Tirumala, 10 October 2016: Just like the holy wall at Bethlehem (Israel), the four mada streets around the Srivari temple at Tirumala have now become a treasure trove of devotional culture and new address for spiritual environment of Tirumala.

What was once the congested by lanes of Tirumala township has now shaped into a vast open-air theater showcasing the cultural and spiritual activities of Tirumala Tirupati. Accommodating nearly 2 lakh devotees on its galleries the mada streets are now bristling with activity through out the year with the festive look of rangolis, bright arch lights, bhajan sangeet in six to seven platforms in galleries, huge LCDs presenting the daily rituals inside the temple and other cultural activities beamed by the in house SVBC channel. “In a nut shell the mada streets have become the front face of TTD, demonstrating its devotional and cultural agenda,” says Dr D Sambasiva Rao, the TTD EO.

The glittering procession of utsava deities, Lord Malayappaswamy and his consorts- Sridevi and Bhoodevi– on festivals, Brahmotsavams, on full moon days (pournami) and auspicious events like Vaikunta Ekadasi, Ratha Sapthami etc., on the Mada streets is a feast to the pious minded. Over years the TTD has transformed the once crowded, congested slum like area behind the temple into a state of art’ devotion square’. Special steel arches, public address system, arc spot lights, CC cameras, comfortable cemented step seats, Toilets and drinking water outlets have been set up. The TTD has put up three layer iron grill barricades all along the ‘mada’ streets encircling the hill shrine. The decision behind the move is to further strengthen the security to the Hill temple in view of the threat perception.

‘The devotees after darshan at Srivari Temple could settle down for processions and enjoy the cultural activities- bhajans, vishesa vesha dharanas, folk arts, nama sankeertans showcased by TTD. We also supply food, tea and snacks to devotees at the galleries’ says the JEO Sri K S Sreenivasa Raju.

The mada streets stretching to 2.5 kms on the four sides of the Srivari temple at Tirumala has become beehive of activity during the nine-day festival of Brahmotsavam. Pious devotees call it ‘Thiru Mada Veedhi”. They even kiss the ground and wear its dust on their fore head in reverence.

What was a sore sight behind the sacred Srivari temple a decade ago comprising of dilapidated buildings, unkempt streets, dangerously hanging electrification and poor sanitation spots has now become a major attraction of devotees from cross the country. “The Lord Venkateswara has been walking on these paths since several centuries” they say.

During the Brahmnotsavam-2016, mada streets became the nerve center of cultural activities with over 750 artists performing both mornings and evenings.

With the sacred Srivari Temple in the background the holy streets stretching into a square pavilion present a Gallic view of the ancient open-air stadium of sorts. During lean days the mid noon and late evenings devotees sit on the galleries when the Lord Venkateswara in various avatars gave darshan to them riding different vahanams. In the mythological days his celestial entourage comprised of the army of Viswak Senadhipati and deities, in modern days bhajan singers, folk artists and costume rich artists formed his entourage.

“Just a fleeting view of Srivaru is enough for me’ cries Ramanamma, 60 year old devotee from Salem who has waited for almost 12 hours in the queue line after walking up the arduous 9 kms to Tirumala from Tirupati. She is coming to Tirumala for last 30 years and finds the environment never better or the same.’ But we forget everything when we get darshan of Lord on his vahanas at the mada street in rich splendor of flowers, diamonds. We feel lord has come out for our sake’ she says.

Various mathas of swamijis, Sri Varahaswamy Temple, Temple of Lakshminrasimhaswamy, Prasanna anjaneya Pushkarani, Laddu sale counters, green garden with Srivari emblems of Shanku, Chakra and Namam and colorful illuminations adorn the open space at the Mada street.

The brightly lit and spot less clean streets are out of bounds for all vehicular traffic. ‘We have also banned wearing foot wear on the Mada streets as they are sacred and only eligible for Lord Venkateswara’s entourage and caravan“ says the DyEO of Temple, Sri Kondandarama Rao.

Most of the devotees from lower income groups bring their own food bags and make the galleries as their home for a week of brahmotsavams. Through out the day and night devotional music blared from high pitched audio speakers and huge plasma televisions in the gallery provided live coverage SVBC which also kept them entertained with epic films of NTR etc. during non- festival periods. Neither the scorching sun vows the chilly evenings or rains deter the devotees from missing the vahanams, says TTD officials.