The special significance of lord venkateswara temple at tirumala lies in the fact that it is perhaps the oldest religious institutions in the world, were unbroken religious worship is being carried on, according to the available recorded evidence, for over 1,300 years; it is a temple attracting more pilgrims than any other temple in India. The average number of visitors to the temple now is 65,000 to 80,000 daily.
History Of Tirumala Tirupati TTD Temple, Significance
The tirumalai range has seven principle peaks, each of them bearing a separate name accounted for by a fable. Near one of them, namely, Seshachalam, on which stands the tirumala temple and the whole range is often called after this principal peak. The level of the hills on the north is about 3,583 feet, on the east and south about 3,800 feet. The level counts to the west of the hill, is about 1,800 to 2,000 feet above sea level. The valley contains luxuriant evergreen forests and presents good natural scenery. The hill has a sharp turn towards the plains. There is an ancient Siddeheswara shrine on the plains, close to the hill in the west.
This constituted the ancient border between the Tamil country in the south Vadugu, by which name the modern Canada and Telugu speaking regions, to its north, was then known. Vengadam or the Tirumala hill was a prominent outpost of this border. The puranas compare the central range, mentioned above, to a huge recumbent serpent, and locate the Mallikarjuna temple of srisailam on its tail, the Narasimha temple of Ahobilam on its back, the Sri venkateswara temple of Tirumala on the back of the hood, and the Kalahastisvara temple of Kalahasti at the opening of the mouth.
The hill on which the temple of Sri Venkateswara stands, popularly known as Tirumala, low and surrounded by many hills of higher altitude, as is the case with the hill on which is located the Mallikarjuna temple of Srisailam. There are five well known paths leading to the temple. Of them, two routes start from the town of tirupati, the stepped pathway, seven miles long, and the motor road, twelve miles long. The third route is from Chandragiri. The fourth starts from the mamandur railway station and the fifth passes by Nagapatla.
Intimately associated with the temple of tirumala are two konas on the hill. One is called the papvinasam (obviously the eastern one) and the other the Avachari vanka. The former drains the path of the hill which may be said to be to the north of the temple and the latter path to the south, rather south-east of it. Both are important on account of the many sacred Tirthams thereon.
The physical Geography of the tirumala, like its social economy, typifies the interaction of the Tamil and Telugu cultures of South India. The dominant topographical feature of tirumala is the cschedule hill top on which the temple is built. As a matter of fact this has been referred as follows in Silappadhikaram.
The notion that the Lord was named as “Uchchiyilninran” (he who stands on the summit) appears to have persisted as a legacy of the tradition till the middle of the thirteenth century. The realization that the temple was actually at a much lower level that its surroundings became known only in later days.
TIRUMALA IN EARLY CLASSICAL TAMIL LITERATURE:
It is of special significance to note that in the early days long back the hill and not the temple was held as sacred.
Among the early kavyas to tirupati, we can distinguish two, viz., Kalladanar and nakkirar. The 83rd verse of the famous Anumanuru refers to the chieftain pulli of the region surrounding Vengadam. In this verse he is described as llangar Perumagan. The use of the Tamil word kalla in this context would refer to uncultivated areas. In poem 209 of the same anthology, the author, mentions again puli and this vengadam, and goes on to say that there was a narrow passage across which one had to pass to emerge from the territory of the chieftain puli to the north.
Nakkirar, who is a very famous ancient Tamil poet, and who figures in many well-known legends, does not refer to Vegadam as such, but refers to the territory dominated by the Vengadam, when he speaks of Tiraiyan and his capital Pavattiri, Reddipalem in the Gudur taluk of Nellore district.
Another ancient Tamil poet by name Kanakkayanar (probably the father of Nakkirar, since Nakkirar is often described as the son of kanakkayanar) refers to northern Vengadam in Aham 27 and to the breed of elephants infesting its forests. In the course of a description of Pandya and his famous port the pearl- producing Korkai. Yet another poet, kannan, son of Kattur Kilar, refers to Vengadam as belonging to Tiraiyan and describes a peculiar feature that the elephants of that region were being fed on the tender shoots of the bamboo.
The last and the most important of the Tamil poets and probably the oldest among them is Mamulanar. He has seven poems in his anthology, in which directly or indirectly Vengadam is referred to.
