Saturday, December 10, 2016


(Compilation for a Discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA,  December 2016)

Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is the richest temple in India attracting crowds of all ages, faiths and nationalities. Lord Venkateswara, the Lord of this temple has been casting hypnotic spell on millions of devotees over centuries. His ability to answer prayers and perform the most improbable miracles is well known. Sir Thomas Munroe and Lord Williams were staunch devotees of the temple, although as non-Hindus they were never permitted to enter.  Both were cured of their incurable diseases, their prayers being answered by Lord Venkateswara. I believe in the magic power of Venkateswara from my own personal life when I was cured from cerebral meningitis listening to the prayer of my mom when I was 12years old when doctors had given up hope of my survival.   

Tirumala is the range of seven hills forming a part of the Eastern Ghats in India. The hill which is supposed to be a piece of the Meruparvata has a cluster of seven hills, namely: Seshachala; Vrishbhachala; Garudachala; Anjanadri; Narayanadri; Simhachala and Venkatadri. The main temple is on the seventh hill, Venkatadri at a height of 2800 ft. above the sea level.
            The original name of Venkateswara was Vengada, a Tamil word. In course of time it was inserted in Sanskrit as Venkata. And, the god on this hill became Venkatesa or Venkatachalapati or Venkatanatha. Venkata means destroyer of sins and the giver of prosperity. Another name by which he is revered is Srinivasa, in whom the Goddess of Prosperity Sri or Lakshmi dwells. Since the hill was also known as Srigiri the Lord of the Hill became Srigirivaasa or Srinivaasa. In the North of India, he is known as Baalaji because when the world was immersed under waters, Vishnu as a newborn child floated on a leaf on the waters. Another meaning for Baalaaji is Universal Mother –Baalaa, Sri Lalita, Tripura Sundari.  
            The image of Lord Venkateswara is believed to be Svayamvyakta or self -manifested and not man-made. A great devotee of God, Rangadasa by name and Gopinatha, another devotee are said to have discovered this image which has been partially buried under the earth and redeemed it. The idol of Venkateswara does not conform to any of the rules laid in the works of Hindu Iconography (Silpasastra) or the descriptions given in the meditation verses (Dhyana slokas) of the various aspects of Vishnu; this strengthens the belief that it is self -manifested.

            Guesses galore have made it an image of Vishnu, Siva, Devi, Subrahmanya or Harihara.  Certain aspects of the image like long hair, the peculiar conical crown, snake shaped ornament (naagavalaya) and also certain ritual procedures like offering of Bilva leaves and decorating with a Saree on Fridays have given rise to doubts regarding the deity it represents. It is Ramanuja who is said to have finally settled the disputes by declaring that it is that of Vishnu with convincing proofs to the learned audience. But the controversies crop up now and then even today.
            It is interesting to note that Srimad Bhagavatam says that the four Kumaras--Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana and Sanatkumara are incarnations of Vishnu. When Vishnu (Narayana) was relaxing on his serpent bed with Laksahmi comforting him with foot massage, there were already these four Kumaras praising his glory. Simultaneously Brahma appeared on the lotus springing from his navel.  Chandogya Upanishad says Sanat Kumara is Skanda. So that would mean that Kartikeya is an incarnation of Vishnu! That would certainly put the discredited theories that the Venkateshwara statue is Kartikeya in a whole new light.  
            The Arch at the entrance of Tirumala Hills, which resembles the hood of a serpent is considered unique in the world. The main deity is believed to be of the same height as the arch. Lord Vishnu is said to have put his first foot down at a place called Padalu, which is the highest point of Tirumala hills, Second step at the location of the arch and the next step is stated to have been placed where his idol is now worshipped in the temple at Tirumala.  This is a parallel story to that of three steps of Trivikrama.   As you all aware in all Vishnu temples the feet of Vishnu is invariably worshiped in a separate sanctum. In Kukke Subhramnya   Skanda is worshiped as snake. In mythology Serpent king Vasuki was performing penance for years in the Biladwara Caves of Kukke Subrahmanya to avoid the attack of Garuda.   Skanda gave darshan to Vasuki and blessed him that he would stay with his devotee in this place forever. Hence the worships offered to Vasuki or Nagaraja are nothing but the worship to Skanda or Sanat Kumara who is Venkatewara. That is why Venkateswar is seen with serpent armbands and the arch at the entrance resembles hood of serpent. Also Sanat Kumara stood before Supreme Brahman reclined on Adisesha custodian of Times praising Him. Telugu, speaking people worship snake as Subramaniya.  They call the snake as Subbarayudu.  Snake and Subramaniya are one and the same for the Telugu people.  Even in Tamil Nadu, some people have the name Subbarayan.  
The flowers removed from Venkarteswara are thrown in the water fall at the back of the deity.  It is said that the priests do not look at the back of the deity.  All these flowers can be seen floating at a place called Verpedu (located on the way to Kalahasti) which is 20 km from Tirupati. We all know that in Kalahasti linga is worshiped as Vayu. Vedas say “Tad Brahma Tad  Vayu”--Brahman is Vayu. Hence these flowers end up at the feet of Parabrahman whom people worship as Siva.
Carved out of black granite or dark wood, Venkateswara stands on a high lotus pedestal. The image is about nine feet tall from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the crown.    Every Friday the deity is given the ceremonial bath (abhisheka), when he is visible without his jewels or the huge Vaishnava caste mark (naamam) on his forehead. Swami Harshanada in his book Hindu Pilgrim Centers writes: “It is difficult to say whether Venkateswara icon is made out of the black stone (Saalagraama Sila) or a kind of wood like redwood fig tree (raktachandana tree)”. Scientifically we cannot establish facts because the temple authorities allow no one even to actually measure the   height of the deity. One may not agree that it is made of wood because of the Abhishekam (bathing ritual with water, milk, yogurt, honey and others) throughout the year unlike Puri Jagannth where Abhishekam is not done on the main deities made of wood.    The idol of Pazhani Murugan of 12th century is also said to be made of wood from nine basic herbal plants of great medicinal value found in the surrounding hills. The milk used in the Abhishekam gets medicinal value, when poured over the idol.   That would mean questioning the high scientific knowledge and skills our ancient temple architects inspired by Viswakarma had, looking at the magnificent ancient temples and deities in India!

