by Uma Shankari on 20/05/11 at 7:52 am
Venkateshwara or Balaji temple at Tiruppathi in Andhra Pradesh State in India is reputed to be the world’s richest temple.
If you grew up in an average South Indian family, your mornings would begin with the recitation of ‘Venkatesha Suprabhatam’ floating from record players and transistors. ‘Suprabhatam’ can be translated as ‘good morning’ and the song describes the beautiful dawn at Tirupati, wishing Lord Venkatesha or Vishnu a ‘good morning’ and reminding him of his ‘worldly duties’. Incidentally, this hymn about the world’s richest temple/god is perhaps the highest selling CD in the world. If you like, you may enjoy the Suprabhatam in the mellifluous voice of lthe renowned singer Late M.S.Subbulakshmi.
The 1900-year-old temple is considered the ‘Vatican of the East’. Tirupati is 170km northwest of Chennai, in Andhra Pradesh, near the Tamil Nadu border. It is located in the eastern ghats, a mountain range that runs along the south-eastern India. The Tirumala Hill is 3200 ft above sea level, and is about 10.33 sq miles in area.
Venkateshwara temple situated on a plateau on a range of hills; Source
The Tirumala hill has seven peaks (”Sapthagiri“), said to represent the seven hoods of Adisesha, the serpent under whose hoods Vishnu resides in Vaikuntha or heaven. The temple of Lord Venkateswara is located on the seventh peak Venkatachala.
The temple is reportedly the most visited place of worship in the world – about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims visit the temple daily. With an average of 19 million visitors a year, it is almost double the estimated number of people visiting Vatican City. On special occasions and festivals, the number peaks to 500,000.
Inside the premises: Source
A visit and worship of the Lord is believed to cleanse all the sins, as is signified by the name Venkateshwara – “Ven” means “sin”, “Kata” means “destroyed”, and Eshwara stands for god. The staunch belief of the devotees has to be seen to be believed. Many ordinary poor folks collect money throughout the year in small ‘hundis’ (piggy-bank like) for an annual visit to the temple with the entire family members. They walk the distance on foot, then spend hours waiting in queues (the not-so-poor pay money to go through shorter queues) for a two-second glimpse of the Lord, and donate the entire savings to the temple.