Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a Hindu temple in the hill town of Tirumala, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. It is around 600 km (370 mi) from Hyderabad, 138 km (86 mi) from Chennai and 291 km (181 mi) from Bangalore. 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 and 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.
TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees, and has increased in size through adoption of various Acts from five in 1951 to fifteen in 1987. The operations and management of TTD is the responsibility of an Executive Officer (EO), who is appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh.
The temple attracts, on an average of approximately 60,000 pilgrims every day. The popularity of the temple can be judged by its annual budget. The annual income is estimated at INR 10 billion in 2008. Most of its income is derived from the donations. Devotees donate to the TTD, which runs into the millions of rupees. TTD, the organisation running the welfare of the temple, runs various 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.
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.
Deities in the temple:
- Moolavirat or Dhruva Beram — The main stone deity of Lord Venkateshwara is called Dhruva Beram (beram means "deity", and dhruva means "pole star" or "fixed"). The deity is about 8 feet (2.4 m) from the toes to the top of the crown and is considered the main source of energy for the temple.
- Kautuka Beram or Bhoga Srinivasa — This is a tiny one-foot (0.3 m) silver deity, which was given to the temple in 614 AD by Pallava Queen Samavai Perindevi, and has never been removed from the temple from the day it was installed. This deity is popularly known as Bhoga Srinivasa, because it enjoys all the Bhoga (worldly pleasures) which the Moolavirat has. This deity sleeps in a golden cot every night and receives Sahasra Kalashabishekam every Wednesday.
- Snapana Beram or Ugra Srinivasa — This idol of the Lord represents the anger part of Lord Venkateshwara. He remains inside the sanctum sanctorum, and comes out on only one day each year: on Kaishika Dwadasi, before the sunrise. Snapana means "cleansing". The idol is cleansed daily with holy waters, milk, curds, ghee, sandalwood paste, turmeric, and so on.
- Utsava Beram — This is the form of the Lord which comes out of the temple to see the devotees. This deity is also called Malayappa, and its consorts are Sridevi and Bhudevi. These three deities were found in a cave called Malayappan Konai in the holy Tirumala Hills.
- Bali Beram or Koluvu Srinivasa — This panchaloha idol resembles the main deity, and represents the presiding officer for all activities and rituals in the temple. The idol is also called Bali Beram. Koluvu Srinivasa is regarded as the guardian deity of the temple that presides over its financial and economic affairs.
The names ascribed to the main deity are Balaji, Srinivasa, Venkateswara,Edukondalavadu(Lord of seven hills in Telugu) and Venkatachalapathyor Venkataramana. The goddess Sri or Lakshmi (Vishnu's consort) resides on the chest of Venkateswara; thus, he is also known by the epithet "Srinivasa" (the one in whom Sri resides). The goddesses Lakshmi and Padmavathi reside on either side of his chest. The deity is considered the Kali yuga varada, that is, 'the boon-granting Lord of Kali yuga'. (Kali yuga is the fourth and final age of the Hindu cycle of ages). The temple is held in particular reverence by the sect who hails from of "Naimisharanya" (north India
), known as the Sri Vaikhanasa/ Adhi Vaikhanasas followers of Sri Vikanasa Muni.
For worshippers, the deity Venkateswara symbolises goodness. When people travel to Tirupati, they chant the mantra Yedu Kondala Vada Venkataramana Govinda Govinda (in Telugu) or Om namo narayanaaya or Om Sri Venkatesaya Namah (in Sanskrit). Lord Venkateswara is believed by followers to be a very merciful form of Vishnu, being the fulfiller of every wish made to him by the devotees
The town celebrates most Vaishnava festivals, including Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Rama Navami, and Janmashtami with great splendor, while the Brahmotsavam celebrated every year during September is the most important festival in Tirumala. The temple receives millions of devotees over the short span of a week. Other major festivals include Vasanthotsavam (spring festival), conducted in March–April, and Rathasapthami (Magha Shuddha Saptami), celebrated in February, when Lord Venkateswara's deity is taken on procession around the temple chariots.