Unfortunately we cannot draw parallel conclusions from Puri Jagannath where Jagannatah,   Balabhadra and Subhadra are carved out of wood and painted. These icons are not original and are sculpted and replace by new icons every twelve or nineteen years. No abhishekam (sacred bath) is carried out on these deities while the ritual is carried out on their mirror images. Hence one need not worry about their durability.  Of course there is not much work of fine art work here but Venkateshwara icon calls for intricate carving which is easier to work with wood than stone.  If it is wood one may question how it has survived that long?   Here I would like to bring to your attention a report on Japanese skyscraper   built out of wood with fine carvings around 1500 years ago, from the report in  The Economist, September 2016 : “Wooden Skyscraper--The five-story pagoda of The Temple of Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan is one of the world's oldest wooden buildings. It has withstood wind, rain, fire and earthquakes for 1400 years. Analysis of the rings in the central pillar supporting the 32-meter structure suggests the wood that it is made from was felled in 594 A.D. and construction is thought to have taken place soon after."  If only Orissa had retained the original deities probably that too would have been creating awe in people’s mind. No scientific investigation of Venkateshwra icon is possible without antagonizing orthodoxy and temple authorities to confirm it is made of wood or stone but looking at the sky scraper in Japan we should not doubt the engineering skills of our ancient architects and Sthapanis (sculptors). There are many such awe-inspiring   temples in South India whose ancient engineering marvels keep us wondering.  An orthodox believer dismisses it linking it to some Sthala Purana (local history or mythology) and divine hands.
              A Chemical Paccha  Karpooram   (Tamil word for Green Camphor), a soft white chemical is applied on the idol of Balaji every day. The fact is that, if this chemical is applied on a granite stone, cracks will appear on it. But surprisingly, even though this is applied on Baalaaji every day there is no damage to the stone. It is said that there is real hair on the main idol of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy and they say that this hair is always silky smooth and never tangles. This is possible on a wood carved idol. When Balaji lost a small portion of hair after hit by a shepherd, Neela Devi a Gandharva princess cut a portion of her hair and implanted it on his scalp. Lord Balaji promised her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him, and she would be the recipient of all the hair received. These revelations confirm the deity is sculpted out of wood.    No chisel marks are found on the deity which supports it is a carved image.
             It is said that the idol of Balaji always maintains a temperature of 110 degrees F. But the temple is at a height of about 3000 feet so the climate is normally cold. It is also said that every morning at 4: 30 am after the Abhishekam is done with water, milk as well as other dravayam, sweat appears in the form of fine water particles on the body of the idol, which is wiped off with a silk cloth. On every Thursday when ornaments are removed before sacred bath it is noticed that they are warm. All these facts support more the projection by Swami Harshananda that the idol is carved out of wood ad not stone.
His crown or Mukuta, also sculptured on the same material as a part of the image, is over twenty inches high. His flowing hair or jatha juta is curled and rests on his shoulders. The image is four armed: two arms at the back are held up and curled into fists, ready to hold weapons.  The conch and discus are attached separately. This is being done as per the decisions of Ramanuja who settled the idol as Vishnu. The front right hand is varada mudra (boon giving hand posture), while the front left hand rests lightly on the hip in the katya vilambita hasta indicating that the Lord protects his true devotees. A seated Lakshmi is carved on the right side of his chest. The sacred thread (yagnopavita), four necklaces, a thick girdle around the waist, snake shaped armlets and a pair of anklets adorn the figure. On his shoulders, there are marks resembling the scars made from carrying a bow.  Parthasarthy in Chennai is called as Venkatakrishna depicting the posture of Krishna returning from War. His fac in Utsavamurthi (processional deity) shows plenty of scars from hit arrows of Bhisma.  Venkateswara deity is typical image of the Pallava or pre-Pallava period.
             Balaji is covered with gold plate which replicates, in elaborate detail, the carvings on the stone. His crown, conch, discus, his two hands in the varada and katya vilambita pose and various other ornaments are studded with diamonds and other precious stones. He is decorated with emerald 3-inches in diameter which is said to be the world's largest. His gem studded gold crown is believed to be a gift from Akshaya Raja. It is believed to be the most precious single ornament in the world. His gold earrings are crocodile-shaped (makara kundalas). One of his necklaces consists of a pair of gold-encased tiger claws; the other is a garland with the image of Goddess Lakshmi carved out on each pendant. He wears a necklace consisting of Salagramas mounted in gold and engraved with the Sahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu, and another necklace of Tulasi seeds.  His armlets are shaped like two hooded cobras. Venkatesa's sword is known as the Suryakataari and hangs from his belt, which is decorated from the ten avatars of incarnation.   I believe in Chennai Parthasarathy is seen with a sword. Truly, his ornaments are unique and wonderful. On his chest Venkateswara bears two sculptured plaques of gold: the four armed lotus bearing Goddess Lakshmi seated on a lotus adorns the right side, while Padmavati adorns the left. The image of Balaji is wonderful and awesome. Even an atheist refuses to criticize as he approaches the idol as it inspires intense devotion and faith, love and veneration.
              Sri Venkateswara Temple occupies the second place amongst the 108 Vaishnava holy shrines (divya kshetras). Venkatachala is glorified in several Puranas of which the most important are Varaha Purana, Vayu Purana and Bhavishyottara Purana. Sri Venkateswara Temple dates from the 10th century with later additions. There are three enclosures. The first, there are portraits and sculptures of the Vijayanagara patrons including Krishna Deva Raya, his queen and gold covered pillar. The outer colonnade is in the Vijayanagara style. The gateway leading to the inner enclosure may be of Chola origin. The second enclosure has more shrines, a sacred wall and the kitchen. The inner enclosure is opened only once a year. The main temple and shrine is at the west side of the inner enclosure.
            The sanctuary, 9th and 10th centuries, known as Ananda Nilayam (Abode of Bliss) has a Dome-  Vimana entirely covered with gold plate and gold covered gates. The Vimana tower above the sanctum stands on a square base of each side, 27 ft. and has two tiers; it rises to a height 37 feet. Ramanuja established the images of Varaha (boar incarnation), Narasimha (lion-man incarnation), Vaikunthanaatha and Venkatesa on all the four corners of the Vimana above the sanctum (Garbhagriha).
            According to Vayu Purana, Adi Varaha (Boar Incarnation) manifested himself on the western bank of the holy pond (Swami pushkarani) while Vishnu, after being neglected by Lakshmi being insulted by the sage Bhrigu while he kicked Vishnu on the chest came to reside on the southern banks as Venkatachalapati.   Lakshmi after having neglected Vishnu not bearing the insult was  born as Padmavati on earth as daughter of Akshayaraja. Vishnu did not like to reprimand Bhrigu for kicking him on the chest but on other hand wanted to know whether Bhrigu was hurt in his feet.  Such was the passion of the Lord for his devotee that bought the wrath of even his beloved. Tirumalai is also called Varaha Kshetra (Holy abode of Varaha). Another  legend says Vishnu as Varaha (the boar) decided to continue his stay on the earth and that Garuda brought down the hill of Vaikuntha to earth for the Lord’s residence. Lord Srinivas or Venkatesa another aspect of Vishnu, also manifested himself there at that time to reside on the earth for the good of mankind. 
            In the current Kali Yuga,   Akshayaraja came to rule over Tondaimandalam (the area located in the interior of South India). His daughter Lakshmi born as Padmavati was married to Venkateswara after an exciting love affair. The marriage officiated by Brahma, was celebrated with great pomp and splendor.
            The King Tondaman constructed a prakaram and Dwara gopuram, the basic structures of a Dravidian temple, and arranged for the worship of the Lord. During the 11th century, Sri Ramanuja clarified several controversies that existed over the idol, declared the idol to be Vishnu, fixed the conch and discus on its receiving mode of the icon, and systematized the worship and the religious orders.
           There are other images in the sanctum as follows: Manavalapperumal (silver image presented by queen Saamavai, also called Bhoga Srinivasa); Ugra-Srinivasa with the images of Sridevi and Bhudevi; Malayappa, a bigger image of Venkatesvara used for professional purposes; Koluvu Srnivasa (used ceremonially like a king, every day, before whom accounts of the day have to be given); Krishna; Rama; Sudarsana (discus deity). Inside the temple there are small shrines dedicated to Varadaraja and Narasimha, Rama as well as Ramanuja. At Tirumalai, there is an interesting collection of Indian musical instruments at the entrance of the temple.
            At the foot of the hills is Tirupati, the main city. The temples of Govindaraja, Kodandarama and Kapaleeswara (AD 1480) are located here. Majestic Venkateswara shrine at Srinivasa-mangapuram is believed to be older than the main shrine of Balaji on the top of the hill.  Another important temple included in the pilgrimage is the Padmavati (consort of Lord Venkateswara) temple at Tiruchanur, 5 km away from the Tirupati town.
            "The Thirumala-Thirupati-Devasthanams" (TTD for short) is a huge establishment entrusted with the management of the main temples, allied temples and associated institutions. The fabulous rich income of the temple, next only to the Vatican in Rome, is being utilized properly for the welfare of the pilgrims by providing many facilities like rest-houses, free food and Prasadam (consecrated food) as also transportation. It is also running a University with several academic institutions affiliated to it, including an Oriental Research Institute. Other Institutions run by TTD are: Sri Venkateswara Nithya Annadanam Trust; The Dharma Prachaara Parishad; Two Veda Pathasalas; Five institutions for Sanskrit and Vedic learning; two for the Fine Arts; Training center for sculpture; one Ayurvedic college; One Institute for Yoga and Allied Sciences; ten schools in Tirupati; Oriental Manuscripts Library; Two Museums; several wedding halls at various places made available at low rates; Forest Department; Garden Department; hospitals, several clinics and dispensaries to provide free medical aid to pilgrims; Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences etc. Every pilgrim who visits Tirumalai and puts money in the Hundi or collection box can be satisfied that he is contributing to helping the poor and the needy, the young and the handicapped, thus virtually serving the God, for "serving the Society is serving  God" (Jana Seva is Janaardhana Seva). Their prayers will not go unheeded".

In Dwapara Yuga (Lord Krishna's time), Yashoda (Step mother of Krishna) couldn't witness the marriage of Lord Krishna with Rukmini. Then the lord promised Yashoda that she would get that chance when the Lord incarnates as Lord Venkateswara in Kali Yuga and she would be born as Vakula Devi (considered the mother of Lord Venkateswara). In Kali Yuga when the marriage of Lord Venkateswara took place with Goddess Padmavati, Vakula devi was the main person from the Lord's side overseeing the marriage. So he is often addressed as Venkata-Krishna or Krishna-Venkatesa. Parthasarathy reveled in his warrior pose in Chennai is surprisingly called Venkata-Krishnan.

In Tretha Yuga (Lord Rama's time), Wife of Lord Agni Swaha (Fire) pretended to be the real Sita when Ravana abducted her. So real Sita was not abducted by Ravana in Ramayana. Lord Rama expressed his deep gratitude to the wife of Agni for her act of sacrifice and asked her a wish. She replied that she wanted to be the wife of the Lord. Since Lord took an oath of Eka-patni (single wife), he said he cannot fulfill her wish in that birth but that he would do so when he incarnates as Lord Venkateswara in Kali Yuga and the wife of Agni would be born as Goddess Padmavati.   Their marriage took place as the grand "Padmavati-Srinivasa Kalyanam" which is widely celebrated in South India. However in all Venkateswara Temple  this is an annual event. On regular days Srinivasa Kalyanotsava is between Venkateswara and the usual consorts of Vishnu, Sridevi (Lakshmi) and Bhoodevi (Mother Earth). Based on this anecdote the deity is also addressed as Venkatarama.

At least 30 percent of the proper names in South India carry his names seen as seen in    the telephone directories as   it is the preferred choice to name a child after him believing it would bring health, wealth and all round happiness. Ardent followers of Venkateswara as well as those to whom he is a family deity would prefer to call their male children by one of these choice names; Srinivasa, Balaji, Venkata, Venkatachalapati, Venkateswara, Venkata-ramana, Venkat-raman, Venkata-Krishna or Krishna-Venkatesh The most interesting name is Venkata Subhramanya reminding us of the ancient past when he was worshiped as Subhramanya or skanda or Murugan. Since he hailed  as    Parabrahman the words MURUGA (MU= Mukunda, Ru= Rudra and Ga =Gowri or Durga) aptly apples for Saguna  Brahman.  Venkateswara means the lord   who burns all your sins. Krishna means one who has an irresistible charm that draws all souls (Jivas) to him (aakarshayiti iti Krishnah). Ramyate iti Raamah-means Rama is one who pleases the mind. The double names have added values to the base name Venkata.   Parthasaarathy icon in Chennai is identified as Vekata-krishna and is also  among the 108 Divyakshetras.

