Tirupati, situated at the Eastern Ghats’ foothills, is an important pilgrimage centre of the state of Andhra Pradesh. It lies close to the Tirupati Temple, which is located in the hills of Tirumala. The temple attracts millions of devotees every year and is one of the most visited pilgrimage centres of the world.
History of Tirupati
The source of the origin of the name is not very clear, but it is believed that the word Tirupati comes from the amalgamation of two words - Thiru and Pati. Thiru is a Tamil word which means ‘respectable’ while Pati translates to ‘husband’. Thus, the literal meaning of Tirupathi comes out to be ‘respectable husband’.
The hills of Tirumala, which lie close to the city centre, are the second oldest rock mountains in the world. There is no historical evidence to suggest who built the Tirupati Temple, but it has come to be controlled and upgraded by many rulers over the years since the 4th century AD. The temple of Tirupati, unlike the other temples of South India, was able to ward off the invasions by Muslim rulers in the 14th and the 15th century.
People & Culture of Tirupati
Apart from the temple, Tirupati is also known for its fairs and festivals. The Gangamma Jatra, to be held for a week from 8th-15th May, 2012 is one such event. It is held at the Tataiah Gunta Gangamma temple in Tirupati and is known for its unusual rituals.
Devotees disguise themselves and walk across the streets of the temple shouting foul words in the belief that it will drive evil forces away. Later on, they smear themselves with sandalwood paste, cover their heads with jasmine garlands and enter the temple.
The end of the jatra is marked by smashing the earthen idol of the goddess. People from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also come to Tirupati during this time to participate in the festival.
The biggest festival though is the Brahmotsavam, during which there is a huge rush. The Vijaynagar Festival, held at Chandragiri Fort and the Rayalseema Food and Dance Festival are some of the other attractions of the temple town.
Things to do in Tirupati
The Tirupati Temple is situated atop the Tirumala Hills which consists of seven peaks known as Sapthagiri. The seven peaks represent the seven hoods of Adishesha, the serpent on whom lies Lord Vishnu. The temple opens at 3:00 am and closes at midnight. According to practice, the Varahaswami Temple
should be visited before visiting the temple of Sri Venkateswaraswami
There is always a huge queue for darshan which can be done through the paid darshan or through the free darshan. Special ‘sevas’ or paid darshans require an additional charge and are a little faster than the free queue. The waiting time in the queue is typically 4-5 hours. Around 50,000 people are believed to visit the temple everyday.
Most of the revenue of Tirumala comes from the pilgrimage to the Tirupati Temple. It is believed that the Tirupati Temple is the richest holy place in the world after the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. Apart from the Tirupati Temple, Tirupati also has the Sri Venkateshwara Zoological Park, which houses birds and animals of various species. Other places of tourist interest in the region include the Padmavati Temple, the Govindaraja Temple, Srinivasa Mangapuram and Shilatoranam, which is a rock garden.
Food & Shopping in Tirupati
Food in Tirupati typically consists of the standard South Indian vegetarian fare of rice, sambhar, rasam, vegetables etc. Food is available at the temple too where it is served on banana leaves with sweet rice being the speciality. The other popular food item is the laddu which is a favourite of the Lord as well.
In Tirupati, visitors can shop for locally made unique handicrafts which include woodcarvings, whitewood toys, Tanjore gold leaf paintings and kalamkari art, among other things. Another speciality of the place is the Chandana Dolls which are black carved wooden idols of Lord Venkateshwara and his consort Padmavati.
Travelling to Tirupati
The city is well connected by rail, road and air. To reach Tirupati
by air, Renigunta is the nearest airport (15 km away) which serves direct flights from Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai as well as Bangalore. It also has a well equipped railway station which connects it to all the major cities of India. Buses are another means to reach Tirupati. Services are available from Tirupati as well as the Tirumala Hills to the adjacent cities of Chennai, Vizag, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Buses are operated by APSRTC, KSRTC and other operators.
Travelling within Tirupati
The easiest means to get around Tirupati is bus and car rental. Buses are the cheapest mode of transportation and are available at frequent intervals. Buses can be availed to go to the top of the temple and generally take around an hour. Car rentals are also available and typically charge around INR1500-INR2000 for a whole day with additional charges for fuel.
Travel Tips for Tirupati
Since Tirupati is a holy destination, there are certain rules which should be kept in mind. Wearing inappropriate clothing, covering the head with caps, hats, turbans etc. should be avoided. Also, flowers should not be worn as all flowers are for the Lord. Eating non-vegetarian food and consuming alcohol and chewing betel leaf are not encouraged. Cell phones, cameras and any type of gadgets are not allowed inside the temple premises.
Tirupati experiences extreme climate, with summer temperatures ranging from 40-43° Celsius while the winter temperatures hover around 15-18° Celsius.