Tirupati is a major pilgrimage city located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located at the foothills of the Eastern Ghats at a distance of 550 kilometres (340 mi) south of Hyderabad, the capital of the state and 150 kilometres (93 mi) north of Chennai.The word Tirupathi is a combination of two words ‘Tiru/Thiru’ & ‘Pathi’. “Tiru/Thiru” (Tamil) or Sri ( The Telugu equiv.) is an eponym for the Goddess Lakshmi. Pathi means ‘Husband/Lord’ in Sanskrit. When combined Tiru+Pathi comes to mean The Husband/Lord of Lakshmi. It is believed that this name should have appropriately applied to the town around the temple on the Venkata hill. However, today, it is used to refer to the town at the foot of the hill.
Tirupati is famous for the Venkateswara Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north west of Tirupati in the Tirumala hills at an elevation of 853 metres (2,799 ft). One of the most important pilgrimage centers in India, the temple draws millions of pilgrims and is the busiest pilgrimage centre in the world. Tirupati town itself has several temples and is famous for its red wooden toys, copper and brass idols. Also, the town is a major economical and educational hub in the southern region of the state.
The temple is situated on Venkatadri(also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill) the seventh peak in the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills (Saptagiri in Sanskrit). The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names – Balaji, Vishnu, Govinda and Srinivasa. The temple is reportedly the richest and the most visited place of worship in the world. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (3 to 4 crore people annually on an 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. According to 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. In South Indian Alwar/Nayanar Sri Vaishnava tradition the temple is considered one of the 108 Divya Desams.
The Pallavas of Kanchipuram (9th century AD), Cholas of Tanjore (10 century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th & 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Lord Venkateswara. The statues of Sri Krishna Devaraya and his spouse stand in the premises of the temple. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, kings from various states like the king of Mysore and Gadwal, worshiped the lord as pilgrims and gifted various ornaments and valuables to the temple. Raghoji Bhonsle, the Maharastrian commander visited the temple and made a permanent arrangement regarding the regular pujas to be done to the Lord.
‘Silappadikaram’, the great Tamil Classic calls the Holy Hills, ‘Nediyon Kunrams’. It was, however, the Alvars who brought forth the transcedental majesty of Lord Venkateswara through their poems of praise which are surcharged with undiluted devotion to the Lord. Many Alvars, Vaishnavacharyas and Saints have praised the Tirumala Hill with great devotion. Tirumala Nambi, a descendant of the great ascetic Narada, spent his whole life in serving the Lord.
Tirupathi was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained the majority of its current wealth and size, with the donation diamonds and gold. The 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, enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. The Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. Among the later rulers who endowed large benefactions were the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal. In 1843, with the coming of the East-India Company, 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 1932, when Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established as a result of the TTD Act, 1932.
TTD is operated by a Board of Trustees and has increased in size through adoption of various Acts from five (1951) to fifteen (1987). The daily operation and management of TTD is the responsibility of an Executive Officer (EO) who is appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh. The temple attracts approximately 75,000 pilgrims every day. The popularity of the temple can be judged by its annual budget, estimated at Rs 10 billion in 2008, mostly from donations. Devotees give donations which runs into the millions. 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 SEVEN HILLS: The seven hills also called Saptagiri represent the Saptarishi. They sometimes called the Sapathagiri. Hence the Lord is named Saptagirinivasa.
Following are the seven hills:
Vrushabadri - Hill of Nandi, the vahana of Lord Shiva
Anjanadri – Hill of Lord Hanuman
Neeladri – Hill of Neela Devi – When Lord Balaji was hit by a shepard on his head, a small portion of his scalp becomes bald. There is no hair growth over there and this is noticed by a Gandharva princess Neela Devi. She feels “such an attractive face should not have a flaw”. Immediately she cuts a portion of her hair and with her magical power she implants it on his scalp. Then Lord Balaji notices her sacrifice as hair is the beautiful aspect of female, he promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him and she would be the recipient of all that hair received. Hence it is believed that hair offered by the devotees is accepted by Neela devi.
Garudadri or Garudachalam – Hill of Garuda, the vahana of Lord Vishnu Seshadri or Seshachalam- Hill of Sesha, the dasa of Lord Vishnu
Naraynadri - Hill of Narada muni
Venkatadri - Hill of Lord Venkateswara Sri Venkatesa Suprabhatam, the range of 7 hills are known that Seshalam, Garudachalam, Venkatadri, Narayanadri, Vrishabhadri, Anjanadri, Neeladri. and represents the great serpent bed.
FESTIVALS: The town celebrates most Vaishnava festivals including Vaikunta Ekadasi, Rama Navami and Janmashtami with great splendor, while the Brahmotsavam celebrated every year during September is the most important festivals in Tirumala, when it receives millions of devotees over a short span of a week. Other major festivals include Vasanthotsavam (spring festival) conducted during March-April and Rathasapthami (Magha Shuddha Saptami) is another festival, celebrated during February, when Lord Venkateswara’s deity is taken on procession around the temple chariots.
FOOD: Tirupathi and Tirumala is a pilgrimage town. People on pilgrimage don’t drink or eat non-vegetarian food. Consumption of liquor is prohibited in Tirumala. Smoking is also not allowed in Tirumala. For Drinking it is advisable to use bottled mineral water only as the water available here might be sour in taste. As mentioned in the later section, the laddu of tirupati is considered to be “nearly” as famous as the deity himself.
ACCOMMODATION: Private Accommodation is available in Tirupati city with numerous hotels catering to the pilgrims. TTD provides for paid and free accommodation in Tirupati for pilgrims
NEAR TEMPLES: Kalahasti is located near the pilgrimage town of Tirupati and is visited by thousands of pilgrims. This temple is also associated with Rahu and Ketu, (of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme, also known as the moon’s nodes in astronomical terms). The ancient temple dedicated to Shiva is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (temples celebrating Shiva as the embodiment of the primary elements), air being the element in case here, the other four temples being Tiruvannamalai (Fire), Chidambaram (Space), Tiruvanaikkaval (Water) and Kanchipuram (Earth) respectively.
The closest airport is near Tirupati Airport, which is just 25kms. There are daily flights from Hyderabad,Delhi,Bangalore
There is a railway station at sri Kalahasthi. There are trains from hyderabad,vijayawada and kolkata.The closest railway junction is Renigunta and all trains plying between Chennai and Mumbai stop at renigunta.The Renigunta is just 25kms from srikalahasthi.