States of India
Lord Venkateswara Temple
Tirumala-Tirupati, one of the richest temples in the country, is the most venerated Vaishnavite shrine of Lord Venkateswara. It was patronised by the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Vijayanagar kings. 130 kms from the city of Madras (Chennai), this temple is located in the southern Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Tiru' in Tamil means `Sri'. Hence Tirupati translates to Sripati or Sri Maha Vishnu.According to the Puranas, the range of Tirumala hills represent the body of the serpent Adisesha, on which Lord Vishnu, the protector of the world, rests. The seven hills represent the seven heads of the serpent. Perched on the 860 m high peak of the Tirumala hills, the temple is a Dravidian masterpiece. The splendid Viman or 'Ananda Nilayam' rising protectively over the sanctum is the most arresting feature in the temple complex.It is plated with gold, as is the Dwajasthambam, or the temple flagpost. The innermost enclosure of the three 'prakarams', opened once annually,enshrines the two-metre high majestic black idol of Lord Venkateswara, bedecked with priceless glittering jewels, most striking of which is the diamond crown said to be the costliest in the world. Some people believe that the idol of Sri Venkateswara has the attributes of Vishnu and Shiva, the preserving and the destroying aspects of the Hindu Trinity.This conception is a happy compromise appealing at once to the Vaishnavites and Shaivites. The idol has four arms, two in the rear, one carrying the Shankha or the conch, and the other the Chakra or the discus, and two in the front, one in the Abhaya pose and the other resting on the hip. On both the front arms, the Bhujanga Valaya, or the girdle of the serpent, an emblem of Shiva can be seen. People from the Northern parts of India, worship Lord Venkateswara, as Balaji.It is praised by poets as `Bhuloka Vaikuntha'. The two very important customs followed in the temple are anointing the body of the Lord with camphor (Karpoora), saffron and musk, and offering the tonsure of hair as a sacrifice to the Lord. The Varahaswami temple, situated near the Venkateswara temple, on the banks of Swami Pushkarani tank, is said to be even more ancient. This shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Varahaswami. It is said that the Adi Sesha himself forms the seven hills on which the temple of the Lord is located.