The origin of this God is shrouded in mystery but today the devotees accept him unquestioningly as the manifestation of Lord Vishnu.   Wherever South Indians migrate they will spare no effort to build a temple for this powerful deity or at least have a sanctum sanctorum for him as the principal deity in the temple-complex.

Venkateswara is believed to be a unique incarnation of Vishnu in Kaliyuga, to protect humanity from adverse effects of declining Dharma by Hindus. He is also popularly called Srinivasa in   South India and Balaji in North India. Out of 18 Puranas, 12 Puranas mention and glorify Lord Venkateswara.  The marriage of  Padmavati, daughter of Aakasaraja of Tondaimandalam who is an incarnation of Lakshmi and  Srinivasa was  officiated by Brahma and was celebrated with great pomp and splendor. Still the same marriage is celebrated as “Kalyaanoetsavam’ at Tirupati and wherever Venkateswara idols are installed in temples. This is for the peace and prosperity of the family of the devotee in particular and the world at large in general. The Main idol (Moola vigraha) is never seen with Padmavati together according to the puranic story stated above. Venkatesa Mahatmya glorifies the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the name of Venkateswara on the Seven Hills (Tirupati).   

There are two words associated with “Venkata”; ‘vem’ meaning sins and ‘kata’ meaning to burn in Sanskrit language, meaning one who burns our dire sins.  Another meaning of it is “giver of worldly wealth”.  It also means “burning debts” where Kadan (Debt) is a Tamil word, a reference to Venkatesha’s loan from Kubera based on mythology. Tirumala Hills collects largest daily collection of money in the whole of India.

Venkateswara is the biggest mystery for all those sectarian worshipers who are ignorant and innocent as to which God He could   be—Skanda, Shakti, Siva or Vishnu, all or none? This has consumed times of scholars and had been the subject of bitter debate for centuries as in Jagannaatha Puri! As is normal this is more debated in the South than in the upper regions of India.  Swami Pushakarani in Tirupathi may refer to Skanda (often addressed as Swami) who is the God of Hills. There are also frequent references in early Tamil literature on festivals on the Vengadam Hill including hunting Festival of the Tribal. The drapery of the Lord   resembles Sari as in Jagannath Puri. The ceremonial bath  with turmeric water is performed on Friday as is usual for female deities.  Thomalaseva in Tirupati is also known as Bhagavati Aaraadhana (worship). The Vimaana of the temple mounts Devi symbol, Lion. In Devi Bhagavatam the Lord of Tirumalai is described as Venkateswaree. The deity is also called Baalaaji derived from Baalaa, the Universal Mother (Baalaa Tripura Sundari), and woman’s name.  Abhishekam is done by pouring water in a measure of 51 porringers. The number 51 refers to  51 Sakti peethas.  So another view is that this is a form of Durga or another Sakti.
The Saivites maintain the matted hair, the cobra on one arm, the snake ornaments and the crescent on the head are undoubtedly marks of Siva. Pooja is also done with the leaves of Bilva which are exclusively used for worship in Siva temples.  Saivites recite Vedas here and Vaishnavites recite Divyaprabhandam (Tamil Veda), a rare phenomenon in a Vishnu Temple.  On Sivaratri night during Kshetra Palika  procession  the processional deity is adorned with 3 diamond streaks of horizontal lines (resembling vibhuti). Priest also  say  that during Abhishekam the lord opens his third eye.  The naked deity does not show any mark of namam on its forehead  as in Srirngam.

A Jain author of Silappadikaaram says, “Lord Vishnu… is seen in a standing posture on the top of the Vengadam hill… adorned with brilliant cloth of gold round his loins and… a beautiful garland on his chest and holds in his lotus-like hands the invincible discus and milky white conch”. This is an unbiased opinion from an author who is neither a Saivite nor a Vaishnavite.  Brahmaanda,   Bhavishyottara and Vaayu Puraanas describe Venkatesa as a manifestation of Vishnu. Also Ramanuja gave an unbiased opinion agreeing with Sankara  that   Parabrhman should be mainly  focused  as Vishnu in his sustenance form  supervising our day to day life. Sankara in spite of his Shanmatha   propagation says in his last composition Bhajagovindam that we should all worship Parabrahman as Vishnu only. So also in his Tattvabodha.

It is customary to find an icon of Ganesha or a separate small sanctum for him in all Saivite temples   before the main sanctum to whom devotees pay their obedience and devotees feel he    is Prathama Vandita,  that is one who is to be pleased first.  So is also Nandi deity before Siva Main Sanctum. It is Hindu culture to please the gate keepers or bribe  them first when they visit an office.  Vaishnavites do not worship Ganesha because he is seen with a broken tusk and any deity with anga-viheenam (body mutilation) is not worthy of obeisance. However they worship another Upadevata and gatekeeper first who is Vishwaksena a deity with elephant head with human body and with both the tusks.   Mention is   made of existence of such beings in Vedas like Kinnaras (human body with horse head (like Hayagrieva). In all probability Siva might have come across such a divine Gana,   not an elephant, whose head he trans-planted on the guard in human form created by Parvati and whose head he severed in anger.  Purans might have mistakenly described it as elephant instead of elephant headed Gana.  Ganesha when he was restored to life had two tusks which he later broke according to another myth. This Vishwaksena along with Sudarsana act as bodyguards to Lord Venkateswara. Before Venkateswars deity is taken out on procession Vishwaksena and Sudarsaana are first taken out on procession (particularly before starting Brahmotsava) whose duty is  to see the path for Venkateswara is cleared from all evils to make his journey safe. Vishwaksena deity is also seen with Urdhvapundram that is Namam with three vertical streaks with red in the middle. There is a flag-post at each entrance of Vishnu temples with a small sanctum for Garuda (another body-guard). This flag post is also called Garuda-sthamba.  Orthodox devotees do sashtaanga pranamam (obeisance with eight parts of the body touching the floor) only here and avoid the same inside the charged atmosphere as they do not wish to point their feet towards any deity accidentally. Also charged atmosphere inside is surrounded by several consecrated deities including dikpalakas.  They only resort to Atma-pradkshinam going round themselves thrice before the sanctum sanctorum and other deities in the charged atmosphere in order to avoid their feet pointing to any deity sanctified within.  

Devotees of Venkateswara   sought the good offices of Ramanuja to decide as to which God he is? After elaborate study   Ramanuja was convinced Venkateswara was none other than Vishnu who got reunited with Lakshmi in this world and decided to stay on seven hills to take charge of ruling seven worlds. Today he is worshiped as Parabrahman in his role of Sthiti or (sustenance) and Vishnu who as the very name suggests pervades all the worlds (vyaapyate iti Vishnuh).  Religious leaders with sectarian outlook have not stopped criticizing him for this even today as unfortunately he was born as Vaishnava in the caste ridden Hindu Society. But he was above caste   and sectarian consideration and throughout his life sought to bring everyone to the fold of Vishnu to get the maximum benefit materially and spiritually.   He had among his close disciples Dhanurdasa of low caste. His mentor Nammazhvar was a Non-Brahmin with whom he shared food on the same leaf plate.  He also took to Sanyasa upset by his wife who did not like his act of sharing food with a Non-Brahmin Guru (ucchishtha).  He is the first one who permitted Vishnu devotee untouchables to enter temple.   He said about Dhanurdasa whom his disciples did not like because of his low caste: “Na jaatih kaaranam loke gunaah kalyaanahetavah”—One’s caste is  not important but his good acts alone matter in life that please the Lord.

Born as we are we live under the protective umbrella of Vishnu and then in the end with our load of Karmas for which we alone are responsible handed over by Vishnu to Siva to take care of our after-life.  Thus Vishnu is our main concern in life-time and we do not worship Brahma as he has already done his job when we are born and he does not have to deal with our life on earth. Both Siva and Brahma decide as to in what shape and condition we are to be born in this world where we have no choice. It is only with this outlook Ramanuja decided that we should worship Venkatreswara as Vishnu and not because he was a Vaishnavite. In this he was also guided by the parting advice of Adisankara.

Adi Sankara   belonged to much earlier period.    Bhajagovindam was his last poetic composition as Stotra (prayer hymns).   Govinda here   refers    to one of the 12 names  of Vishnu with which Purification (achamana) ritual is performed magnetizing twelve parts of the human body. There is no mention of Krishna in these twelve names and they were in vogue much earlier to Krishna.  There are also Veda Mantras where  you find the word    Krishna as in MNU  “uddhritaani varahena Krishnena satabahuna”— Mother Earth lifted by Varaha Krishna of 1000 arms, referring to earlier avatar of Vishnu Varaha of dark complexion in Krita Yuga.  Here Krishna means one who delights the world.   The word Krishna and Rama existed long before the Avatars took place. We have Parasu Rama, Kodanda Rama, and Bala Rama but the name Rama is most popular associated with Ayodhya   Rama. Rama refers to Vishnu in general meaning one who sports  the mind (ramyate iti ramah). In Bahajagovindam your attention is drawn to the following slokas:

Tvayi mayi sarvatraiko vishnurvyartham kupyaci mayyasahihnuh | sarvasminnapi pasyaatmaanam sarvatrotsrija bhedajnaanam ||

Vishnu is there in me, in you and in all others. You are angry with me being unnecessarily intolerant. Please visualize the same Self (Atman) in all. Leave all your thoughts of difference.

