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Home Discover Andhra

Tirupati - Introduction

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Compiled by S R Subramanian & Jayanthi Subramanian
DIVINE TIRUPATI - Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple, Tirumala

 

Online Booking Facilities
General Facilities at Tirumala
Sudarshan Token System
Details of daily worship at Tirumala Temple
The deities in the Garbha Griha
On your way to Bhuvaikuntam
The delectable Laddu and other preparations
Ornaments of Srivaru
Festivals in Tirumala
Places to see in Tirumala
Places to see in Tirupati
TTD - Philanthrophic Activities & Various Projects
Do's & Dont's in Tiumala
Srivari Seva (Voluntary Service)
Sri Padmavati Ammavari Temple, Tiruchanoor
Sri Kalahasteeswara Swamy Temple, Sri Kalahasti
Sri Varasidhi Vinayaka Swamy, Kanipakkam
Ardhagiri Sri Veeranjaneya Swamy Kshetram, Aragonda
The Mahatyam of Seventeen Theerthas at Tirupati
Introduction

Tirumala and Tirupati are places well known all over India. Sri Venkateswara, the presiding deity of Tirumala or Vengadam, is revered by lakhs of people all over the country. People visit the Lord throughout the year, travelling long distances. The chief centres of pilgrimage in this region are Sri Venkateswara's temple on the Tirumala hill, the shrine of Govindaraja in the town of Tirupati and the shrine of Padamavati, situated in Tiruchanur, three miles to the south of Tirupati. Of minor temples, mention may be made of the Kapileswara temple at Kapilatirtham, the Rama temple in the town of Tirupati and the Parasaresvara temple at Jogi-Mallavaram, situated at a furlong to the west of Tiruchanur.

Of the three important centres of pilgrimage in this region, Tirumala is the oldest and its deity finds mention in Tamil literature of the early centuries of the Christian era. References to Tiruchanur are found from about the beginning of the ninth century AD. The Govindaraja shrine of Tirupati was founded about 1130 AD and the town grew up round this temple subsequently during the Vijayanagara period.

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The Chola period

The Chola conquest of Tonda-mandalam in the 9th century brought about many changes and the temple obtained wider popularity. In the 40th year of the rule of Viranarasinga, a certain Tiruppulla-nidasar, a visiting pilgrim, obtained the ruler's permission and renovated the shrine. This chieftain performed the Tulabharam ceremony at Tirumala. The temple at Tirumala received the devoted attention of various royal families that ruled over the empire and entered a phase of unprecedented glory.

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The Vijayanagara Period
The total expansion of the temple was done during the Vijayanagara period, particularly under the personal interest of Krishnadevaraya during the 16th Century A. D. 

::::::
Behold! Yonder is the abode of Hari
It is the embodiment of thousand-hooded Adisesa;
That is the lofty holy Venkata hill;
That is the bill, which is dear, 
and precious sight to even Brahma and other devas;
That is the permanent residence of innumerable sages and saints:
Behold that holy hill
Bow down to that hill of bliss;
Close by is Sesadri:
It is the choice resort of devas from heaven;
Behold the priceless sacred Treasure of that hill (i.e. Lord Himself)
Behold the dazzling golden peaks;
Behold that embodiment of several Vedas
Behold the Venkatagiri, the seat of Kaivalya (salvation).
That is the hill, which is Lord Srivenkatesvaras wealth;
That is the quintessence of all conceivable wealth and treasure:
That hill is the holiest of the holies.

- ANNAMACHARYA
The singnificance of Tirumala Temple

The Lord of the seven hills is the Lord of the universe. He is the light of the world. He is the Lord of all creations. The special significance of Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala lies in the fact that it is perhaps the oldest religious institutions in the world where unbroken religious worship is being carried on, according to the available recorded evidence, for over 1,300 years, it is a temple attracting more pilgrims than any other temple in India, and is held in veneration by more devotees than even Lourdes of France and the celebrated cathedrals of spain and Portugal. The average number of visitors to the temple now is about 40,000 to 50,000 daily and its annual income, derived wholly from offerings is over Rs. 150 crores approximately.

