The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple near Tirupati, in the Chitor district of Andhra Pradesh, is one of the busiest pilgrim spots of the world. It is visited daily on an average, by about 200,000 pilgrims. It is believed that this temple is one of the places where the idol of Lord Venkateshwara Swami or Sri Balaji had appeared miraculously after an ancient king heard a divine voice asking him to feed the ants on the hill with milk. The lord was pleased with his servitude and manifested himself as an idol that was uncovered below the ant hill. The temple is located on Venkatadri, one of the seven hills of Tirumala. It is famous due to its magnificent idols and ceilings of solid gold, and several of the idols adorned with genuine rare diamonds, from generous donations made by kings of various dynasties. The Lord Venkateshwara is considered to be the most gracious form of Lord Vishnu. Legend says that anyone with a pure heart will be granted any prayer offered to Sri Balaji of Tirumala.
Tirupati is also famous for its beautifully organised festivals. The most important – Brahmotsavam is celebrated for 9 days during September-October. Other festivals are Vasantotsavam celebrating the arrival of spring, and Rathasapthami, during February. The number of pilgrims shoot up to more than 500,000 during these occasions. Legend says that the festival began when Lord Brahma himself visited Tirumala and offered prayers at the holy river Pushkarini, to thank the Lord Balaji for protecting mankind. The evening before Brahmotsavam, seeds are sown to celebrate life and fertility. The festival commences the next day with the hoisting of the Garudadwajam. In the days that follow, pujas are conducted for various gods, by decorating their respective chariots, bathing their idols, and singing hymns in their honour. The main purpose of the festival is explained to the devotees in due course of the rites – to celebrate the grace of the gods who protect us from all evil, and pray for their blessings which will help us weed out the darkness in ourselves and destroy it. The festival is conducted with great pomp and style. Devotees who attend the functions witness one of the most splendid celebrations of the world.
Our ancestors, greatly under-rated by the “copyright” loving Westerners, had wonderful astronomical observations which reflected in their religious beliefs and rites, as these were the main ways of reaching out to the people. It was believed that Rathasapthami begins when the Sun-god moves his chariot of seven horses on the north-eastern direction and enters the house of Capricorn. It celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of harvest season.
The purpose of all Tirupati festivals is above all, to spread faith and belief among the people – in God and in everything that is good. It is due to the wonderful history, and great efforts taken by Board of the TTD (Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams) to ensure smooth operations and flawless execution, the miracle of Tirupati festivals becomes real. For it is only due to the divine blessings that so many lakhs of people can visit the temple in spite of being so cramped for space since several centuries.