Satrou mitre putre bandho  maa kuru yatnam vigrahasansanghau | bhava samachittah sarvatra tvam vaanchasyachiraad-yadi Vishnutvam ||

Don’t try to quarrel or compromise with friends, sons or relatives. If you desire the status of Vishnu you should soon become balanced in your thoughts.

Again in Aatma Bodha Sankara strongly promoted worship and meditation of Vishnu:

Sacchidaatmanya-nusyoote nitye-Vishnau prakalpitah |
Vyaktayo vividhaassarvaa haatake katakaadivat ||9 ||

All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by imagination upon the substratum which is the Eternal All-pervading Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different ornaments are all made of the same gold.

Adisankara did not live long to complete Bhajagovindam and the above  two hymns are not written by Adi Sankara as generally believed but by his  successor Medhaatiti Sankara (Ramakrishna Math edition) who projected the final thoughts of his predecessor.  So all these are presented as “Sankaracharya kritam” written by Sankara. Sankara, the founder of Advaita philosophy after confession before Lord Viswanatha in Kasi repented for his three mistaken notions about which I have talked about a lot,   went in praise of Vishnu as Paramaatman the visible form of Saguna Brahman being Vishnu which thought is expressed in the concluding part of Bhajagovindam, as in this day-today life we look up to him only  for guidance. When we are spiritually ready Saguna aspect Siva responsible for dissolution takes care of Atman which is an amsa (ray) of Paramaatman as Gita Says (mamaivamaso jeevabhootah sanatanah). 

Venkateshwara gives every human being the opportunity to lead brighter and better life, the right to hope and keep one’s unshakable faith. He assures us that it is never too late to repent and ask for forgiveness, that even the wickedest sinner can change for the better. What makes this deity unique is that he has changed lives of many by his convincing miracles who approach him with faith and devotion! In Kannada language there is a proverb which says, “Sankata bandre Venkataramana” meaning “When in trouble dial Venkataramana”.  

Venkateswara is a hill-god like Murugan of Pazhani and is also believed to be a wooden deity, a deity of tribal that was found on earth. While India is notable for its great temple complexes, it is important to understand that each of the great temples had their genesis as a small shrine of a rural folk people. Venkateswara was the beloved deity of Rangadasa and Gopinatha who found it and worshiped   long before pilgrims came to visit from distant lands and long before royal patronage enabled the construction of huge, stylized temple structures near an existing water spot, Swami Pushkarani on the Hill Seshachala.   The first shrine here might have been a simple thatch or wooden enclosures built over this sacred sculpture beside the tank. This structure was primarily utilitarian in the sense that it delineated the perimeter of the sacred space and facilitated the gathering of the local folk people for ritual purposes.  Venkateswara temple was built near Swami Pushkarani (Lake of Subhramanya) where Varaha as Vishnu rested after recovering it Earth from Hirnyaksha as a wooden sculpture according to the local legend that existed.  This mystic deity therefore becomes Daru Brahman to a spiritual seeker, hailed in Rigveda on whom we are asked to meditate upon. Others say it is carved out of Salagrama stone whose sculptor could be none other than Viswakarma. No mortal Sthapani could have such imagination and skill! The magnificent temple that is built around the deity   were not initially considered sacred - they only housed the sacred - yet over the course of time the structures also came to be regarded as sacred.  Today Tirupati is hailed as Bhu-Vaikuntha! While the ancient stone Murti of Narayana in Melukote in Karnataka, though later is deteriorating where its Abhisheka is restricted  as an annual event it is a wonder how the Venkateswara deity, much more ancient  withstands such an elaborate Abhishekam every Friday!
With all the confusing portrayal Lord Venkatashwara and controversies a religious seeker   worships Venkateshwara chanting the following hymn:

Venkataadri samam sthaanam  brahmaande  naasti kanchana |
Venkatesa sama devo na bhooto na bhavishyati ||

There is no place equal to Venkataadri in the whole Universe! A God equal to Venkatesa has never been born nor will be!  GOD equal to Venkatesha has never been in the past, nor is at present, and neither will be in the future”. 
About 1 km to the north of main temple, near Chakra Teertha we find a geological wonder called Silathoranam. Sila means stone in Sanskrit and Thoranam means garland. This is actually a bridge of stone   8meters in width and 3 meters in height naturally formed connecting two vertical columns. The arch is one of the rare natural arch bridges in Asia. You can see such an arch formed   in the National Park in Utah which depicts 2000 sandstone arches.  But Silathoranam is a quartzite’s of Cuddapah Super group formed due to natural erosive forces.

A spiritual seeker meditates on him with the Mantra: Om tad Brahma om tad Vaayu, om tat Satyam om tad atma om tat purornamah--om tat Venkatesa—Om it is Brahman, it is Vayu the Air we constantly feel and because of which we live on earth, om that is Truth, Om that is the Self in me, om that exists ever as primordial cause and om that eradicates all my sins as Easwara.

The Hindu Temple is a constellation of symbolism. It is an image that at once relevant to human aspirations and persistent in human thought and actions. The texts of Indian architecture which provides us with also details of measurement and parts of the temples, and prescribe the rites of installation and rituals of worship also indicates the real value of a shrine.

Agnirdevoe dwijaateenaam muneenaam hridi daivatam |
Prathima svlpabuddheenaam sarvatrea viditaatmanaam ||

The ritualists have their God in the fire (Agni); but the wise folk find him in their own heart. It is the dull-witted one that seeks God in the icon. Those who have higher understanding see God in everything” writes Prof.  S. K. Ramachandra Rao in his book of Indian Temple Traditions.

My observation to all these sayings that Lord Balaji is Sanat Kumara, Skanda, Siva, Jina, Buddha, Jesus, Jehovah, Al kadir, Uma, Muruga and Bhairava is--" it is best to quote from Bhagavad Gita". In Gita, Lord Krishna clearly says that he is all. He is Vishnu among Adityas, Siva among Rudras, Indra among Devas, Skanda among Senadhipatis, Margaseersha among months, Bhrigu among sages, Aswattha among trees, Surya among Adityas, Arjuna among Pandavas, the gem of all beings, etc. So clearly you can see him in various forms in Lord Balaji. He shows his roopa as per  the wishes of his devotees. This is the concept of Lord Balaji that though he is projected as Vishnu today, he is seen in various forms by different castes, religions and tribes and religions of the world.
Venkateswara of Tirupati   is thus pleasing to all sectarian followers of Vishnu, Siva as well as Sakta for he is Three-in-One deity like Jagannatha of Puri.  One can also avoid going to different temples at different times for special worship. This is all the more important to Hindu Americans who usually find One Temple for All Traditions and Sampradayas. Thus they can focus on few major rituals and festivals   as well as a grand annual function of Brahmotsava including Ratha Yatra , in the process focusing on Parabrahman as the sustenance aspect, Vishnu propagated by all philosophers which is most important in our day-to day practical life. That is why you find invariably a Main Sanctum for Venkteswara in all Hindu American Temples. Of late Jagannatha of Puri has also caught up the imagination of Hindu Americans.  But   Indians hailing from South India have the    reservation   because of the form of the icon which is incomplete in main limbs in the wooden   icon.  This need not be so because Jagannatha is no stranger to South Indians; before Jaganntha of Puri there was Adi Jaganntha of Pullani worshiped by Dasaratha and Rama. They can therefore install aslo  Adi Jaganntha   along with Jagannatha of Puri with Sridevi and Bhudevi as in Thiruppullani near Rameswram acceptable to both Northern and Southern Indian Temple Traditions in the same sanctum. Alternately the processional deities can be that of Adi Jagnnatha with Sridevi and Bhudevi.  Jaganntha of Puri historically extends to other major Religions of the world that emerged out of Sanatana Dharma.   