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Lord Venkateswara - The Supreme Saviour

'Venkatesa Samo Devo, Nasthi Nasthi Mahi thale'

This sentence in Sanskrit means that none equals Lord Venkatachalapathi, not one - none equals Lord Venkateswara in the entire universe. A visit to this great pilgrim centre is a rare spiritual experience. It is this divinity which pervades the area not only in the temple precincts, but in the entire town which has an irresistible magnetic attraction to the millions who came from far and near, mindful of the difficulties involved in the journey to just have a darshan of the Lord may be for just a few seconds. Every one who has a darshan of the Lord even for a few seconds will have no doubts about God's existence. This temple is a living institution with a presiding deity who devotes every one who comes in contact with Him with a feeling of peace and joy and spiritual strength. That is why even the puranas say :

"Venkatadri Samam Sthanam
Bramande Nasthi Kinchana
Venkatesa Samo devo
Nabhuto Na Bhavishyate
"

This means that in the entire brahmandam, amongst all the worlds there is no God to equal Lord Venkateswara in the past, or future and there is no punya kshetram which is equal to Thiruvengadam.

The very mention of the word Tirupati creates in many a divine feeling. This holy temple is popularly known as 'Bhuloka Vaikuntam'. It is perhaps the richest of the temples in the world. The entire town of Tirupati as well as Tirumala has an eternal floating pilgrim population. The business and trade activities in this town are mostly centered on the activities connected with the temple. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, which administers this temple, is a mini Government, having nearly 14,000 employees on its rolls.

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Tirupati town

Tirupati is a small municipality. A devotee wishing to worship Lord Srinivasa has to first reach this town. It is well connected by train, bus and by air. It is about seven miles from Renigunta, which is an important junction on the Chennai-Raichur broad guage line. Numerous buses are also plying between Chennai and Tirupati. On arriving at Tirupati the pilgrims have reached the foot of the seven Hills at the top viz., Tirumala resides Lord Venkatesa. Tirumala is about 14 kms from Tirupati. Tirumala is a hill range, which is a part of the Eastern Ghats. It has seven principal peaks each of them having a separate name and sthalapurana. The seven hills are seshadri, garudadri, venkatadri, narayanadri, vrishabhadri, vrishadri and anjanadri. On the hill seshadri in seshachalam is located the Tirumala temple and the entire area (range) is named after this peak. The puranas compare Tirumala range to a serpent, which is lying down. Srisailam temple is located on the tail of this serpent. The Ahobila Narasimha temple is situated in the middle. Sri Venkateswara temple of Tirumala is regarded as the head of this range. The Sri Kalahasteeswara Swamy temple at Srikalahasthi is the mouth of this reclining serpent.

There are 5 well known paths, which lead from Tirupati to Tirumala. Two of them start from the town of Tirupati. One of the path is by which the pilgrims climb on to the hill, the other is the ghat road i.e. the motor road. The third way is to climb the hill from chandragiri side. The fourth path starts from Mamandoor railway stations. The fifth is from Nagapatla side. But almost all the pilgrims came either by the hill path on foot or by walk or by the ghat road by car or bus. Till 1974 there was only one ghat road. But now there are two ghat roads. One is used as the way for the vehicles that go up while the other is used by the vehicles that come down. Thus the moment one arrives at Tirupati, there is a certain methodicity and clear-cut practice which one has to follow to reach the temple or Lord Venkateswara.

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Legends about Tirumala and its God

There are numerous collections of legends and stories about Tiumala and its God, Sri Venkateswara or Srinivasa. These are to be found in many of the Puranas. All these have been collected and edited in a book entitled the "Venkatachala mahatyam". An early inscription from Tirumala mentions that a 'Venkatachala mahatyam' was read in the temple before the Deity. It is not known if the work of this name, now available in print, is the same as the one referred to in the inscription. The printed work contains extracts from the Varahapurana, Padmapurana, Garudapurana, Brahmandapurana, Markandeya purana, Harivamsa, Varianapurana, Brahmapurana, Brahmottarapurana, Adityapurana, Skandapurana and Bhavishyottarapurana. Most of these extracts describe the sanctity and greatness of Tirumala and of numerous Tirthas situated on them. The following legends taken from the 'Venkatachalamahatmyam" pertaining to the manifestation of the Lord are of particular interest.

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The Lord's manifestation at Tirumala

Once, Vishnu wanted to have a change from his usual abode in Vaikuntha. He asked Narada to suggest a place on this earth, which would be suitable for diversion and sport. Narada suggested the neighbourhood of the place where Seshachala came to be located, later on. Subsequently, Vayu and Sesha disputed their relative strength and entered into a serious dispute. Sesha wound his long body round a part of Meru and challenged Vayu to move it. Vayu did his best to shake the hillock but could not. Ultimately, Sesha opened his mouth to breath and taking advantage of it, Vayu entered his body and blew off part of the hill. After the hill had travelled a long distance, Meru interfered and requested Vayu to leave it there and the latter did so. Ashamed of his defeat, Sesha did penance thinking of Vishnu. Vishnu appeared before him and offered a boon. Sesha, assuming the shape of a hill, requested the Lord to stay on his head, wanted the hill to be known as Seshachala. Vishnu thought of Narada's suggestion, made previously and agreed to live on Seshachala. This story is found in the Brahmapurana.

