Tirupati Venkateswara (Sri Balaji) Temple
Tirumala is where the Venkateswara (Sri Balaji) Temple is located. Tirumala is located on Vyenkata Hill at an altitude of 840m (2,800 ft). Vyenkateswara means “the Lord of Vyenkatachala.” Vyenkatachala is a chain of hills. The temple is situated on the top of seven adjoining hills, also called Seshachalam Hills, which are said to be an incarnation of Ananta Sesa.
Once Vayu and Sesa entered into a disagreement over who was stronger. Sesa wrapped his long body around Mount Meru and challenged Vayu to move it. Vayu tried but failed. Vayu pretended to be exhausted and stopped blowing. Then Sesa opened his mouth to breathe. At that moment, Vayu blew off part of the hill. After the hill had traveled a great distance, Mount Meru asked Vayu to leave it there. Ashamed of his defeat, Sesa did penance, meditating on Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu appeared and offered a boon, Sesa assumed the shape of the hill and requested the Lord to stay on his head.
This hill is called Sesachalam. It is said that when Ramanuja visited here, he walked up the hill on his knees to avoid stepping on Sesa Naga. The Lord’s appearance in Tirumala is mentioned in about 12 different Puranas. According to the Brahma Purana, Lord Vishnu wanted a change from Vaikuntha, so he inquired from Narada Muni about a place on earth for diversion and sport. Narada suggested Sesachalam (the head of Ananta Sesa). All the property at the top of the hill at Tirumala belongs to the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which is recycles much of its wealth to such humanitarian works as schools, orphanages and hospitals.
TTD web site (http://www.tirumala.org). Tirumala is an unusual place for India in that the streets are totally clean of trash. Sri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple This temple is one of the most important Vishnu temples in India and is also the richest. It is the most visited temple in India and is one of the most visited religious places in the world.
This magnificent temple is located 20km up a hill from Tirupati. It is a very peaceful place and coming to this temple is a very awe-inspiring and devotional experience. On a spiritual tour of South India it is an absolute must. On an average over 25,000 people visit daily, and on festival days over 100,000 visit. In 1989, over eleven and a half million people made their pilgrimage here. As you enter the inner sanctum the chanting becomes more and more intense—“Om Namo Venkateswara, Om Namo Venkateswara.” On special days when the Deity is in “full dress” his entire outfit spreads from one end of the altar room to the other and all the jewels of the dress are real—gold coins, emeralds, diamonds and platinum. It is said that at Tirumala, Lord Vishnu grants the wish of anyone who offers him their weight in something, be it gold, fruit, cloth, or whatever.
Pilgrims who make such an offering and ask a boon or blessing generally return (after achieving their desire) and make another offering to the Lord, acknowledging his kindness. The worship in the temple is performed by Sri-sampradaya Vaishnava Brahmins, in the line of Ramanujacharya. The Venkateswara temple is 126.5m (414 ft) long, 80m (263 ft) wide, and covers an area of 2.2 acres. What is particularly stunning is the vimana (dome), called Ananda Nilayam, above the Deity’s main room. It is covered in hammered solid gold. The flag-pole (dwajasthamba) is gold-plated, and the gates that guard the inner sanctum are also covered with gold. Every day 100,000 luglus (fruit and nuts sweets) are made. The demand is much more, but the tradition is that all the luglus must be cooked in the temple kitchens. The cooks receive 52 luglus for every 1000 they make, as payment for their services. The average income of the temple is $25,000 (10 lakhs rupees) a day. It has an annual income of 5 billion rupees (125 million dollars) a year. The TTD banks Rs 40 to 50 crores (12 million dollars) yearly. The Hundi (Deity box) collection is over 5 million dollars yearly.
It is not unusual when they open this box at the end of the day to find gold and platinum coins and bricks inside. The Deity’s gold and silver palanquins and other sacred paraphernalia are on display. There is a temple staff of over 6,000. It is said that Sankaracharya established the Dhanakarshana Yantra at this temple to attract people to visit the temple. Sri Chaitanya came here on his tour of South India. Sri Venkateswara (Sri Balaji) Lord Venkateswara is a self-manifested 2m (6 ft) high Deity made of a jet-black stone.
The Deity is known as Venkateswara, Srinivasa, Govinda, Perumal, or Balaji. His diamond crown, made in Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, is said to be the single most valuable piece of jewelry in the world. His two upper arms hold a conch-shell (sankha) and disk (cakra). The palm of his lower right hand is turned outward offering benediction (varada), while his lower left hand is turned inward (katyavalambita). Alarmelmangai-Nachchiyar (Lakshmi), seated on a lotus, is carved on the right side of Sri Venkateswara’s chest. Lord Rama’s marks are found on Venkateswara near the armpits: the bow and quiver (arrows). The Lord’s eyes are covered by a large tilak like “V” made of camphor.
For it is said that Lord Venkateswara’s lotus-like eyes are so beautiful that if they were uncovered, then pilgrims would not want to leave. This form of the Lord is known for fulfilling any desire a devotee may express to him. It is also said that his eyes are covered because His gaze would scorch the entire world. The Deity wears very precious jewelry. He wears a garland of big solid-gold coins. His two hands, opened in benediction, are covered first with silver and then diamonds and rubies. He wears different big crowns made of solid gold covered in diamonds, rubies and other precious gems. The Lord wears a big emerald called “Meru Pacha,” which is 3 inches in diameter and is considered to be the biggest emerald in the world. All the jewelry is real gold. The Lord possesses over 250 crores (70 million dollars) worth of gems and 640 kgs of gold.