Jaganntha of Puri and Tiruppullani  is  appealing to all Siva, Vishnu and Sakta followers as Supreme Being and Vyahriti of Parabrahman and Parasakti.    Jaganntha will be ideal deity at once appealing to all faiths that branched out of sacrificial Vedic Religion and Hindus in general who have accepted Buddha as an avatara, and Adinatha or Rishabha is also an incarnation of Vishnu.  This     will also help in solving the problem of not creating additional sanctums for Mahavir and Buddha in Hindu temples as Buddha and Rishabha (Adinatha) are avatars of Vishnu, yet not accepted by orthodoxy.
But Venkateswara Philosophy is even more inclusive than exclusive not confining to Hinduism alone   focusing on Siva, Vishnu and  Devi or the religion that  were carved out of it but includes all religions and traditions as I discussed in my lecture “ Skanda, Hindu God and  Guru is  Sanatkumara in all Traditions”.  Venkateswara out of seven hills decided to reside in Seshachalam, a hill of Vasuki who is close associate of Subrahmanya. In Kukke Subhramanya he is seen in ant-hill with seven heads of Vasuki. Subrahmanya temples are always associated with anthills and serpents, Venkateswara deity has serpent armlets. The name Venkata Subhramaniya  and Venkatachalapati are very popular and reminds us of the ancient glory when the deity was worshiped as Subhramanya. All famous Murugan temples are on hills and he is a hill tribe deity to begin with.
 Venkateswara in Tirupati was worshiped earlier as Skanda, before Ramanuja came on the scene, who is Sanatkumara according to Chandogya Upaishad.  Sanatkumara   came  to  Planet Earth from Planet Venus   when  Earth had already become so polluted by fallen influences that the planet could no longer be spiritually and physically sustained says Esoteric Sanat Kumara East West Tradition. Venkatesa Mahatmya says there is no deity greater than Venkateswara   in Kaliyuga and Lord Vishnu descended on Earth as Venkatewara.  Again Hinduism says Dharma is in its one foot in Kaliyuga    that started with full –compliment in Kritayuga echoing Esoteric view above.    Murugan means Azhagan in Tamil which means beauty. It is therefore logical to conclude Venkateswara is   Sanatkumara   who descended on Earth in Kaliyuga, who is venerated by all Esoteric Traditions including Hindus. It is no wonder why many Westerners worshiped Venkateswara when British ruled India influenced by their past Esoteric Traditions and mystic   powers  of the Lord to relieve them from sufferings as described  above.  
 Venkarteswara  philosophy  is not exclusive but all-inclusive   and attractive to all religions and to their children who are locked up in inter-cultural and inter-racial weddings  which trend is increasing and may altogether lose its identity as other European cultures. Hindu Americans will be wiser to have only Venkateswara for worship in all Hindu American Temples if they want to attract Interfaith Forum  be and all other religions too to Sanatana Dharma and Spirituality.   This will help them in consolidating their worship focused on one deity with significant rituals and festivals concentrating on Supreme Spirit who is none other than the Holy Spirit of Christianity, Jehova of Jews, Allah of Islam, Buddha of Buddhists, Vardhamana of Jains, etc. Thus Hindus will go back to Sanatana Dharma or Vedic religion which proclaims “Eko Viprah bahudaa vadnti-The One Pundits call by many names” moving away from sectarian based Hinduism as is practiced today.  This would  bring in   fusion of all faiths,  aim at universal peace and harmony with its lofty ideals sarvejanaah sukhino bhavantu-May all live happily!  krinvanto viswamaaryam-Let us ennoble the World!  Aano bhadrantu kratavah-Let noble thoughts come from all directions etc. All spiritual seekers will be attracted to Sanatana Dharama and worship of Venakateswara who is Skanda for Hindus,  Sanatkumara   acclaimed as Jaganntha by all Esoteric  Traditions--Supreme Spirit  or Universal Person and progress  towards Universal Oneness.

1. Nandita Krishna, Venkateswara, Vakils,           Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
2. Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India. 
3. Anna, Bhaja Govindam (Tamil), Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. 
4. Pandit Kadambi Srinath, Lord Venkateswara, Hindu Temple of Atlanta, USA (Souvenir).
5. Swami Harshananda, Pilgrim Centers of India, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
6. Ramachandra Rao S. K., Indian Temple Traditions, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Shankar Muth,  Sharada Peetham,  Bengaluru, Indiaar harshananda Harshananda

During Dvapara Yuga, Adisesha resided on earth as Seshachalam Hills after losing a contest with Vayu. According to Puranas, Tirumala is regarded as Adivaraha Kshetra. After killing Hiranyaksha, Adivaraha resided on this hill. Sri Venkatachala Mahatmyam is the widely accepted legend over Tirumala Temple.

During Kali Yuga, Narada advised Rishis who were performing Yajna to decide who could be given the fruits of Yajna among Trinities.  Bhrigu was sent to test Trinities. The sage who had an extra eye in the sole of his foot visited Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva and went un-noticed in both these locations. At last he visited Vishnu and the lord acts as if he had not noticed Bhrigu. Getting angered by this act, sage Bhrigu kicked Lord Vishnu in the chest, to which Vishnu did not react and instead apologized to the Sage by massaging his feet. During this act, he squashed the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrigu's foot. However Lakshmi finds it as an insult and had left Vaikuntham onto Earth to Kolhapur and started meditating.

Lord Vishnu bore human form as Srinivasa, left Vaikuntham, in search of Lakshmi, reached Tirumala Hills and started meditating. Lakshmi came to know about the condition of Srinivasa and prayed to Siva and Brahma. Siva and Brahma then converted themselves into Cow and Calf and Goddess Lakshmi had handed over the cow and calf to Chola king ruling over Tirumala Hills at that time. The Cow would provide milk to Srinivasa daily while it was taken for grazing. One day Cowherd saw this and tried to beat the Cow with staff but Lord Srinivasa had borne the injury. Getting angered by this Srinivasa had cursed the Chola king to become a Demon as dharma says servants’ sin should be borne by Kings. The king prayed for mercy after which Srinivasa said to him, that the King should take next birth as Akasaraja and should perform marriage of his daughter Padmavati with Srinivasa.

Lord Srinivasa went to his mother Vakula Devi on Tirumala hills and stayed there for a while. After curse Chola king took rebirth as Akasaraja and he had a daughter named Padmavati who was born in the Padmapushkarini situated at present day Tiruchanur in Andhra Pradesh. Lord Srinivasa married Padmavati at present day Narayanavanam in Andhra Pradesh and returned to Tirumala Hills. After few months Goddess Lakshmi had come to know about the marriage of Srinivasa with Padamavati and went to Tirumala hills to question Srinivasa. It is said that the Lord Srinivasa turns into Stone right where he was encountered by Lakshmi and Padmavathi. Lord Brahma and Shiva appeared before the confused queens and explained the main purpose behind all this - The Lord's desired to be on the 7 hills for the emancipation of mankind from the perpetual troubles of Kali Yuga. Goddesses Lakshmi and Padmavathi also turned into stone idols expressing their wish to be with their Lord always. Lakshmi stays with Him on His Chest on the left side while Padmavathi rests on His Chest's right side.

By Administration, TTD.
April 4, 2016
Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple or Tirupati Balaji temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh is an ancient and one of the richest shrines of India. The Tirumala hill shrine consists of seven hills namely Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. The main temple of Tirumala lies on the seventh hill called Venkatadri, hence the Temple is also known as “The Temple of Seven Hills”. Lord Sri Venkateswara, also known as Balaji and Govinda, is the presiding deity of this holy Tirumala Temple.

There are many beliefs associated with this temple, which are too hard to believe. Let’s take a look at what these beliefs are!
1. The Arch at the entrance of Tirumala Hills, which resembles the hood of a serpent is considered unique in the world. It is said that main deity in Tirumala temple is of the same height as the height of the Arch. Lord Vishnu is said to have put his first foot down at a place called Padalu, which is the highest point of Tirumala hills (Sila Thorana), Second step at the location of the arch and the next step is stated to have been placed where his idol is now worshipped in the temple at Tirumala.