The Bhavishyottarapurana narrates another story, which runs as follows:

Once a number of Rishis assembled on the bank of the Ganga and got things ready for the performance of Yajna. Narada came to them and asked them which God they intended to please by performing the sacrifice. The Rishis were nonplussed and requested the sage, Bhrigu, to solve the problem. That sage undertook to solve the problem by examining the three chief divinities. He first went to the abode of Brahma and found him busy chanting the Vedas with one mouth, uttering the name of Narayana with another and looking at Goddess Saraswati with the third face. He took no notice of Bhrigu. Then the sage went to the abode of Siva. There again he found Siva fully absorbed in sporting with his consort and not taking notice of Bhrigu's arrival and presence. From here Bhrigu went to Vaikuntha and found Vishnu similarly engaged in amours with Lakshmi. Disgusted with this, Bhrigu kicked Vishnu on his chest. Vishnu immediately got up, massaged the Rishis foot and enquired if it had been injured. Pleased with this kind attention paid by Vishnu, Bhrigu returned to the Rishis and advised them to dedicate the Yagna to Vishnu. Lakshmi was piqued at the insolent behavour of the rishi because he kicked the spot, which was her favourite resort on the bosom of the Lord, and she went away to Karavirapura or Kolhapur to stay there, leaving Vishnu. Unable to bear the separation, Vishnu left Vaikuntha and wandered about. In course of time he came to Seshachala, found it sufficiently interesting and settled down on the mountain in an anthill, on the bank of the Swamipushkarini.

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A description of the idol of Lord Venkateswara
Lo! I dreamt. I saw the supreme Lord, master of all the worlds
The Lord of Venkatadri; I saw the unequalled beauty of the crest of Sesadri,
I saw the matchless dazzling beauty of the Temple towers;
I witnessed brilliance equal to that of myriad suns shining;
I saw the four-faced creator; Suddenly I woke up and realised it was a dream!
I saw the gem-studded golden doors of the temple (Bangaru Vakili)
I saw a cluster of lighted lamps in the garbhagriha;
I saw the gem-studded crown of the Lord;
I saw the golden Pitambaram;
I suddenly woke up and the beauty of the dream was broken;
I saw the conch and disc adorning His two hands;
I saw the unrivalled Abhaya hasta;
I saw the Lord of Venkatachala;
I saw Hari
I saw my guru
I suddenly woke up with a start
.
- Annamacharya

Tradition has it that hands of man did not work the dhruvabera of Lord Venkateswara and the supreme Lord manifested himself in a form that could easily be comprehended by human beings. Earlier alvars have stated that the devtas headed by Brahma daily worship Sri Venkateswara on the hill as we do now.

The idol of the Lord is a majestically beautiful and superbly executed one. The full majestic divine grace and undoubted compassion of the Lord is clearly manifested even to the uninitiated when the Lord gives darshan draped in all his clothes and ornaments or on Friday the Abhisheka day when these are removed and the Lord's full glory is revealed in all its pristine purity. The most arresting feature of the Lord is the permeating aura of an over powering sense of divinity, that is so utterly compassionate, that pours out love and desire to help if only one turns to Him. His facial expression with long and dark eyes in 'Sama drishti' and with an eternal smile is extraordinarily tranquil and beautiful, reflecting a sense of complete love and serenity that envelopes all living creatures in its benevolence.

The Lord's figure is richly adorned with flowing locks of curly hair rest on his shoulders. The nose is delicately carved and is neither prominent nor flat. The mouth of Lord is also exquisitely shaped. The chin and the ears are carved proportionately. The ears have beautiful ear ornaments. The chest or the Lord is magnificent in cut and size and should if measured be between 36 to 40 inches in width. While the waist would be between 24 to 27 inches. The neck is conch like and the body in the posture of a lion and exquisitely shaped. The belly is also beautifully modeled. The Lord's image has 4 arms; the upper 2 being carved to hold the chakram and the conch, the chakram and the conch are not integral parts of the main idol. The upper right arm holds the sudarsana chakra, the upper left arm holds the Panchajanya, the conch of Lord Vishnu which is blown by him in times of war. The lower right hand of the Lord is in the Varada Hasta pose, while the lower left hand is in the Katyavalambita pose. Actually the fingers of the left hand rest on the left thigh, with the thumb of the hand almost parallel to the waistline. While this idol itself is not exactly standing in the tribhanga pose the body near and below the waist has taken a slight tilt to the left and the knee themselves are bent and open slightly outwards giving the idol peculiar grace and charm. Mother Lakshmi is carved on the right chest of Lord in the sitting pose and is an integral part of the mulamurthi. The yagnopaveetham and a set of 4 necklaces or ornaments of the neck can also be clearly made out on the idol. The arms have armlets. The figure is depicted as wearing a dhoti from the waist downwards, while the upper portion is not covered by any dress or vastram. There is however a Katibandham or waistband and this waistband is about 2 inches thick.

