Tirumala/Tirupati

Tirumala/Tirupati (India)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Though few westerners have heard of the Tirumala Mountains or the nearby town of Tirupati, together these places are more frequently visited by pilgrims than any other site in the world, including Jerusalem, Rome, and Mecca. The mountain range is believed by many to be Adisesha, the serpent upon which the Hindu deity Vishnu reclines. Its seven peaks are the serpent’s seven heads. Here, Vishnu appeared as Lord Venkateswara.

According to the story, at one point Vishnu’s mate, Lakshmi, incarnated as Princess Padmavati. Vishnu took the form of Venkateswara and came to earth to search for her. Her earthly father agreed to allow his daughter to marry Venkateswara after the god provided proof that he was a man of great wealth.

Today, pilgrims are attracted to three major sites: Sri Venkateswara’s temple on Tirumala, one of the seven peaks; the shrine of Padmavati, located at Tiruchanur about three miles south of Tirupati: and the shrine of Govindaraja in the town of Tirupati. These are, however, by no means the only noteworthy temples in the area. Because of the number of pilgrims who arrive annually and the patronage of royalty through the years, Sri Venkateswara’s temple is reportedly the richest temple in the world. It is the home of a significant collection of rare and precious ornaments and receives many gifts from people who attribute their healing or good fortune to Lord Balaji (another name for Sri Venkateswara). It has been noted that about 150 kilograms of pure gold was used to cover the granite canopy over the most holy part of the main temple.

Sri Venkateswara’s temple dates to the ninth century CE, but it did not emerge as a major center for pilgrimages until the fifteenth-century Vijayanagara dynasty. Pilgrims believe that they can attain mukti (bliss) by worshiping Sri Venkateswara. Because of the story of Venkateswara’s search for his mate, the temple is popular with couples about to be married.

Since 1933 the administrative activities of the temples in Tirupati and environs have been administered as an autonomous body established by the government in Madras: the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Committee. In the last half of the twentieth century, tens of thousands of South Indians have moved to North America. Here they have built several replicas of Sri Venkateswara’s temples in different locations, including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Bridgewater, New Jersey; Cary, North Carolina; Aurora, Illinois; and Agoura, California. There is also a large Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tividale (West Midlands), England.

Sources:

Chetty, P. M. Muniswamy. Tirumala-Tirupathi: Sri Venkateswara’s Story and Mahatyam. Tiruapti, India: Chukkala Singaiah Chetty, n.d.
Sitapati, Pidatala. Sri Venkateswara: The Lord of the Seven Hills-Tirupati. Mumbai, India: BVB, 2001.
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