2. At the entrance of the main door (Mahadwaram of the temple), to the right side, a stick which was used by Ananthaalvar to hit Venkateshwara Swamy is present. Ananthatalvar hit Lord Venkateshwara Swamy on the chin when Swamy was in his childhood, which oozed blood. Since then, the practice and tradition of applying sandalwood paste on Swamy’s chin came into existence.
3. It is said that there is real hair on the main idol of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy and they say that this hair is always silky smooth and never tangles.
When Balaji lost a small portion of hair after hit by a shepherd, Neela Devi a Gandharva princess cut a portion of her hair and implant it on his scalp. Lord Balaji promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him, and she would be the recipient of all the hair received.
4. A Chemical kaccha Karpooram (Green Camphor), a soft white chemical is applied on the idol of Balaji every day. The fact is that, if this chemical is applied on a granite stone, cracks will appear on it. But surprisingly, even this is applied on Balaji every day; there is no damage to the stone.
5. There is a secret village, approximately 23 Kms from the temple in Tirumala, where no one is allowed except the residents of the village. The people are said to be living with strict practices and tradition. It is from this village, that all the flowers, milk, ghee, butter are sourced for the God.
6. When someone dies how one does not see behind and lights the fire, similarly, the flowers removed from Swamy are thrown in the water fall at the back of Swamy. It is said that the pujaris do not look at the back of the Swamy that entire day. All these flowers can be seen floating at a place called Verpedu (located on the way to kalahasti) which is 20 km from Tirupati.
7. Lord Venkateshwara statue appears to be standing at the center of the Garba Gudi. But, actually, Swamy stands at the right side corner of the Garba Gudi. This can be noticed from standing outside.
8. No matter how many times, the back of Swamy is dried, it always remains wet. If you carefully keep your ear and listen against Swamy’s back, sound of an ocean is heard.
9. The oil lamps lighted in front of the Swamy idol are said to be lit since thousands of years. It is also said that they never ever put off and no one exactly knows since when these lights are lit.
10. During 1800’s, the temple was said to be closed for 12 years. One King of that time is said to have punished 12 people by killing them and hanging them on the walls of the temple for doing the unsacred thing at the temple. They say that it was at this time that Vimana Venkateswara Swamy has come to existence.
11. It is said that the idol of Balaji always maintains a temperature of 110 degrees F. But the temple is at a height of about 3000 feet so the climate is normally cold.
It is also said that every morning at 4: 30 am after the Abhishekam is done with water, milk as well as other dravayam, sweat appears in the form of fine water particles on the body of the idol, which is wiped off with a silk cloth. On every Thursday when ornaments are removed before sacred bath it is noticed that they are warm.
There is also a traditional belief in vogue that Balaji has a third eye which he opens at the time of Abhishekam.
If you ask any Hindu American  speaking Telugu  in USA as  to where he comes from he will invariably say he/she is from Hyderabad. At I one time I thought whole Hyderabad will be  empty soon. It is not so. They first migrate to Hyderabad, apply for a Visa, go to Chikkur Balaji Temple every week to circum-ambulate the deity till Visa is obtained. When  Visa is obtained, after buying  the air-ticket  the visit the temple for the last time and circum-ambulate the inner shrine and take off to USA. I had no desire to come to USA having lived in Germany for three years and returned after refusing a job offer as I felt I will always be treated as second rate citizen in Germany. But I had told you my foster mother had entrusted this vagabond to Lord Venkateswara to take care of me. I was invited by some company in Upstate New York who asked me to come for an interview? How to come to USA for an interview? Here again He Helped me. Private secretary  to MD of Tata Exports gave the Blankket Permit to me  and advised me to show to American Embassy and request for a visa on business trip without the knowledge of MD. I went to Paris on business trip and from there went to USA to attend the interview. That was my Balaji passport to USA. It all went smoothly and I had my citizenship within three years and now He has given me the opportunity to deliver a lecture on Him tomorrow. I will talk about this temple too tomorrow.
Chilkur Balaji Temple, popularly known as "Visa Balaji Temple'', is an ancient Hindu temple of Lord Balaji on the banks of Osman Sagar in Hyderabad. It is one of the oldest temples in Hyderabad built during the time of Madanna and Akkanna, the uncles of Bhakta Ramadas. This temple has no hundi and neither accepts any money from devotees.  VAK Books also known as the Voice of Temples with religious news is available here. This is one of the special Temples in India with no green channel or privileges for VIP's The only other such temple is the Jalabram temple in Virpur (Rajkot), Gujarat. This temple fought and won the right to stay out of government control. The only another such temple is "Ramanuj Kot", a temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
 Circumambulations: During a visit the devotee goes through the usual rituals of prayer, including 11 circum-ambulations of the inner shrine, and makes a vow. Once the wish is fulfilled devotees then walk 108 times around the sanctum sanctorum. The majority of wishes by devotees are visa related, thus Chilkur Balaji is also referred to as 'Visa' Balaji  The 11 circumambulations represent the secret of creation — 11 means "1 soul and 1 body" — uniting both with devotion and full determination to fulfill wish, dedicate on the lord; there is no second, everything is god. In the 108 circumambulations, 1 represents the Existence, Almighty, God (Paramathma, Balaji in the minds of the devotee), 0 represents Creation (Illusionary World, Jagath) and 8 represents the time Human Body takes to come to this universe-8 months (Jivatma).
This temple is one of the oldest in Hyderabad, having been built during the time of Akkanna and Madanna, the uncles of Bhakta Ramdas. According to tradition, a devotee who used to visit Tirupati every year could not do so on one occasion owing to serious ill health. Lord Venkateshwara appeared in his dream and said, "I am right here in the nearby forest. You don't have to worry." The devotee at once moved to the place indicated by the Lord in the dream and saw a molehill there, which he dug up. Accidentally, the axe struck Lord Balaji's idol (covered by the molehill) below the chin and on the chest. Surprisingly blood started flowing profusely from the "wounds", flooding the ground and turning it scarlet. The devotee could not believe his eyes. He could not believe his ears when he heard a voice from the air saying, "Flood the molehill with cow's milk." When the devotee did so, a Swayambhu idol of Lord Balaji accompanied by Sridevi and Bhoodevi (a rare combination) was found, and this idol was installed with the due rites and a temple built for it.
Sri Balaji Venkateshwara, the Pratyaksha Daiva in Kaliyuga, is thus available at Chilkur to shower blessings on His devotees who for any reason are unable to go to Tirupati. Many devout worshippers flock to the temple to receive the blessings of the Lord and his consorts throughout the year particularly during Poolangi, Annakota and Brahmothsavams.
With the earnest desire to revive the former glory and importance of the temple, the idol of Ammavaru was installed in 1963, the year after the Sino-Indian War. After the unilateral withdrawal of Chinese troops, Ammavaru was given the name of Rajya Lakshmi, signifying this welcome event. The unique feature of this idol is that lotus flowers are held in three hands and the fourth hand is in a position towards the lotus feet which signifies the doctrine of Saranagathi.
The temple has been visited by great Acharyas from time to time. A visit to the temple is a must for the Jeer of Sri Ahobila Mutt every time he visits the twin cities, and in the temple is installed the idol of the first Jeer. The Tilakayaths of Sri Vallabhacharya Sampradaya have been regularly visiting the shrine. Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt and his disciple graced the efforts of the trustees in improving the temple.

At Thiruvaiyaru Siva Temple, Ambal Dharmasamvardhini has Conch in one upper hand, Chakra in another upper hand, Abhaya mudra by one lower hand, and Varada mudra by another lower hand.  She represents her brother Madhava, and therefore, there is no Vishnu (Perumal) Temple at Thiruuvaiyaru.  People worship both Perumal and Ambal together.  There is another Devi Temple in Kerala at Kamaranallur where Devi has Sankha and Chakra in her upper hands.  A musical composition by Muthuswamy Dikshitar describes Dharmasamvardhini as follows: “Sister of Madhava, beautiful incarnate, oh Shankari, extolled by the Raga Madhyamavati, she who has mellifluous voice and is spouse of Mahadeva delights the hearts of pious people. Mother of the eternal Guruguha, she is of the nature of enlightenment, is blemish-less, is sovereign of the world, destroys all miseries, manifests herself as the universe by her feet, enchants Lord Panchanandisha, is the essence of the Vedas and the Shastras, she who illumines Brahma, Vishnu, and Paramashiva”.

At Rayan Pettai, Murukan has Conch in one upper hand, Chakra in another upper hand.  People worship both Murukan and Perumal together.  There is no Venkateswara Temple in Tamill Nadu.  All the Perumal Temples have different names.  Wherever there is a Siva Temple, there will be a Perumal Temple in the same place or nearby.  There is only one Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati where Murukan Deity was identified Perumal deity by Ramanuja based on different considerations as explained above.   On all the walls of the temple, you can see only Tamil words but not a single word of Telugu.  During partition on language basis, the Andhra people were shouting as "Madras Manathe, Madras Manathe".  They wanted to have Madras for their capitol, and give away Tirupati temple to Madras State.    Rajaji was responsible to give away Tirupati temple to Andhra and keep Madras as the capitol of Madras State.  Tamils would have liked  the other way round.  Annadurai changed Madras State to Tamil Nadu. Sivaya Vishnu Rupaya, Siva Rupaya Vishnave (Arium aranum onre)--Ignorant people worship Vishnu only and reject Siva, foolishly aiming for Vaikundam and similarly Siva only to reach Kailasam.    Vishnu will not take these sectarian  Vaishnavas to Vaikuntham and  Siva will not  also not   take those Navagraha  Saivas and astrologers to Kailasam. 
I won’t be surprised if even Venkateswara deity   with inserted Sankha (conch) and Chakra (discus) believed to be a trick played by Ramanuja is worshiped as Skanda or Murugan.  In Thanjavur District, Papanasam Taluk, 8 km from Papanasam town there is a place called RAYAN PETTAI where Sri Murukan Temple with conch and chakra is located.  That is the only place we can worship both Perumal and Murukan together (like Venkateswara in Tirupati). Students from various places come here to worship both Perumal and Murukan for passing their examinations. and most of them get their wishes fulfilled like Visa Balaji Temple.  RAYAN PETTAI is a small village where the local people give tender coconuts to all the students and encourage them to pass their examinations.  During the examination times, the students from other places invade this temple and worship in order to pass their examinations.  It is a temple where people go to prey   for success in exams   like going to Balaji temple near Hyderabad  to get visa to USA though not as  famous as Chikkuru Balaji Temple.
Krishna ordered Yogamaya to wrest Balarama's garbha from Devaki and place it in Rohini's womb; and also herself to be born of Yashoda in time for exchange with Krishna. Later when Kamsa tried to dash her against a stone she rose up into the sky and mocked and warned him. This Yogamaya who was given the boon of being worshiped thenceforth, was Durga. Since she was born of Yashoda and was also associated with Devaki she is considered Krishna's sister.

In Sri Vishnu Puranam at that point the following names are given are:  regarding Yogamaya: Arya, Durga, Vedagarbha, Ambika, Bhadra, Bhadrakali, Kshemada and Bhagyada.

In Srimad Bhagavatam the following names are given: Durga, Bhadrakali, Vijaya, Vaishnavi, Kumuda, Chandika, Krishnaa, Madhavi, Kanyaka, Maaya, Narayani, Easaani, Sarada  and  Ambika.

It can be seen that the characteristic names of Siva's wife Parvati are totally absent in both the Puranas.