The legs and feet of the Lord are beautifully shaped, strong and lissome. Both the knees are bent and open slightly outwards, giving the stately figure, charm and grace. The feet are models of perfection and have ornaments near the anklets.

The Lord's image has shoulders marks resembling 'scars made by the constant wearing of the bow and pack of arrows'. If ever any proof is required that temples are live institutions, the Lord at Tirumala is a verifiable truth. It must be made clear here that the external manifestation of the Lord at Tirumala is only that of Lord Vishnu, but He being a Sarvabhutantaratma, can be worshipped and is being worshipped Siva by Shivites, as Skanda by those who worship Subramanyaswami, as divine mother by those who worship Devi or sakthi.

The Lord of Tirumala is not a mere sectarian God, though the outward form is undoubtedly that of Lord Vishnu. He is Vishnu, Siva, Rudra, Brahma, Maheswari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, Skanda or any other form to any devotee who conceives of the Lord in that aspect.

All the upacharas or the services rendered to this idol are in effect rendered to the eternal Lord. This is the real secret of the Lord of seven hills.

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Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams

Great institutions belong to the people, yet their daily administration is a responsible task. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Administration is more than 60 years old. Today the TTD Administration has become the guiding institution for the Hindu temple administration all over the country. This mini Government rededicates, renews itself now & then to the cause of religion and service to humanity. It is indeed proving itself to be a true vehicle for the service of the Lord and the convenience of lakhs of pilgrims who flock Tirumala. The commendable service of TTD to humanity is immeasurable.

Today, T.T.Devasthanams which maintains 12 temples and their sub-shrines is a conglomerate of temples brought under the first schedule 2 of the Act 20 of 1987 enacted by Andhra Pradesh government. A Board of Trustees appointed by the state Government manages it. The Executive Officer is the Chief Executive of the administration. Two Joint Executive Officers, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer, Deputy Executive Officers, Security and Vigilance Officer, Conservator of Forests and Chief Engineer assist him in various spheres of activity. Besides, there are other officials like Law Officer, Welfare Officer, Public Relations Officer, Marketing Officer, Educational Officer and others to look after several wings of administration.

Spana Margam ( Foot Path)

There are two main routes by which one can reach Tirumala from Tirupati. The path taken by those who prefer to walk up the hill is a bit stiff and tough but exhilarating. The pilgrims who take to this path are mostly those who have vowed to walk up the hill. Young and old alike climb and it is very evident that it is sheer faith, which sees them through the steep, rough terrain.

The ascent of this hill in deep devotion will yield strength of legs and rapidity to the lane, give clear and lotus-like beautiful eyes and vision to the blind, bestow learning and wisdom on the dumb, endow the deaf with sound and distant hearing, and grant many children to the sterile women, and wealth to the poor. All these results are achievable through bhakti (faith and devotion) centered on the Hill as to its powers of atonement.

The hill to the north is 3426' high, the hill to the east is 2750' high; the hill to the south is 2920' high and to the southwest is 3620 high.

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Climate

The climate, on the whole, is dry and agreeable. The year is divided into 4 seasons. December to February is dry and cool. March to May is summer followed by the southwest monsoon from June to September. October and November is the post monsoon retreating period, the average rain fall being 8 to 8.5mm.

Temparature

The annual temperature ranges from 180C to 420C. The period from about the middle of November to the middle of February is the coolest part of the year. After February the temperature begins to rise rapidly. April and May are the hottest months. With the onset of the southwest monsoon by about first week of June, day temperature decreases a little and the weather on the whole during post monsoon season is more agreeable than in the summer season. Night temperature decreases after October.

