Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tirupati Balaji Temple - Where Wishes Come True AND The Cry Of Govinda!

It’s a sun dappled afternoon, 1 pm on the clock, and with our darshan slated for 2 hrs. from now, that is, for 3 pm, we are well on time. The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) trust (responsible for administering the place and they do it efficiently!) managed state bus starts with a sudden jerk and a chorused cry of ‘Govinda Govinda’ erupts out of the window.

Bus ride to Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
From the bus: On the way up to Tirumala from Tirupati

Slowly, the undulating curves open up as the hot winds begin to caress my face and the holy hills roll out against the vast backdrop of the clear blue horizons. The divine ascend over Tirumala to meet the Lord has begun. Which for the believers, also doubles up as the huge coiled serpent of the Master, Lord Vishnu better known as Lord Venkateshwara or Lord Balaji in this temple town of Tirumala-Tirupati.

Bus ride to VenkateshwaraTirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Tirumala Hill views

Around 45 Minutes, a feast on the gorgeous views and a few power naps later, I find myself walking in the temple town of Tirumala, a typical religious site dotted with a row of shops selling all kinds of local knickknacks, touristy trinkets and other religious paraphernalia.


Shops in the way leading to Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Trinkets sold at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
A peep inside a shop at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Religious paraphernalia sold in shops
outside the Venkateswara temple, Tirumala

Accompanying me in my walk are other devouts; all coming down from diverse regions and different cultures yet unified in their thoughts and feelings and purpose. An envelope exists here; and it packs in all. Somehow you know, that now, you are in the wrapping of something mysteriously divine, something that has been defined for centuries... Such that you feel a connect, and you feel happy to be a part of something beautiful.

Devotees at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Walking towards the Balaji temple

I stand in the sprawling complex of the Tirupati Balaji temple and pause. Far in the distance, sun kissed by the dazzling afternoon and canopied by the clear blue skies, stands the temple: The earthly abode of Lord Vishnu, His celestial home, "The Vaikunth".

They say that to come here, in Tirupati Balaji's abode, you need His call...

The Tirupati Balaji Temple complex, Andhra Pradesh

Since how many years have I been waiting for this call? Since when?

For someone who has loved numbers all her life, surprisingly for her, this time, the numbers fail. But does she even care? What matters is the present. Now. She knows she is blessed, now that she stands here.

Shree VenkateshwaraTirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Tirupati Balaji Temple or TTD complex at Andhra Pradesh
Shree Venkateswara Balaji Temple complex from a distance

In front of me and overlooking the temple, are 3 men, bald headed, sitting down with their backs against me, eyes closed and hands folded.

Pilgrim crowds at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh

And then, there are so many more... Men, women and children – all ages, sizes and personalities – sitting, moving, standing, resting, coming, going.


A small pilgrim of Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Pilgrim rush at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Pilgrim crowd at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
A little kid at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
In the main temple complex: A kaleidoscope of devotees

Now drenched in a sensory overload of fusing devotion and a celebratory focused joy that perhaps I have never seen or experienced before, I walk further. With the darshan ticket in my hand and cutting through the milling pilgrim crowds, I look out for my darshan queue –  that of ‘Rs. 50’.

Darshan queues at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
The Rs. 50 darshan queue: My way to His House

Here come the warnings:  First from the temple authorities: Electronic items and leather bags are not allowed inside the temple. Second from the local interaction: The queues are huge, and it might take anywhere around 5 hours to reach the sanctum.

A poster at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
No electronic items allowed inside

First warning checked, the second warning does raise some concerns, only to be soon washed off by a voice inside me.

A tired devotee at Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh

It’s a meeting with the Lord and whoever expected it to be easy?

I tuck in.

Around 4 hrs and room after room after room later... Finally... Suddenly, a fresh gust of air sweeps through. Breathing in the open air of the main temple compound, the anxiety increases and so does my anticipation of my meeting with the Lord. The Lord is just a few minutes away.

And then, in the midst of all the pushes, I arrive. We all do. Here, emotions reel, ever ready to erupt. In a giddy frenzy to see the Lord, physical boundaries disappear. There are no lines of control. Lakhs of people move in a procession like a single body as they prepare themselves for ‘that’ moment. This is the moment they had been waiting for so long and now that it was here, they want to give all, take all.

Shree VenkateshwaraTirupati Balaji Temple - Andhra Pradesh

The temple may have been established in the seventh century AD according to the stone inscriptions on the temple walls.

He, the self manifest Venkateshwara, glitters in a calm friendly demeanor, black in color, in the dimly lamp-lit sanctum: lifelike, real, ready to speak any moment. I have seen Him in guidebooks, in posters, pictures, on the TV but nothing prepared me for the real Him. Is He smiling? Perhaps. But, I cannot really ascertain as I have so many other things to do and so less time.

