Tirupati is 170km northwest of Chennai, in Andhra Pradesh near the Tamil Nadu border, at the bottom of the Tirumala Hill. In Tirupati there is the important Sri Govindaraja Swami Temple, Kothanda Rama Swami Temple and the famous Kapileswara Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Siva. In Tiruchanur, five km from Tirupati, is the Padmavathi Temple, dedicated to the consort of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji).
The temple of Sri Venkateswara or Tirupati Balaji is situated above the actual city of Tirupati in the hilltop town of Tirumala. There is a steep staircase up the hill to Tirumala, used by pilgrims wishing to show their devotion by making the climb; otherwise standard transportation is readily available.
In this temple there are two main shrines. In the northern shrine is Sri Govindaraja, who is Lord Vishnu lying on Ananta. He is considered to be Lord Venkateswara’s brother. The other main shrine has Deities of Sri Parthasarathi (Krishna as the charioteer of Arjuna), Rukmini and Satyabhama (Krishna’s wives).
Parts of the inner shrine date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. The original temple had Sri Parthasarathi on the main altar. Sri Ramanuja added the Sri Govindaraja Deity around 1130.
To your left, as you enter the first gopuram (gate) of the temple, is a temple dedicated to Lakshmi. She is seated on a lotus in her four-armed form, holding a lotus in each of her upper hands, while her other two hands are in poses of abhaya, fearlessness, and varada, benediction. Situated above the door of this temple there is a carving of Lakshmi holding a lotus in her hand.
Near the first gopuram there is a shrine dedicated to Vedanta Desika. There is also a memorial for three of the Alwar devotees—Tirumallisai Alwar, Namm Alwar, and Kurattalwar—near the Vahana-mandapa, and another nearby shrine is dedicated to Sri Ramanuja. On the left of the second entrance is a Kurma Deity, Lord Vishnu as a tortoise.
This is a big temple. It has a seven-storey gopuram, built in 1628. There are carvings depicting the pastimes of the Ramayana and Lord Krishna’s pastimes on the second gopuram. This temple is located just off the main road, near the Bhima Hotel and the Tirupati railway station. The temple tower is hard to miss, but the rest of the temple is set back from the road.
Sri Venkateswara Museum
There is a good museum right next to the Govindaraja temple. It has many sculptures, Deities of Krishna, and other interesting displays. There is also a photo exhibit of the important 108 Divya Desam Vishnu temples that were immortalized in songs by the Alwar devotees. Open 8 am to 8 pm.
Kothanda Rama Swami Temple
About two km from the Sri Govindaraja temple is the famous Kothanda Rama Swami Temple built in 1481. Sri Chaitanya had darshan of Lord Ramachandra Swami. The main festival of the year is in March-April, for Lord Rama’s appearance day.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna) Temple
The ISKCON temple (08574-20114), Vinayaka Nagar (Driver’s Quarters), is located at the foot of Tirumala Hill, on a piece of land given by the TTD. The Deities here are Radha-Govinda. The temple is open 4.30 am to 1 pm and 4.30 to 8.30 pm. This temple is included in the daily bus tours of Tirupati.
In Tiruchanur, five km from Tirupati, is this large temple dedicated to goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji). A visit to Tirupati is not considered complete without seeing Sri Padmavathi. Sri Padmavathi is seated in Padmasana, holding a lotus in both of her upper hands. Her lower hands are in poses of abhaya, fearlessness, and varada, benediction. Also in this temple are the Deities of Sri Krishna, Balarama, Sundararaja Swami, and Surya-narayana Swami. It is traditional to first worship Sri Krishna and then to take darshan of Sri Padmavathi.
Non-Hindus are technically not allowed in the temple. To enter you may be asked to sign a paper testifying to being a Hindu. There is a short wait to see the Deity, or for Rs 5 you can enter a special darshan line.
Once a year there is a large festival that celebrates the marriage of Lord Venkateswara to Padmavathi Devi. Padmavathi Devi arrives at Tirumala on the back of a splendid elephant decorated with tilaka of solid gold as Lord Sri Venkateswara comes out to meet her.
The main festival, Brahmotsavam, is in Nov/Dec. The ninth day of this festival is the appearance day of Sri Padmavathi. On this day Lord Sri Venkateswara presents his consort birthday gifts, which are brought from Tirumala on a magnificently decorated elephant, covered with jewels and pearls.
In the Area
At Kapila-teertham, a sacred tank two km from Tirupati, is the Kapileswara Siva Temple where the sage Kapila was granted darshan of Lord Siva and his consort. Bathing in Kapila-teertham is supposed to extinguish all sins. This temple is situated in an attractive surrounding.
At Narayanavanam, 36km from Tirupati on the road to Chennai, is a temple dedicated to Lord Kalyana Venkateswara Swami. It is believed to be the place where the marriage of Lord Venkateswara and the goddess Padmavathi originally took place. After marrying Sri Padmavathi, Sri Venkateswara stayed here for a while before going to Tirumala.
Chandragiri Fort, 11km southwest of Tirupati, is where the third Vijayanagar capital was located in the 16th century. There is a small museum there, which contains weapons and sculptures. Open daily except Fri 10 am to 5 pm.