The Temple of Tirupati

In the Peak of Mount Sheshachalam in the Eastern Ghat range was so tranquil and enchanting a place, that the sage Narada spoke highly of it to Vishnu. Vishnu felt tempted to pay a visit to the place, but there was no occasion for him to do so.

Some time later Vishnu had a dispute with his wife, Lakshmi. Vishnu left home and came down to earth. He had to be away, not only from his wife, but also from all the gods, goddesses and human beings. He remembered Sheshachalam and proceeded there. Vishnu was charmed with the range of seven blue peaks adorned by green woods. He sat down to meditate.

Time passed - God knows how long! An ant-hill grew around the meditating Vishnu and covered him completely.

It was the curiosity of a shepherd that finally revealed Vishnu's secret seat. The shepherd had a cow which often disappeared into the forest. One day the shepherd followed the cow stealthily. The cow entered the forest, climbed a mountain and stood over the ant-hill. Then, most unusually, milk began flowing from her on to the ant-hill. The shepherd was filled with awe and amazement. He could not muster the courage to go near the ant-hill, but he rushed to the city and narrated his experience to the king. The king reached the area and soon discovered an image of Vishnu under the ant-hill. He erected a beautiful shrine on the mountain. The deity came to be known as Tirupati Balaji.

Lakshmi could not endure her separation from Vishnu for long. She found out where Vishnu was. She took birth as a princess and took the name of Padmavati. Balaji often assumed a human form to roam in the forest. One day, while wandering in the forest, he saw the charming Padmavati and recognised her instantly. The celestial couple re-enacted their marriage on earth.

The temple to Balaji as we see it today, was most probably built by King Thondaman of the Chola dynasty. Thondaman ruled over a vast kingdom in the first century. The main temple is a fine example of South Indian architecture and the Vimana over the sanctum, is covered with gold.

The temple, in Andhra Pradesh, attracts lakhs of devotees and tourists every year, many of whom come with handsome offerings. It is one of the richest institutions in India. Much of the temple's wealth is spent in supporting various social, cultural and educational institutions.

The deity was well-known long before the present temple was built. It is believed that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana visited the deity and spent some time there. The spot where they are said to have rested is known as Swamitirtha.

Hundreds of years later the Pandavas too, came there and spent a year on one of the peaks, which is known to this day as thePandava Shringha.

At a height of four-and-a-half kilometres, the seat of Tirupad, surrounded by waterfalls, is deservedly a chosen place of God.

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