Hindu Puranas often describe that Subhadra was herself an incarnation of Goddess  Durga who took birth in the form of Lord  Yogamaya of Vishnu from Krishna's foster parents, Nandagopa and Yasoda   bringing his daughter to Mathura.  When Kamsa came to know that  Devaki had given birth to her eighth child and it is daughter, he came to kill the girl. He tried to throw the girl on a wall, but suddenly the girl took the form of Goddess Durga and laughed on Kansa saying that your killer has taken birth and will kill you soon. After saying this, she disappears. It is said that Yogmaya (Durga) again took birth as Krishna's sister Subhadra. She wasa much younger to Krishna and Balarama.  Durga is identified with conch and Discus (Sankha and  Chakra)

Hunting festival conducted annually shows clearly how this deity was worshiped by Hill Tribes  in the beginning about which I have spoken:
Paruveta Utsavam  is observed on the Kanuma day at the Tirupati Balaji Temple in Tirumala. It falls on the day after Sankranti celebrations. Paruveta Utsavam 2017 date is January 15. Paruveta Utsavam in Telugu means Hunting Festival.
It commemorates the hunting expedition of Lord Venkateswara to Narayanavanam.
He happened to see Goddess Padmavathi while he was chasing a wild elephant. That is why the Paruveta (hunting) is celebrated on the day of Kanuma at Tirumala every year.

How is Paruveta Utsavam Observed?
Lord Malayappa wears hunting dress, head guard and five weapons such as Sudarshana Chakra, Panchajanya Conch, Nandaka Sword, Koumodaki Gada and Sargabow besides Sword, Shield and Sphere, boarding Silver Chariot and reaches Paruveta Mandapa in Papavinashanam road nearly two kilometers away from temple by procession. Along with Lord Venkateswara, Lord Krishna as well reaches Paruveta Mandapa where both of them are made to sit and conduct musical and cultural concerts are organized at 2 PM by singing the songs of Annamayya. 
In the evening offerings are made to Lord. After that Lord Krishna on the invitation of Sannidi Golla visits their habitate, eats butter and returns to Paruveta Mandapam. At that moment Sannidhi Golla as a token of a love and gratitude offers burning camphor and appalations to the Lord.

After that Lord Srinivas starts Hunting. Even the Archaka swamis follow the Lord with weapons to hunt animals, three times forward and three times backward and receive Harathi. Ultimately, returns to the Temple. With this, the Paruveta Utsavam comes to an end.



The present deity Venkatswara in Tirumalai is believed to be a stone deity while Swami Harshananda says it could also be a red fig wooden carving like Jagannatha to which the earlier controversies could be related.   It is likely there was an earlier wooden image. When stone sculpture became popular many of the earlier wooden or terracotta figures were replaced   in Tamil Nadu   as in Kanchipuram. The original figure made of fig wood in Kanchipuram is preserved even today in the temple tank and is taken out only every twelve years while the latter stone deity is consecrated for daily worship.  Venkateswara deity is held in secrecy by the priests and no one is allowed to go nearby during Abhishekam.  Silappadhikaram a Tamil   Jain  text may refer to the modern stone Vishnu deity  but this text also mentions of  naked deity with no temple built around as   in   Sravanabelgola  Gomatesawara  shrine in Karnataka.  While the existence of the temple   is not known earlier the hill itself was held in high esteem as the annihilator of sins. Generally Jain deities are seen with Conch like Vishnu deities of Hindus; But Vishnu deities also have Chakra.  May be Jain deities also had   Sankha and Chakra earlier, Chakra representing wheel of dharma. Probably Chakra was removed in order to distinguish from Hindu deities later    on.   Subhramanya in alone temple near Tiruvaiyaru , Dharmasamvardhinee as well as Durga idols are seen with Conch and discus  as I talked to you before. Therefore Sankha and Chakra are not exclusive to Vishnu deities alone as is believed conventionally.  Matted hair is also special to jain deities as seen on  Venkateswara  hidden in the crown.

Bhavisahyottara purana says   Brahma raised a tamarind tree on Venkatadri Hill, beneath which he formed an Anthill.  Narada was instructed to bring Vishnu back to Venkatadri to reside in the Anthill so that people on earth remained pious and meritorious in Kali Yuga. This   conflates with Sanat Kumara’s descent from planet Venus described in the   Book of Revelations of the Holy Bible.  Narada was the disciple of Sanat Kumara as you see later.  He would have brought Sanatkumara son of Vishnu to reside in the hill. This also substantiates Sanat Kumara being   worshiped as Skanda in Tirupati, as they are one and the same as revealed in Upanishads.

The name Venkateswara is exclusive to the Lord of the Hill in Tirumala— Saptagiri, Ezhumalai, Seshachala, Saptagirinaatha, Saptagireesa, Ezhumalaiandan  etc.  The name means “destroyer of sins” (vem=dire sins; kata=immunizing power), as well as “Giver of worldly wealth” He is also called Srinivasa     meaning “Abode of Wealth”.  His name does not appear anywhere else, neither in literature nor religions, nor used for any other deity. The biggest mystery of all is which god could he be--Skanda, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Neminatha, Buddha among religions and traditions that came from  Sanatana Dharma. The word Natha is special to Jainism.  Natha suffix  is also   found in Hinduism, Adi Jaganntha of Tiruppullni (Adinatha) and also Jaganntha worshiped for sometimes as Jina or Neminatha who is said to have   taught Bhagavad Gita to Krishna. Sanat kumara is Brahm -sanam kumar in Buddhism.  Sanat Kumara is Dipankara, the lamp lighting Buddha said to predate the historical Buddha in a world cycle long past. He is sometimes equated with Adibuddha, the original Buddha and is the being Gautama Buddha pledged himself to. Recall the names Venkata-Easa, Venkata_Rama, Venkata--Subrahmanya, Venkata-Krishna Venkata-Natha (Neminatha), Baala-ji  (Eternal youth),   Baalaa-ji (Balaa Tripursundari).

 In pre-Vedic and Vedic culture nobody talked about religion and people had no idea as to  what religion is,  nor there is any word equivalent to religion in Sanskrit. The term “Religion” got introduced to English Language for faith based worships by Christianity. Only Christian Religion remained without the suffix –ism and all other religions were identified with that suffix.  The religious followers of Muhammad were also called followers of Muhammadanism and Jews Judaism. Oxford dictionary says the suffix –ism is colloquial usually used in derogatory sense. Later the followers of Allah recognized this connivance by Christianity and called themselves Islam. Jews did not bother!  Today only Christianity and Islam does not have the suffix -ism.  Why?  Hindus are happy to be called Hindus name given by Abrahamic religions and also content their religion being called Hindu-ism.  Compare this --ism attached to religious names with common derogatory terms—Atheism, cannibalism, communalism, hedonism, Nihilism paganism, sexism, terrorism, vandalism etc.  

Hindu Temple Tradition started with the worship of nature as Mountains or as Mounds. Venkatadri existed long before the deity carved out of its wood or stone was worshiped.  Nanditha Krishnan author of the book Balaji, Lord of Tirumala says Venkatadri is also called Dharmadri, hill of Dharmadevata, the God of Righteousness who performed penance on the hill and Teerthaadri, after many sacred watering spots which are situated here focused on Hinduism only. I may not be wrong if I conclude   that it is   called  Teerthadri  being the   hill of Teerthankakara who performed the  penance who is also called Wheel of Dharma, Arishtanemi,  Neminatha etc. Tiruvalluvar a famous Tamil poet (also believed to be  a Jain philosopher) refers to Adi-bhagawan in Thirukkural  (akaramudal ezhutthellam)   referring to Adinatha and also addresses the feet of Vardhamaan in another couplet “Malarmisai Yenginaan Maan-adi” linked to the glorious feet of  Maan (Vardhamaan). It should also be  noted Jainism was an extreme   “way of Dharmic life” practiced out of Sanatana  Dharma which  got systematized by Vardhamana and later got its name Jainism after his  Moksha. It was all earlier a philosophy under the umbrella of Sanatana Dharma like the present day Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita.   There were no such religious walls like today.

With this background let us turn our thoughts to Vedas and Upanishads which glorify Arishatanemi the Dispenser of all harms or sins.  Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says Supreme Being created   Vedic Gods  to   assist him in  administering the Universe under four Varnas with specific duties  as Brahmana, Kshatriya Vaisya and Sudra  as I talked before. For example Agni was Brahmana, Indra, Varuna; Yama and Rudra were    Kshatriyas; Vasus, Aadityas were Vaisyas   and Pusan (Earth) was Sudra. He also created immediately Dharma as Dharma-devata (dharmaaya swaaha) to guide the four Varnas before expanding further. Caste system was carved out of this divine plan of Varanashrama and got confused with conflict and social status. Dharmadri Hill derives its name from Dharma. Vishnu is also called Yajna Purusha or Yajna (Penance).

