TIRUMALA- A PARADISE FOR PILGRIMS
The hoarse cry of Govinda, Govinda reverberates the Sheshagiri Hills of Tirumala reminds every visitor that he was in the care of the Sri Venkateswara.
Lakhs of pilgrims chant the Govinda mantra as they enter the abode of Sri Venkateswara. The mantra gives them energy to wait for hours for the darshan of the presiding deity of Tirumala and also stamina to come on foot trekking 3661 steps and nine kms from the Tirupati.
The deity is hailed as Perumal down south, Srinivasa in West and Balaji in North. But for all he is the saviour from all difficulties and hardships and a messiah and savior.
For the devout followers of Perumal alias Sri Venkateswara or Malayyappa swamy across the globe, Tirumala is just the heaven on earth and for pilgrims across the country it is a paradise.
The serpentine ghat roads surrounded by velvet green forests enchant the pilgrims who arrive in lakhs for the glimpse of Sri Venkateswara who blesses them to achieve their goals and gives boons to every one and all.
For many just the darhsan of Sri Venkateswara is fulfillment of their life ambition and such devouts come all the way from parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. “They do not seek rooms or prasadam but only the darshan of their beloved deity “says Dr.A.V.Ramana Dikshitulu the chief priest of Tirumala.
Tirumala is today the most sought after pilgrim destination and is a permanent and important hub on the map of devotional tourism in the country. The divine energy of Sri Venkateswara protected through ages by stringent practice of Agama traditions of Vaikhanasa cult of Hinduism has been the binding force behind all the popularity, rush of crowds and loyalty of devotees.
A team of dedicated archakas and devout officials of the Tirupati Tirumala Dewasthanam’s and its trustees toil to make Tirupati a choicest hub of pilgrim destination in the country.
“The task is momentous. But by the grace of Sri Venkateswara, no one goes hungry or without darshan in Tirumala“, says Dr.D.K.Adikeshavulu, the chairman of TTD and parliament member of Chittoor.
Accident free ghat roads:
The TTD had developed accident free ghat roads from Tirupati to ensure faster and safe trips to thousands of pilgrims who come by buses or private vehicles every day.
On an average day the pilgrims number around 35,000 while during the Srivari Brahmotsavam (the nine day festival heralding the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Sri Venkateswara in the dasara period).
Safe water and power:
The Tirumala Township with a local population of less than 5000, has grown into a large satellite township with 6.5 MW of power and 30 lakh gallons of water distribution. The temple town has ten sq kms of blacktopped and cement roads.
“We have plans ready to provide cheaper and safe drinking water through water purification plans costing Rs.five crores dedicated by some donors “says Narasimha Murthy , the EE of Water Works on Tirumala.
Projects are afoot on Tirumala to provide cheap and safe drinking water to the pilgrims. Several donors have e come forward to provide water plants to facilitate the pilgrims.
The TTD offered free and paid tonsuring centres all round the day to facilitate the pilgrims to redeem their vows to the presiding deity of Tirumala.
Extraordinary initiatives are made to protect the pilgrim from infectious diseases through sanitized blades and use of disinfectants.
The human hair is auctioned on a half yearly basis for medicine and fashion industries for use all over the world.
Capacity to accommodate 50,000 pilgrims
The TTD has developed a host of initiatives in the form of choultries, Guest Houses, Cottages, dormitories and lockers for the benefit of pilgrims as per the capacity of their purse.
The pilgrims can availa free and paid facilties to bathe and fresh up in the huge Srinivasa complex near the Bus stand at Tirumala. They can also take Rs.50 tokens at the bus stand itself, which will assure them darshan of Sri Venkateswara within few hours.
There 22 locker halls in the Pilgrim Amenities centre at Tirumala offering nearly 4300 lockers for the benefit of the pilgrims who do not want rooms. They could sleep in the dormitories or even in the open after the darshan and leave at leisure. The police patrols keep constant vigil to ensure that there is no theft of sleeping pilgrim’s belongings.
Of the nearly 6000 rooms available on Tirumala, nearly 5000 are available on free basis and rest are offered on payment basis to the affording pilgrims. Nearly 1500 rooms are available for advance reservation on online from numerous information centers across the state. The tariff of rooms vary from Rs.100 to 2000 in four slabs (Rs.150, Rs.750 and Rs.1000).
The TTD added 224 rooms with the completion of the Kusthubam guest house this year and has grounded works to build another 1500 rooms in several guest houses to increase the capacity to accommodate another 35,000 pilgrims in the next two years.
“We have donor schemes for not only rooms but also special guest houses with an objective to make Tirumala a hub of pilgrim tourism “ says the Executive Officer Sri M.G.Gopal.
The infrastructural development like guest houses for the affordable and free rest rooms for the poor, amenities like free darshan, free prasadam and free meals (annadam) have been attracting the domestic pilgrims to make a beeline to Tirumala at the first available opportunity .
For those devotees who come on foot, their luggage’s are taken atop Tirumala at free of cost. Special Medicare is always available on 24×7 basis and the special drive is made towards sanitation and hygiene in Tirumala to remove the 60 to 70 tonnes of garbage generated every day.
Devotees from all over India and abroad, specially Asian and European countries throng the temple.
The TTD has evolved special Donor schemes to give an opportunity for the pilgrims to participate in the God’s service.
While many serve their beloved deity in the form of Srivari Seva by offering manula labor as voluntary service, many offer gold, money, vegetables, build guest houses, donate for free meals and prasadams etc.
The TTD has been receiving vegetables, flowers, spices, clothes, transport vehicles, medicines etc as donations for use of pilgrims.
The donor schemes also comprise of blood banks, pranadana scheme, artificial limbs etc, hearing aids, spectacles etc.
Pleasant Pilgrims turn around in Tirumala
In order to reduce the turn around period of the pilgrims in Tirumala the TTD’s has developed several temple complexes’s in Tirumala and Tirupati besides the Papavinasanam dam, Kalyani dam, Srivari Padalu to keep them engaged.
“The objective is to offer the pilgrims and their family a peaceful and pleasant visit to Tirumala beyond darshan of Sri Venkteswara so that they gory back with pleasant memories of their visit “ says the chairman Sri K.Bapi Raju.
The TTD has strengthened its publication and information and online services initiatives so that the pilgrims can come prepared to spend few hours after the darshan and enjoy their stay.