One visit to the seven majestic hills adorned with marvels of Dravidian architecture, and there is little wonder that the Gods chose to reside here. The air is thick with sacred music, sanctifying rituals, a palpable faith connecting the divine and the human and the enigmatic presence of Lord Balaji himself.
Tirupati is among the busiest and richest pilgrimage centers in India, and its many temples draw millions of devotees from all over, throughout the year.
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If you want to understand tech you may pay a visit to the famed silicon valley, if you want to understand faith then you certainly pay a pilgrimage to the famed and fabled Tirupati.
A center of spiritual exuberance and ecstasy, it was important to stop by at this cynosure of spirituality, religion and faith. Tirupati has been an anchor of culture and tradition for centuries now, attracting Indians from all walks of life and across the country. The lord and his story led to the temple, the temple led to the faith, the faith to unwavering belief and the belief has led to millions paying homage here.
And in a way this has all led to better administration and development of the entire town. In a way in recent times it has become a fine example of how faith, administration and modern development can go hand in hand.
I am moved by deep faith, I said, and went on to further add that I didn’t need to believe to feel the intensity. Mahesh, the quaint essential observer was still unmoved. He was probably thinking of the temple, its riches, its trust, its management and the crowds. Ejji was distant, temples were not his thing. He kept reminding us it was all a business. But as we stood outside the enclosure of the water pond next to the Tirumala temple, Mahesh and I took in the sights, sounds and the people. We were pushed into the enclosure by the sheer force of the crowd which was only focused on the gloriously decorated float in the middle of the pond. We quickly found Vijay Naidu, our local host and managed to sit ourselves on the first steps closer to the water body.
The float with deities, priests and the decorated and beautifully lit temple mandap structure on it, kept moving across the pond, and with it a battery of men holding thick rope to keep the crowds away who were seated on the steps that covered three sides of the pond. The priests on the float performing the rituals and the mandapam decorated as instructed in the Yajur Veda. All this continuing for ages. As the float came to a standstill in front of us, and the final worship was completed, the idols were taken from the float on a palanquin of brass, lifted by 10 men on either side, chanting “govinda”, to be carried back inside the temple.
After sitting in daze through this entire ceremony, called the Tappam Festival – literally the Float festival, we managed to get back to our questioning minds. What did we just witness? Was it a ritual, was it a performance or was it manifestation of faith? How can so many people just believe. Believe in the lord, believe in the story, believe in the temple? What was it in the Indian people that allowed them to devote themselves so faithfully? Mahesh looked at me and said, you are right, one doesn’t have to be a believer to feel the faith. You just need to be here to realise what faith means. and for the million in our country, thats all that matters. As Ejji said, while he waited outside he felt like he was at the tower of babel, he could here every single spoken langugage in India while standing there.
I said to myself, if there was a place on this planet where faith could move mountains, Tirupati was it!
Featured and Other Stories
Reddy Amma’s Mess
A visit to Tirupati is incomplete without eating at the Reddy Amma’s mess in the old part of te town. Her food is delicious and she serves it in a clean and humble little mess. The food is incomplete without the story of Reddy Amma herself. Reddy Amma runs this whole kitchen like a goddess. May be it is time we start looking at women not as some vulnerable section of society but more as participants in the growth process. Not as beneficiaries but as contributors. The food and the lady behind it – Reddy Amma are legendary and for once the cook is certainly more famous!
Toll Tale of TTD
We lined up at the Tirumala toll where an electronic slip is generated and time is recorded of entry to the hill. Upon reaching the top the same slip is scanned again to see how much time you took to come up. If its less than 28 minutes then you must be speeding and so you are fined with a no entry for 6 weeks into the tirumala area. The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) is trying to encourage safe driving through this technology. How fantastic is that.
We met Vijaya Naidu head of the operations at the main plant of Amara Raja company, the Amaron battery people. He is from this area only and proud of it. He takes his whole afternoon off to show us around. We called him just a few hours ago and this man gave up his whole Sunday to take us around. Not to mention offered us to stay in his home that night.