bhagwan and his consorts are seated on Garuda Vahana. Bhagavan is decorated with Mahaakanti, Sahasranamalu that day. According to the ancient Hindu texts, Garuda, the king of birds, is a replica of the Vedas (vedatma vihangeswara), while Vishnu is the God of the Vedas.

Therefore, He sees Himself in Garuda. In the Vaishnava Puranas, Garuda is also called periathiruvadi, meaning the first devotee. Therefore, Venkateswara selected Garuda as his vehicle for the most important day of the Brahmotsavam. Garuda Vahana is the greatest of all the Vahanas. A large number of pilgrims visit the temple on this day.The garland offered to Srinivasa is sent to Srivilliputhur Andal temple for her marriage.

On the morning of the sixth day, the deities are carried on a beautifully-decorated Hanumad Vahana. Hanuman was one of the greatest devotees of Sri Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. Hanuman served Him so faithfully, that even Bhagwan could not thank Hanuman enough. Devotees believe that they are indeed blessed if they catch a glimpse of Bhagwan on Hanuman Vahanam.

Unjal Seva is not performed. Instead, Vasantotsavam (spring festival) is celebrated.In the night, Bhagwan is mounted on the Gaja Vahana. Gajam (elephant) is also called the samajam (born from Samaveda). It symbolises wealth (gajamtam aishwaryam). It also symbolises Airavatam – the vehicle of Devendra, the head of the heavens in Hindu beliefs.

It also can be attributed to the elephant in Gajendramoksham (story from the Mahabhagavatham), which is saved from a crocodile by Bhagwan Vishnu. Therefore, He is taken in a procession seated on a Gaja Vahana during Brahmotsavam.

On the morning of the seventh day, Bhagwan rides on Suryaprabha Vahana (Sun chariot).Surya (the Sun), the son of Aditi, is another form of Bhagwan Vishnu (Surya Narayana). Hindu itihasa supports the heliocentric theory.To symbolise this, Bhagwan Venkateswara uses the Suryaprabha (light of the Sun) Vahana.After the Unjal Seva in night, He is taken in the Chandraprabha Vahana (moon-shaped vehicle) around the brightly-lit streets of Tirumala. Chandra means the Moon, which is considered cool and pleasant. According to Hindu beliefs, Chandra is the commander of the mind (chandrama manaso jataha).

On the penultimate day, Rathotsavam is celebrated, in which Bhagwan is seated in a ratham (chariot) and taken in a procession in the morning.It is believed that those who witness Rathotsavam will not be reborn (rathostham keshavam drustva punarjanma na vidyate).The idols of Daruka (the charioteer of Bhagwan Sri Krishna) and the four horses (Saibyam, Sugreeva, Meghapushpam and Valahakam) are placed before the decorated idols of Bhagwan and his consorts. This symbolises that Bhagwan’s charioteer is driving the chariot. After the Unjal  Seva in the night, the deities are taken in the Aswa (horse) Vahana which symbolizes speed.

On the last day, Palki seva and Chakrasnanam are done in the morning and Dhvaja Avarohanam is done in the evening.Anointing and Abishekam are done for the deities. Chakrathalwar is bathed in Swami Pushkarini tank. In evening, the flag is lowered.

Srivari or Venkateshwara temple exhibits many unexplained phenomena which fills devotees with wonder, love and devotion, the ten feet Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram is Svayambhu and does not follow the Agama Shastras with relation to idol making. The utsava murthi Malayappa Swamy originally was named Malaya Kunira Ninra Perumal or the god who made the hill bow after he was found in the caves.

The Ugra Srinivasa or Snapana Beram can set the seven hills on fire and put the whole world in a risky situation if the sun rays merely touch the idol when taken out on days other than Kaishiki or Mukkoti Dwadashi. The namam made of raw Camphor does not cause cracks when applied to the Moolavar’s forehead to reduce the intensity of light from the eyes.

The deity keeps perspiring even after Abhishekam and is frequently wiped with a cloth. On the way to Tirumala, a natural arch structure is present which is exactly the height of Srinivasa himself.

The Brahmasthanam on which the Moolavar stands has inscriptions,known only to the Archakas. The hanging lamps in front of the Dhruva Beram have been glowing brightly since thousands of years.The huge bell in the Sanctum Sanctorum is self-ringing because it it so heavy that even wind cannot move it.

The items used for Abhishekam, including flowers, milk, water are procured from an unknown village 20 km away from Tirupati and nobody goes there except the residents who have strict traditions. The flowers offered are put in unknown waterfalls that exist at the back of the sanctum, the murti of Srinivasa on the Vimana of the temple is unusual because it appeared after a king punished 12 people for a sacrilegious act by hanging them on the walls of the temple which forced it to shut down for 12 years.

Tirupati is one of the eight Svayam Vyakta Kshetras and the 106th and last earthly Divyadesam, also being the richest and most visited temple annually. A visit here will fill the devotees with bliss and bestow great merits on them.




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