The deity of Shree Venkateswara Tirupati Balaji in Tirumala

The lord of Seven Hills, Tirupati Balaji or Lord Shree Venkateswara:
Adorned with precious jewels and other rich embellishments

Immediately after my split glance, I close my eyes and bow my head; I want to seek His affection, ask for his wishes, offer my prayers... I want to seize every bit of this moment. After all, according to the Puranas (sacred Hindu texts), This is the God Himself who can make everything possible to attain for His devotees. But it is only a few seconds that I get and before I can gather, I am directed towards the door. Fair enough too. There are lakhs of others who are behind me wishing to do the same. So, my time is up.

The Tirupati Balaji Temple from outside, Andhra Pradesh

A masterpiece of Dravidian architecture, the Tirumala shrine houses the deity of Shree Venkateswara which, according to history,
was discovered by a local Chieftain called Tondaman
in a huge anthill who later built a temple around it.

But, till the time I am there, there is no one to come between me and my maker. No, not even the impatient crowds. They all fade quietly in that moment. It’s a concert of faith and one that rates high in intensity; here, Lord Venkateshwara, Lord Balaji is the hero, we his fans. Everyone is in awe, everyone wants to get closer to Him. The air is charged and the atmosphere is ethereal. With each step taken, the ground beneath is lost and it gets difficult to breathe.

Tirupati Balaji Temple in the evening, Andhra Pradesh

Yet, those in the queues with their hands folded and His name on their lips and all the chaos around them, pray, for they come with a sincere belief in their hearts. A belief that He will take away all their hurdles. A belief that He will fulfill all their wishes. A belief that He will guide them and keep them in His folds. It is a belief that is deep-rooted, definite, unshakable and unfathomable. It is a belief that has caused this place to cease as a temple, instead has made it so much more.

It is a belief that helps them, and me, to eventually meet our ‘Govinda’...

Govinda, Govinda!

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Travel Tips, Darshan queues, timings and fast facts:

1. The shrine is visited by over 70,000 pilgrims every day. So, you can well imagine the crowds and the time it might take you to reach the Lord. Might be an overwhelming sight at first but there is no need to panic. Trust me, in the end, it is well worth so much more!

2. You can travel from Tirupati to Tirumala by road or alternatively cover the same distance on foot;
The God can be viewed throughout the day except for a few hours in the night. Daily hundreds of people walk up the pristine hills of Tirumala, climbing over 3500 steps to the top covering a distance of about 9 kms. If, however, like me, you are travelling by road, nothing beats the state run buses. They ply with an amazing frequency (from 3 am to 11 pm at an interval of about 10/30 minutes) and charge very nominal rates.

Helpful link: http://www.tirumala.org/travel_tptm_main.htm

3. There are different darshan queues in the complex, the most popular choice being the 'Rs. 50' one which is our choice as well but the one queue that really caught my eye this time was this special queue for the infants, aged 1 years and below; it was nice to see God making it a bit easy for the infants and their parents! And there is more. There exists similar such queues for senior citizens as well.

4. For my accomodation recommendation: you may check this post - ISKCON temple in Tirupati

Other Temples to visit:

Tirupati-Tirumala is a temple town, with a variety of temples and shrines spread all around having some kind of importance attached to them. A few notable among them being the Govindarajaswamy Temple, Kodanda Ramaswamy Temple, Tiruchanur (Goddess Padmavathy), Kapila Theertham (Lord Shiva), Shri Padmavathi Amma Vari Temple, Shri Kalahasti Temple, etc. Since this trip of ours was short on time, unfortunately, we couldn't cover any of the above. Next time...and, hopefully soon.


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44 comments:

  1. Dear Arti,
    I am thankful to you for coming up with this beautiful post . Your description along with the pics let me there itself.I am eagerly waiting for his call.... my dream :)

    Best wishes dear!


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    1. Thanks, dear Simran. A sincere wish is all that we need, I hope you get there soon and I am sure you will. And no worries, even otherwise, all we have to do is close our eyes and there He is, ever present in our hearts - right? :) Best wishes to you as well :)

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  2. Sometime to queue over than 1 hour a bit frustating. I always have that experience. Stand, hot sun, barefoot. And we just have some minute to see the Lord. And than I changed my perceptions, every stand in a queue to visit holy place i start to feel god in first minute i enter the queue. I see every face in a thousand pilgrim. I try to feel. There is hope. There is wish. There is omnipotent power there around.

    Thank you to take me there Arti, i can feel The Lord through your strong belief.

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    1. Wow, Mareta! I loved what you said here and how you said it. A simple change in the way we perceive the circumstances can change so much. I really admire your beliefs and your positive ways to see the world around you, it is inspiring! And very assuring to hear it coming from you.

      Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful views, Mareta, I am glad I could take you there :)

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    1. Thank you so much sir, so good to see you after a long time.

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  4. Five hours of queueing! The temple looks lovely and the scenery in the countryside are gorgeous.

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  5. Beautiful narration. Visiting Tirupati is an experience in itself..

