Astha Svayam Vyakta Kshetras, Part 5
BY: SUN STAFF
Sri Venkateswara, Tirumala-tirtha
Jan 14, 2014 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of svayambhu Lord Visnu's eight abodes.
Fourth among the astha svayam-vyakta kshetras is Lord Venkatesvara at His Tirupati abode on Venkatadri Hill, in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati is approximately 140 kilometers northwest of Chennai and 250 km east of Bangalore. This tirtha is described by Srila Prabhupada in his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 9.64:
"The Tirupati temple is sometimes called Tirupatura. It is situated on the northern side of Arcot in the district of Candragiri. It is a famous holy place of pilgrimage. In pursuance of His name, Venkatesvara, the four-handed Lord Visnu, the Deity of Balaji, with His potencies named Sri and Bhu, is located on Venkata Hill, about eight miles from Tirupati. This Venkatesvara Deity is in the form of Lord Visnu, and the place where He is situated is known as Venkata-ksetra. There are many temples in southern India, but this Balaji temple is especially opulent. A great fair is held there in the month of Asvina ( September-October). There is a railway station called Tirupati on the southern railway. Nimna-tirupati is located in the valley of Venkata Hill. There are several temples there also, among which are those of Govindaraja and Lord Ramacandra."
Temple Gopuram and Vimana
The magnificent temple of Sri Venkateswara is situated on the seventh peak of the Tirupati Hills, also known as Venkatachala. It sits on the southern bank of Sri Swami Pushkarini, the temple theertham.
The Tirumala Hills rise 3,200 feet above sea level, and its seven peaks represent the seven hoods of Adisesha. For this reason the hills are also known as Seshachalam. The seven individual peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The great temple of Sri Venkateswara is, of course, located on the seventh peak, Venkatadri.
This ancient temple is mentioned in the Rig Veda and Asthadasa Puranas, most notably the Varaha Purana and Bhavishyottara Purana, which describe Sri Venkateswara as a great bestower of boons. He is considered the Kali-yuga varada, or boon-granting Lord of Kali yuga. The Puranas offer various legends of Sri Venkateswara's appearance at Tirupati. The temple's origins are in Vaishnava tradition, and temple worship here has remained steadily Vaisnava over the years.
Lord Venkateshwar resides in His sanctum sanctorum, which is situated in the main temple of an extensive complex at Tirupati. He is also known here as Balaji, Srinivasa, and Venkatachalapathy Although more properly, the name Tirupati should refer to the village on Venkata Hill (Tirupati meaning the Lord of Laksmi), instead the name was given to the town at the foot of the hill.
Malayappaswami (Sri Venkateshwar Utsavmoorthi)
A long history of dynasties and rulers have been part of Venkateshwar Temple's history. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram in the 9th century AD, the Cholas of Thanjavur in the 10th century, the Pandyas of Madurai, and later the Vijayanagar kings in the 14th-15th century were all devotees of the Lord. They competed with one another in endowing the temple with increasingly opulent offerings and contributions, making the Lord's temple at Tirupati the wealthiest temple in India.
After the fall of the Hindu kingdoms, the Muslim rulers of Karnataka and then the British took over, and many of the temples came under their control. When the Brits finally divested themselves of the role in 1843, the temple was given over to the management of the Mahants of Hatiramji Matha, until 1933. The Madras government then gave it over to the management of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, which continues to oversee temple worship to this day.
There are many shrines with installed deities here at the Tirupati temple. Lord Venkateshwar resides in the main temple garbha gruhu, or sanctum, where He stands directly beneath a great gilt dome known as the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana. The Lord's form here is svayambhu, or self-manifesting, thus the inclusion of this holy site among the astha svayam-vyakta kshetras. The Deity is known as mulaberam (svayambhu), and no human is known to have been involved in installing it in the shrine.
The Lord is normally dressed in a gold kiritam, which has a large emerald embedded in front. On special occasions He is adorned with a diamond kiritam. On His forehead, the Lord wears a thick double patch of namam drawn with refined camphor, which screens his eyes. In between the two white patches is a kasturitilakam.
Lord Venkateshwar's ears are bedecked with shining golden makara kundalas. His right hand is raised in a fist, with a gem-studded chakra, while the left first holds the conch. His body is clothed with a pitambaram tied with gold string, and a gold belt with many small golden bells attached. He is richly adorned with precious ornaments. He bears Sri Laksmi Devi on His right chest, and Sri Padmavathi Devi on His left chest, and Nagabharanam ornaments on both shoulders. The Lord's lotus feet are covered with gold frames and anklets, a curved belt of gold wrapped around his legs.
Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the sanctum beyond Kurasekara path, and cannot take photographs of the presiding Deity, who is only seen in artistic depictions.
Lord Venkateshwar Pada-tirtha
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