It is interesting to note In these ancient references, a number of authors of eminence refer to vengadam, and give details of features which were regarded in those days as characteristics of hill and the region surrounding it; but there is no specific reference to the great shrine which now dominates the entire area. During the period of the sangam literature therefore the importance is more to the sanctity of hill, rather than to the temple, and the temple as such, had not yet taken over the importance which the hill had in this early age.
TIRUMALA IN THE PRABANDHAS
It is also of significance to note that tirumala has enjoyed continuous reputation through the ages. The nalayira Prabandham, the ancient vaishnava literature of a collection of stanzeas in Tamil celebrating the 108 places of worship sacred to Lord Vishnu, and which can be said to refer roughly to the five centuries from 300A.D to 800A.D, has innumerable references to Tirumala. For example, Poygai Alvar refers to Tirupati as a sacred kshetra where Lord Vishnu with his infinite grace manifested himself. Peyalvar refers to Vengadam in a number of verses. Nammalvar who is generally regarded by the vaishnava tradition as the greatest of the Alvars and whose works have come to be regarded as a faithful rendering of all the teachings of the Vedas, in his Tiruvaymozhi, makes explicit reference to the great shrine here. Andal in her Nachiyar Tirumozhi, Kulasekhara Alvar who was a ruler of Chera country and Tirumangai Alvar also mentioned the Lord of Tirumala in their songs.
LEGENDS ABOUT TIRUMALA AND ITS GOD
There are numerous legends and stories about Tirumala and its God, sri Venkateswara or Srinivasa. These are to be found in many of the Puranas. All these have been collected and edited in a book entitled the “venkatachala mahatyam”. An early inscription from Tirumala mentions that a “venkatachala mahatyam” was read in the temple in front of the deity. It is not known if the work of this name, now available in print, is the same as the one referred to in the inscription.
The printed work contains extracts from the Varahapurana, Padmapurana, Garudapurana, Brahmandapurana, markandeyapurana, harivamsa, Vamanapurana, Brahmapurana, Brahmottarapurana, Adityapurana, Skandapurana and Bhavishyottarapurana. Most of these extracts describe the sanctity and greatness of Tirumala and numerous. Tirthas situated there. The following legends taken from the “Venkatachala mahatyam” pertaining to the manifestation of the Lord are of particular interest.
THE LORD’S MANIFESTATION AT TIRUMALA
There are two well known legends which explain the reason for Srinivasa’s presence on the hill.
Once, Vishnu wanted to have a change from his usual abode in Vaikuntha. He asked Narada to suggest a place on this earth which will be suitable for diversion and sport. Narada suggested the neighborhood place where seshachala came to be located, later on. Subsequently, Vayu and sesha disputed their relative strength and entered into a serious dispute. Sesha wound his long body round apart of Meru and challenged Vayu to move it. Vayu did his best to shake the hillock but could not. Ultimately, Sesha opened his mouth to breathe and taking advantage of it, Vayu entered his body and blew off part of the hill. After the hill had travelled a long distance, Meru interfered and requested vayu to leave it there and latter did so. Ashamed of his defeat, Sesha did penance thinking of Vishnu. Vishnu appeared before him and offered a boon. Sesha, assuming the shape of a hill, requested the Lord to stay on his head, wanted the hill to be known as Seshachala. Vishnu thought of narada’s suggestion made previously and agreed to live on Seshala. This story is found in Brahmapurana.
The Bhavishyottarapurana narrates another story which runs as follows:
Once a number of Rishis assembled on a bank of the Ganga and got things ready for the performance of Yagna. Narada came to them and asked them which god they intended to please by performing the sacrifice. The Rishis were nonplussed and requested the sage, Bhrigu, to solve the problem.
The sage undertook to solve the problem by examining the three chief divinites. He first went to the abode of Brahma and found him busy chanting the Vedas with one mouth, uttering the name of Narayana with other mouth and looking at Goddess Saraswati with the third face. He took no notice of Bhrigu. Then the sage went to the abode of Siva. There again he found Siva fully absorbed in sporting with his consort and not taking notice of Bhrigu’s arrival and presence. From here Bhrigu went to Vaikuntha and found Vishnu similarly engaged in amours with Lakshmi. Disgusted with this, Bhrigu kicked Vishnu on his chest. Vishnu immediately got up, massaged the Rishi’s foot and equired if it had been injured. Pleased with his kind attention paid by Vishnu, Bhrigu returned to the Rishis and advised them to dedicate the Yagna to Vishnu.
