The world famous Tirumala Temple is located in the hill town of Tirumala in Tirupati, Chittoor District. Tirupati is famous for Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara.
It is around 600 km (370 mi) from Hyderabad, 138 km (86 mi) from Chennai and 291 km (181 mi) from Bangalore.
Tiru means 'Holy' or 'Sacred' and mala means hills/mountain in Dravidian languages. Therefore it translates as Holy mountains.
The Tirumala Hill is 853m above sea level and is about 10.33 square miles (27 km2) in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. The temple is on Venkatadri (also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill), the seventh peak, and is also known as the "Temple of Seven Hills". The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Venkateswara is known by other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa. The temple lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a holy water tank. The temple complex comprises a traditional temple building, with a number of modern queue aand pilgrim lodging sites.
The temple is the richest pilgrimage center, after the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, of any faith (at more than INR 50,000 crore) and the most-visited place of worship in the world. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on average), while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world.
There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. According to one legend, the temple has a murti (deity) of Lord Venkateswara, which it is believed shall remain here for the entire duration of the present Kali Yuga.
Tirumala was under the rule of the Vijayanagara emperors, during which time the temple's assets were accumulated. Coronation ceremonies of the emperors were also held at Tirupati. In 1517 Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels. It enabled the Vimana (inner shrine) and the roofing to be plated with gold. The Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. The rulers of Mysore and Gadwal endowed large gifts to the temple.
The Pallavas of Kanchipuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Tanjore (10th century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th and 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Lord Venkateswara. During the invasion of Srirangam by Malik Kafur in 1310-11 AD, the Ranga Mandapam of the temple served as the shelter for the presiding deity of Srirangam, Ranganatha Swamy. Later, under the rule of the Vijayanagara emperors, was when the temple gained most of its current wealth and size, with the donation of diamonds and gold. In 1517 Vijayanagara ruler Sri Krishna Deva Raya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels, enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. Statues of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and his spouse stand in the premises of the temple. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, kings from states such as Mysore and Gadwal 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. There is an idol of Raja Todar Mal who was the revenue minister of Akbar, greeting pilgrims in the premises of the temple.
In 1843, with the coming of the Madras Presidency, the administration of the Sri Venkateswara Temple and a number of shrines was entrusted to Seva Dossji of the Hathiramji Mutt at Tirumala as Vicaranakarta for nearly a century until the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established as a result of the TTD Act in 1932. After independence Andhra state was created on linguistic grounds, wherein Tirupati which had and still has a majority of Telugu speaking population was assigned by Govt. of India, integrating it as part of Andhra.
TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees that has increased in size from five (1951) to fifteen (1987) through the adoption of Acts. The daily operation and management of TTD is the responsibility of an executive officer who is appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh.
The temple attracts approximately 75,000 pilgrims every day. The annual budget, estimated at Rs 10 billion in 2008, runs charitable trusts whose funds are derived from the budget and donations from the devotees.
The vimanam is a monumental tower with a golden roof. Its inner temple or vimanam houses the main deity, Lord Sri Venkateswara. The deity stands directly beneath a gilt dome called the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. This exquisitely wrought deity, called the Mulaberam, is believed to be self-manifested, and no human being is known to have installed it in the shrine. The Lord wears a gold crown with a large emerald embedded in the front. On special occasions, he is adorned with a diamond crown. The Lord has a thick double tilaka drawn on his forehead, which screens his eyes. His ears are decorated with golden earrings. His right hand is raised in a fist, which is decorated with a gem-set chakra; the left fist contains a Shankha (conch shell). The front right hand has its fingers pointing to his feet. His front left hand is akimbo. His body is dressed with yellow clothing tied with gold string and a gold belt with gold bells. He has a yajnopavita (sacred thread) flowing down crosswise from his left shoulder. He bears Sri Lakshmi Devi on his right chest and Sri Padmavathi Devi on his left 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 ancient and sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara is located on the seventh peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) of the Tirupati Hill, and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini.
It is by the Lord’s presidency over Venkatachala, that He has received the appellation, Venkateswara (Lord of the Venkata Hill). He is also called the Lord of the Seven Hills.
The temple of Sri Venkateswara has acquired unique sanctity in Indian religious lore. The Sastras, Puranas, Sthala Mahatyams and Alwar hymns unequivocally declare that, in the Kali Yuga, one can attain mukti, only by worshipping Venkata Nayaka or Sri Venkateswara.
The benefits acquired by a piligrimage to Venkatachala are mentioned in the Rig Veda and Asthadasa Puranas. In these epics, Sri Venkateswara is described as the great bestower of boons. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord at Tirumala.
The temple has its origins in Vaishnavism, an ancient sect which advocates the principles of equality and love, and prohibits animal sacrifice.
From the Tirumamani Mandapam, one can enter the Bangaru Vakili (Golden Corridor in Telugu) to reach the inner sanctum sanctorum. There are two tall copper images of the dwarapalakas Jaya and Vijaya on either side of the door. The thick wooden door is covered with gilt plates depicting the dasavataram of Sri Maha Vishnu.
The doorway is directly in line with the Padi Kavali and the Vendi Vakili(Silver Corridor in Telugu). It admits pilgrims to the Snapana Mandapam.
Suprabhatam is sung in front of this door.
The Garbha Griha or sanctum is where the idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara is placed. The idol stands majestically in the Garbha Griha, directly beneath a gilt-dome called the "Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana".
This idol, called the Mulaberam, is believed to be self-manifested. As there is no known sculptor possessing the capability to sculpt idols of god so proportionately. Further, no human being is known to have installed it in the shrine.
The idol of the Lord wears a gold crown (Kiritam), which has a large emerald embedded on its front. On special occasions, it is replaced with a diamond kiritam. On the forehead of the idol, two thick patchs of tilak drawn with refined camphor, almost covers the eyes of the idol. In between the two white patches is a Kasturitilakam.
Golden makara kundalas hang to the ears of the idol. The palm of its raised right hand is embedded with a gem-set Sudershana Chakra, and the left palm with the Holy Cone. The slightly outstretched front right hand, has its fingers pointing toward the feet, as if Lord is the only recourse to his devotees to dissolve in him and enjoy eternal bliss. The akimbo of the front left hand implies lord's protection to devotees, and to show that the Samsara Sagara (Ocean of Life) is never deeper than to hip's height, if they seek his refuge.
The body of the Idol is spun with a Gold-stringed-Pitambaram, with a belt of golden-bells. The idol is decorated with precious ornaments. It has a Umbilical Chord flowing down, cross from the left shoulder. It bears Goddess Lakshmi on the right chest and Sri Padmavathi Devi on the left. Nagaabharanam ornaments are on both of the idol's shoulders.The lotus feet are covered with gold frames and decked with clinging gold anklets. A strong curved belt of gold encompasses the legs. During Abhishekam, we can have darshan of Goddess Lakshmi.
The Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana was covered with gilt copper plates and covered with a golden vase, in the thirteenth century, during the reign of the Vijayanagara king, Yadava Raya.
Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the Garbha Gruha (beyond Kulasekhara padi (path)).