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    1. How true. It is indeed an experience very unique and personal to oneself. Thank you! :)

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  6. thats well written.. i could connect with u through ur clicks as i too was just doing the same last time i visited there. Passing time while in queue is really toughest :(

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  7. Wow. You have perfectly described the feeling everyone feels at the feet of lord Balaji.

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  8. Αγαπημένη μου φίλη, καλημέρα
    Πολύ ενδιαφέρον και συγκινητικό το σημερινό σου θρησκευτικό αφιέρωμα!!!
    Υπέροχες φωτογραφίες, άνθρωποι, χρώματα, πίστη και ελπίδα!
    Να είσαι ευλογημένη!
    Πολλά φιλιά

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  9. Arti you have captured the essence of Tirumala wonderfully. Reading your post I had the feeling of actually being in Tirumala and standing in queue for darshan of the Lord.

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  10. A possible wait of 5 hours and yet I have a feeling it was well worth every minute spent queueing. Such a wonderful post, this sounds like a truly magical and spiritual place to visit.

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  11. Beautiful post. Those few seconds that one gets to glance at Balaji are worth all the wait and journey that pilgrims take from different parts of the world.

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  12. What a unique place. The architecture is very interesting. I have never seen such architecture in Japan.

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  13. Wow, Arti- that was a wonderful journey of picture and text! Thanks for taking us along! So enjoy your lovely blog:-) Best to you, Eli

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  14. Beautiful narrative on your trip to Tirumala! Filled with devotion, emotions and faith… right from the heart. Wonderful photos and perspectives from the temple town or hill temple!

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  15. The temple is truly divine and you captured the true spirit of the place, Arti

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  16. Thanks for such a good virtual tour of Tirupathi :) Can you believe if I say I have never been there :( I badly want to visit it someday and your post will help me :)

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  17. Beautiful description Aarti !I loved it and we could nevr take the pictures because we put the mobiles in safety lockers there:(

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  18. Arti, Nice to read your new post on Tirupati Balaji Temple. Great to read. Thanks for sharing.
    Great captures & write up as always.
    Govinda, Govinda _ /\ _
    Wish you all the best for your new Yatra…..
    ~ dada

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  19. Thanks for the tour Arti! I enjoyed seeing the crowds...that gives me more of a sense of what it would be like to be there. A beautiful temple with so much spiritual meaning I am sure, but in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine standing in line for five hours for anything. (I need to develop more patience obviously ;>)

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  20. It was worth the wait and the long queues, I see. I'm sure Thirupati has an atmosphere of its own. Did you bring back those Thirupati laddoos?

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    1. Ah yes, Divya, I did! Can never miss out on the Laddoos of Tirupati, it is a specialty having it's own unique identity in Tirupati. Just can't have enough of them, ever.

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  21. Every year I've been to Tirupati whenever I come down to India. This year I missed it, and I got a virtual tour from you! Hours of wait, hopping from cell to cell, pushing the devotees, getting stamped a million times will all be worth it for that 1 minute darshan of Balaji isn't it?

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  22. Thank you everyone for your kind comments and appreciation, @Evryone! :) They really mean a lot to me.

    Tirupati is perhaps the most sought after pilgrimage in India and you immediately know why, once you go there. The entire atmosphere, though crowded and noisy, still very much remains -- simply magic.

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  23. Did you go before the whole Telangana fiasco started? I wanted to go this month but was worried about the situation there

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  24. That is quite a wait, Arti. Glad you stuck it out -- it was definitely worth it. Just amazing!
    I'd never heard of Tirupati before, so thanks for the share.

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  25. Gorgeous pictures Arti and beautiful write-up, reminds me of my first trip to Tirumala

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  26. Thank you for taking us with you on your journey, Arti. What an experience and I can't believe how many visit and how long those queues are. Beautifully written and the temple is just stunning.

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  27. Well I am glad you did still feel a wonderful spiritual experience even though you were hurried through allowing more people the chance to view.

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  28. Your virtual tours continue to be as lovely as ever. Thanks a ton, Arti. :)
    Hope you have been well. :)

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  29. Good and valuable information. Thanks

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  30. I was planning to go for tirupati package tour. In this regard your valuable information has helped me a lot to finalize my plan for balaji darshan.

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  31. That places are in my bucket list and in next season i have plan for the Us and i am thinking about the online booking of the bus in US bus new york to indianapolis and hope you will also go there for the visit..

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  32. Very beautifully written. I pray to the Lord of universe to call me too. Eager to get a glimpse of Him and his blessings for all! Govinda Govinda!

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  33. Wow..! Great diary. It let to feel as we are there in the trip. Good work.

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  34. Good post regarding the best place of the world

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  35. Hi Arti. Thanks for sharing ypur experience with us. I really felt that I am in Tirupati. The way you narrated all experiences was just awesome. I am planning to visit Tirupati this Friday and I got to know some very important things from your Blog. I am Happy that I read it and will go all prepared. God Bless You.....

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  36. Thank you dear for coming up with this beautiful post.. I feel happy that I came across your blog..I felt as if I am right there! I got few information which I was looking for.. :)

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