 Chhandogya Upanishad says   Sathyam is Dharma or the Supreme Spirit. Sathyam consists of 3 syllables—Sat= immortal; thi =mortal; yam=what is being regulated.  In Chandogya Upanishad Sanatkumara as a Muni taught Narada Bhumavidya, Knowledge of Brahman. This Sanatkumara is Skanda says this Upanishad.   Sanat Kumara, Eternal son of Supreme Being existed even before Brahma praising Narayana from whose naval emerged Brahma who went on a long penance  before starting creation.  Later Puranas say Sanat kumara was born as Manasa Putra to Brahma  (mind born) and later as requested  by Lord  Siva was born as the exclusive son of Siva alone as Skanda. This Sanat Kumara is hailed in Christianity (Book of Revelations) as the one who descended on Earth from planet Venus with 144000 divines to save the Earth  and establish  Dharma who is presently worshiped as  Jesus, Holy Son.  Sanat Kumara is worshiped  in many religions and venerated in many philosophies as God.  Venkateswara is considered to be an Avatar of Vishnu sent to Earth to save us.   I have dealt on all these at length in previous discourses. 

In the context of  Vedic wisdom  “Eko Viprah Bahuda Vadanti” and ”Devo Ekah” it is logical to conclude that the one  god sent to Earth  to redeem  us from all our sins is the Eternal Youth Sanat Kumara, who is   son of Brahma, Skanda , Pradyumna (son of Bhagawan, dissolution aspect of Parabrahman; also in Panchratra Vyahriti of Vishnu meaning conqueror) at different times,  Holy Son and  Eternal Youth worshiped in all Esoteric Traditions, religions and philosophies of the  world now worshiped as Venkateswara, Redeemer of our sins,   worshiped daily  by maximum number of devotees  in any  known   sacred shrine in the world. 

Please recall  the text in my recent E-Mail: “Arishtanemi is mentioned in Kalpasutra as 22nd Tirthankara, the  Jina glorified as "Rim of the wheel of Dharma", son of Samudravijaya of Sauripura on the banks of the river Yamuna.  He was   named Neminatha because his mother had seen in the dream a Nemi, outer rim   of a wheel”.  Arishtanemi means one who saves us from all harms. I do not know the significance of that dream in Jain religion but I feel it is the prediction of the arrival of Neminatha as the Ford founder or as Tirthankara one who leads us across the ocean of Samasara and the redeemer of   all our sins. That is why Venkateswara (Lord who redeems all our sins) is visualized   as Neminatha by Jains and worshipped.   But Upanishads   elaborate on wheel of Dharma in several Mantras.
The Dharmachakra, Wheel of Dharma    is  the Ashtamangala  of Asiatic Religions of  Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhuism.   The wheel is also the main attribute of Vishnu,   the Preserver aspect of Brahman.   Wheel of Dharma is also connected to four noble truths of Buddhism--Duhkha, Samudaya, Nirodha and Marga as well as four Purushrthas in Hinduism in the wheel of Life in induism  --Dharma,  Arha, Kama and Moksha.    Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, first Vice President of India stated that the  Ashoka Chakra of India represents the Dharmachakra.  Wheel of Dharma is the main symbol of the Sarvbhauma/Chakravartin, Supreme Lord "wheel-turner", the ideal King or "universal monarch", symbolizing the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions   (Samsara).  It is the symbolism of "the wheel of the law" and the order of Nature. 24 spokes in Asoka chakra represent 24 letters of Gayatri Mantra symbolizing 24 names of Vishnu   which are used to energize 24 human parts in the body during Sandhyavandana.  In Jainism the Dharmachakra is worshipped as a symbol of the Dharma.  The 24 spokes’ points on the Wheel   of Dharma  may represent the 24 Tirthankaras, Neminatha being  the 22nd.  In non-Buddhist cultural contexts, an eight-spoked dharma-chakra resembles a traditional wheel of the ship.    May be this wheel is held in reverence for the safety of life during sailing praying to the Supreme. As a nautical emblem, this image is a common sailor tattoo.  In the Unicode computer standard, the dharma-chakra is called the "Wheel of  Dharma”.
Chhandogya Upanishad says Dharma is Sathyam and Sathyam is Dharma. Sathyam consists of three syllables: Sat=Immortal; thi=mortal; yam =what is being regulated. Therefore Sathyam means Supreme Being usually translated as Truth and therefore Dharmachakra means all treading or pervading Supreme Vishnu or Venkateswara who is also a Ford founder.  
This wheel Dharmachakra or Brahmachakra is described in Vedas and Upanishads by sages with different interpretations but all pointing to Brahman. Please go through these narration in various Upanishads and also in Buddhism. Though Buddha was silent on Brahman he    introduced Dharma-chakra to his disciples for the first time after enlightenment.

Prasna Upanishad
 Ara iva rathanabhau kalaa yasmin pratishthitaah | tam vedya purusham veda yathaa maa vo mrityuh parivyatha iti ||
 The Self is the hub of wheel of life, and the sixteen forms are only spokes. The self is the paramount goal of life. Attain the goal and go beyond death! [The rim of a wheel gains its strength and capacity as it is supported by the spokes rising from the hub]
“Pondering over Praana Supreme Being made desire; and from desire he made ether, air, fire, water, earth, the senses and the mind and food; and from food he made vigor, penance, the Vedas and sacrificial rites, and all the worlds.  Thereafter in the worlds he created names. And the number of elements he created was sixteen. These sixteen parts created  from out of his own being by the Self, the Eternal Seer, having returned to him from whom they came, disappear  in him--as the flowing rivers whose destination is the sea, having reached disappear in it losing their names  and forms--their destination, losing their names and forms, and people only speak of the Self.” The sixteen parts are spokes projecting from the Self, who is the hub of the wheel. The Self is the goal of knowledge.
Svetasvatara Upanishad
Tamekanemim trivritam shoedasaantam sataardhaaram vimsatprtyarabhih  | ashtakaih shadbhih visvarupaika-paasam tri-maargabhedam dvinimittaika moham||Sv.up. 1-4||
They realized Him to be a form of wheel, having one rim, having three constituents. Having sixteen ends, having fifty spokes, having twenty middle spokes,   having six groups of eight each, having one bond of the cosmic form, having the difference of three paths, and having an illusion that is the cause of two.  [Paramatman is described metaphorically   as a wheel. The one rim of wheel is Prakriti, the three constituents are three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The sixteen modifications of matter are the sixteen ends. The fifty spokes are the fifty Sanskrit   letters beginning with “A”]
The vast Universe is a wheel. Upon it are all creatures that are subject to birth, death and rebirth. Round and round it turns, and never stops. It is the wheel of Brahman.  As long as the individual thinks it is separate from Brahman, it revolves upon the wheel in bondage to the laws of birth, death and rebirth. But when through the grace of Brahman it realizes its identity with him, it revolves upon the wheel no longer.  It achieves immortality.aving sixteen ends, having fifty sapokes, having twenty middle spokes, having six groups of eight each , having one bond of cosmic form, having the difference of the thre paths, and having am illusion H

Katha Upanishad
Yastvavijnaanavaan bhavati ayuktena manasaa sadaa | Tasyendriyaanyavasyani dushtaasvaa iva saaratheh || (Ka. Up. 3-5 ||
The sense organs of that person who is ignorant forever with his mind uncontrolled becomes uncontrolled just like wild horses for the charioteer.
 Yastu vijnaanavaan bhavati yuktena  manasaa sadaa | tasyenderiyani vasyaani sadasvaa iva saaratheh || Ka.Up. 3-6 ||
 But for one, who has gained knowledge (of the Aatman) and who has his mind always controlled by sense organs becomes controlled like good horses for the Charioteer.
[The horses of the person who has good charioteer and reins become obedient to him. In the same way the sense organs become controlled, only in the event of intellect and mind being good].
Know that the Self is the rider, and the body the chariot; that the intellect is the charioteer and the mind the reins. The senses, say the wise, are the horses; the roads they travel are the mazes of desire. The wise call the Self the enjoyer when he is united with the body, the senses and the mind.  When a person lacks discrimination and his mind is uncontrolled, his senses are unmanageable, like the restive horses of a charioteer.  But when a man has discrimination,   and his mind is controlled, his senses, like the well-broken horses of a charioteer, lightly obey the rein. He who lacks discrimination, whose mind is unsteady and whose heart is impure, never reaches the goal, but is born again and again. But a person who has discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reaches the goal, and having reached it is born no more.
Mahanarayana Upanishad
MNU also addresses Mother Earth as  Aswakrante , one who is traversed by horses; Vishnukrante, one who is  traversed by Vishnu and Rathakrante, one who is traversed by the Chariot.  This again reminds us of Vishnu’s Trivikrama avatar in which he covered the entire earth with his   foot, Vishnu who traverses the whole world as Wheel of Dhrama or Brahamchakra and  who is All Pervading with his feet everywhere on Earth --“sarvatra paaninah paadau”.
The Ashoka Chakra at the center of Flag of India is a depiction of the Dharma chakra; represented with 24 spokes. It is so called because it appears on a number of edicts of Ashoka, most prominent among which is the Lion Capital of Ashoka. 
When Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, he came to Sarnath, on the outskirts of Varanasi. There, he found his five disciples Assaji, Mahānāma, Kondañña, Bhaddiya and Vappa, who had earlier abandoned him. He introduced his first teachings to them, thereby establishing the Dharma chakra. This is the motive taken up by Ashoka and portrayed on top of his pillars.
However, 12 out of the 24 spokes represent the twelve causal links taught by the Buddha and pratītyasamutpāda (conditional arising). The first 12 spokes represent 12 stages of suffering. Next 12 spokes represent no cause no effect. So, due to awareness of mind, formation of mental conditioning stops. This process stops the process of birth and death to attain Nirvana.