Lakshmi was piqued at the insolent behavior of the rishi because he kicked the spot which was her favorite resort on the bosom of the Lord and she went away to karavirapura or Kolhapur to stay there, Vishnu left Vaikunta and wandered about. In course of time he came to Seshachala found it sufficiently interesting and sitting down on the mountain in an ant-hill. At the request of Goddess lakshmi, Brahma and Siva took the form of a cow and a calf and Lakshmi herself became a milkmaid and sold the cow and calf to the local king.
The celestial cow emptied her under on the ant-hill below which Lord srinivasa lay, thus nourishing the lord every day. The king and the cowherd, suspecting foul play, followed the cow one day and beat the cow with a stick while emptying its under the ant-hill. But the lord himself received the blow and cursed the king. However, the Lord moved by the king’s prayer for mercy, promised him that he would marry his daughter later. The king was later born as Akasa Raja.
Then the Lord went to vakula devi who was asked by Sri Varahaswami to look after Lord Srinivasa. According to puranas, vakula Devi was an incarnation of yasoda the foster mother of Lord Krishna, to whom he had promised Darsan as Kalyanamurti. In the meanwhile, Padmavathi, the daughter of Akasa Raja, grew into a comely maiden, met the lord in the garden one day and lost her heart to him. Sage Narada information Srinivasa of Pamavati’s love for him and as suggested by him, the Lord went to Akasa Raja, apprised him to his love for Padmavati and told the king to honor Vakula Devi who would come with a marriage proposal.
Vakula devi approached the king with the marriage proposal and the king after consulting his queen Dharanidevi requested sage Suka to fix an auspicious occasion for the wedding. On the day of Vaisakha Sukla Dasami, the wedding of Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Padmavati was celebrated with splendor, attended by kings and devas.
EARLIEST EPIGRAPHICAL RECORDS
Tirumala is also the only temple which has more than a thousand inscriptions and its walls ranging from the 7thcentury A.D up to modern times. These if properly analyzed, give us a continuous during the ages. The earliest inscription found in the tirumala temple mentioned the birth of a prince Vijayaditya belonging to the Banas, who were feudatories of the pallavas (9429-T.T.). This prince is said to have made a gift to Lord Vishnu at Tiruchanur.
The most famous early epigraph of tirumala is that of the pallava princess Samavai, who presented to manavalapperumal costly jewels such as tirumudi, malai, udarabandham, bahuvalayam, karai and prabha. She also arranged for the daily offering of a plate of cooked rice and holy abhishekam to the Lord on the occasion of two Sankrantis and the two Vishnu Sankrantis (18T.T.). This princess refers to the 14th regnal year of Mahender Permanadigal. The language used about this king would appear to indicate the great Pallava emperor Mahendra Varman, father of Mamalla Narashimhavarman, in which case the date of this epigraph would be reckoned as the beginning of the 7th century A.D.
There are also inscriptions of Parantaka1; the Chola ruler Rajaraja1 is also represented by the three epigraphics refers Parantakadevi Amman who presented to Sri Venkateswara a pattam weighting 52 kalanjas of gold and set with six rubies diamonds and 29 pearls. Of the times of Rajendra Chola, there is a very detailed epigraph giving the records of an enquiry about the non-observance of a nimandap padi, a daily food offering made to the Tirumala temple. Fragments of Kulottunga’s historical inscriptions are also available. There is an epigraph of Sundara Pandya, the famous Pandyan emperor.
The Tirumala temple received special devoted attention from the various royal families of the great Vijayanagara and the temple entered upon phase of unprecedented glory and growth during this period. We get extensive details regarding the type of temple administration, the economics of the temple offerings, the modes of capital investment, of money received as offerings to the Lord, the system of land tenure and crop sharing, the various details connected with fairs, festivals utsavams, prasadams, in addition to other details of kings, ministers, religious heads, acharya purushas and the common man from the epigraphs of the Vijayanagara period.