An extraordinary amalgamation of various superlatives that make this pilgrimage town endlessly fascinating.
The Sri Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala welcomes 50,000-100,000 devotees and serves 15,000-25,000 free meals a day on an average with the numbers rising manifold during festivals and on auspicious occasion.A visitor cannot help but notice how clean and organised the temple premises and functioning are, almost as if the deity were orchestrating everything. The remarkable efficiency is a result of the labours of the 20,000 permanent and contractual employees of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD), a trust that manages the affairs of the temple.The organisation gets its income from donations offered in the hundis, rentals, returns on investments and proceeds from the sale of ladoos, darshana tickets and human hair.The revenues for 2016-17 are estimated at 2,678 crores, that is, more than a million dollars a day, So how does a temple manage to rake in such staggering sums of money? There is an interesting story behind this. Folklore has it that Lord Venkateswara (also known as Balaji, Srinivasa, Srivari and Venkata), an avatar of Vishnu,wanted to marry Padmavathi, an incarnation of Goddess Laxmi. He organised a grand wedding, which gods, kings and celestial beings from across the universe attended. To fund the celebrations, he took a huge loan from Kubera, the god of Wealth. So devotees offer generous donations to Lord Venkateswara to help him pay his loan.The myth further states that the debt will be recompensed only at the end of Kali yuga, that is about 430,000 years from now.
At Alipiri, there is a toll gate for vehicles heading to Tirumala. Cars are thoroughly checked here not only for security reasons, but also for alcohol, tobacco, meat and other such banned items. There are two ghat roads connecting Tirumala to Tirupati-one for the ascent and one for the descent. The designated time for the uphill and downhill journey is 28 and 40 minutes respectively.If you cover the distance in a shorter time, there is a fine for over speeding-which explains the line of vehicles idling before the entry gate at Tirumala to avoid the fine. The roads remain closed from 12.00 pm-3.00 am. The downhill route, built in 1944, runs along the footpath in various stretches. The uphill route was built much later, in 1974, and is prone to landslides during heavy rains. It skirts all the shrines and landmarks that one comes across while walking uphill. Both, however, offer spectacular panoramic views of the Tirumala hills and Titupati.
Dhotis and Sarees are the traditional popular attire. The practices of tonsure and using tilaka are popular among devotees of Lord Venkateswara. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) runs a large number of guest houses, cottages and dormitories,which can host thousands of people. The rooms are comfortable,albeit basic, and quite reasonably priced. Rooms, suites and cottages are available at Sri Padmavathi Guesthouse, Sri Venkateswara Guesthouse and Varaha Swamy Guesthouse. Reservations can be made online at ttdsevaonline.com
Mythologies aside, textual evidence from Sangam poetry suggests that the shrine was well-known in the early centuries of the Common Era.There are about 1,150 inscriptions in the temple in Tamil,Telugu and Kannada. These were engraved by different dynasties such as Cholas, Pandyas and Saluvas, which points to continual royal patronage of the temple. The earliest inscription dates back to the 9th century CE.It was engraved during the reign of Vijayadanti Varman of the pallava Dynasty. Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire visited the temple seven times in his lifetime and made generous donations,the details of which are inscribed on the temple walls.
The base to visit Tirumala is Tirupati, a city 20km away, at the Seshachalam foothills. Tirupati is often used to designate not only the city proper, but the entire conurbation, including Tirumala. The holy site of Tirumala(literally 'holy hills') encompasses the seven peaks of the Seshachalam Range (part of the Eastern Ghats).The temple is located on the seventh_and one of the lowest-hill, Venkatadri, at an altitude of 850m.The peaks are said to resemble the seven hoods of Adisesha, a coiled serpent on whom Lord Vishnu reclines. The temple guesthouses and choultries are located all over the town. TTD runs free buses around Tirumala at an interval of 5 minutes or so to connect the temple to various choultries and guesthouses.A road to the northwest of the town takes you to Silathoranam and Chakra Theertham. There is a fork in the road further ahead to the right is Dharmagiri, where a Vedic school has been established,and to the left is Narayanagiri,the highest amongst the seven peaks,and Srivari Padalu. A road to the northeast leads to Japali Hanuman Temple, Akasa Ganga and Papavinasam. The Sri Venkateswara Museum is to the west of the temple, close to the Sila Thoranam road.
Tirupathi is the nearest airport about 40 kilometres from Tirumala.
The nearest railway station is at Tirupati, about 26 kilometres from Tirumala.
Tirumala can be accessed by road from Alipiri. The distance is 23 kilometres.
There are two paths to travel on foot from Tirupati to Tirumala-Alipiri Mettu & Srivari Mettu.
"Tirumala has visitors through all the seasons. However, devotees visit temples here throughout the year and in Brahmotsavam time".
SV Museum-The Museum has about 6,000 artefacts and displays, both historical and contemporary, related to the temple.
Silathoranam-One of the few natural arches in Asia, Silathoranam is a unique geological formation that took shape about 1,500 million years ago.
Chakra Theertham-A sacred waterfall next to which there are shrines with idols.
Srivari Padalu-It said that Lord Venkateswara first set his feet on earth at Narayanagiri.
Akasaganga Theertham-On the route from Tirumala to Akasaganga, you will first come across the Gogarbham Dam on your left.
Papavinasam-Papavinasam is where visitors go to wash off their sins (papa-sin,vinasam-destruction).
Govindaraja Swamy Temple-It is one of the largest and most significant temples in the region, built in 1130 CE by Ramanujacharya.
Kapila Theertham-Waterfalls cascading from the Seshachalam Hills to Tirupati, Kapila Theertham is one of the most marvellous.
Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park-Spread over an area of 290 hectares in the Seshachalam foothills has about 500 animals, birds and reptiles.
Tiruchannur-A trip to Tirupati customarily ends at the padmavathi Ammari Temple in Tiruchanur, also known as Alamelumangapuram.
Chandragiri Fort-Have been established in 1000 CE by Immadi Narasinga Yadavaraya who ruled from Narayanavanam
Srikalahasti-Is an important Shaivite pilgrimage centre, which has earned it the moniker of Dakshina Kasi
Talakona Waterfalls-Cascading from a height of 270ft,Talakona is the tallest waterfall in Andhra Pradesh.
Horsley Hills-From atop Horsley Hills, the terrain seems beautiful yet bleak. Dry, rugged hills and stony plains stretch as the eye can see.
Bhuvaraha Swamy Temple-After that,prayers are offered at the Bhuvaraha Swamy Temple before heading to the Venkateswara Temple