The pilgrim has to visit Sripada mandapam at the foot of the hill and offer worship at the holy feet of Lord Venkateswara, which is there imprinted on a stone. Enroute there is a boulder, which is popularly known as 'Thala yeru gundu'. The pilgrim is expected to touch this boulder and the belief is that such a touch will ensure that he is free of headache and other bodily pains which one experiences while climbing up the hill. The pathway up the hill is known as Sopana Margam. The distance to be covered by foot may be around 7 miles. But the pilgrim has to cross several hills in the process. The first hill is rather steep. The structure on the top of the first hill is known as Galigopuram i.e., a temple tower in the mid air. This is at a height of 3000 feet above sea level. If the pilgrim stands here facing south, he will have a beautiful brids eye view of the railway line, river swarnamukhi, the number of tanks in that area, the numerous temples and towers in Tirupati and Tiruchanoor and the vast university campus. To his back and to his side are the huge hills virtually rising vertically upto the sky. From the Gali gopuram onwards the path is fairly easy as it passes through rich vegetation, and a sharp descending ravine. Then comes the difficult ascent that is known as 'Mokalla konda'. A little further to the left of the pathway there is a structure called 'Ghanta Mandapam'. Proceeding further up the hill the pilgrim reaches Tirumala i.e., the journey's end. This journey of climbing of hill by foot is an experience itself. Only people who have walked up the hill will be able to appreciate the divine bliss that envelopes a person right through the climb.

The journey by the ghat road is exciting in its own way. The new ghat road, which is normally used for going up fortunately, does not have many hair pin bends. But the ghat road, which is used for the return, has got as many as 52 hairpin bends all within a length of about 14 kms. It may take 3 to 4 hrs to climb the hill by foot but the journey by car or bus by the ghat road may take only 30 to 40 minutes.

The moment one reaches Tirumala one feels that one is nearer to God. All the petty worries vanish. The hill reverbates with divine music and chantings broadcast by the temple authorities. The God is a living legend in Tirumala.

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The Darshan of the Lord

To all devotees a mere darshan of the lord is a matter of deep spiritual reflection.
The more one thinks about darshan, the more indefinable does it become. The more one thinks about it, the more it became clear that darshan is not mere blessing or mere benediction in the ecclesiastical sense of the term. Darshan is neither bestowed, nor conferred. It is neither given nor received. Darshan simply occurs. It is a mystic experience.

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The miracle and guidance of Lord Venkateswara

There are many incidents quoted, some of them quite true, and some of them due to excess of zeal on the part of his devotees, about his supernatural powers and the many miracles that the lord has wrought. To one who attempts to know the lord in his true form, such an enquiry is completely meaningless. The fact that a fill disease was cured, or that a childless parent was blessed with one, or that a tragedy was averted by timely warning etc., or similar incidents of which instances are plenty.

The very great miracle that the Lord performs, and that which really matters, is the subtle and imperceptible change in the very class of life of anyone who turns to him with faith and sincerity. The real seeker who goes to him in spirit of devotion and surrender gets an unforgettable experience of lightness of spirit that moves him to the core of his being and leaves him with sense of serene and sublime satisfaction.

One who has been blessed by Lord Venkateswara will never again feel any hesitation in accepting him. It has been well said that the most sustaining power for righteous conduct is felt presence of the eternal. If this is experienced, then it is no longer necessary to have recourse to any argument to prove this.

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A Kireeta which Lord wears on Friday

The legend of how the Lord received a blow. The following legend is found in the Bhavishyottara purana.

Once Lakshmi converted Brahma into a cow and Siva into a calf and sold them to the Chola King. The cow, which used to wander over Seshachala, discovered the anthill in which the Lord lay, taking rest. Thereafter she used to shed her milk on the anthill and did not yield a drop to the milkman of the king. The queen took the milkman to task and blamed him for stealing the cow's milk. Next day, the milkman followed the cow and saw her pour the milk over the anthill. Incensed at this, he took an axe and wanted to kill the cow. The Lord came out of the anthill and took the blow upon Himself. Blood gushed out of the wound on his head. The milkman saw this and died on the spot. The cow went down the hill, reached the king and showed intense grief. The Chola king followed the cow, came up the hill and saw the pitiable sight. The Lord cursed him to become a pisacha and said "In future time an Akasaraja will give his daughter, Padmavathi, in marriage to me. He will then present me a Kirita which I will wear on Fridays. As long as I wear it, I will not feel the pain of the wound on my head and from that time you will also be normal."

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Some peculiar customs of the temple in Tirumala
The Poola Baavi

The poola baavi is the well where flowers are disposed. It is a steep well into which all the flowers and Tulasi used for the decoration of the diety, are disposed after removal. Sri Ramanuja initiated this practice when he visited the temple in the 12th century AD. The connected legend is described in the 'Venkatachala Ithihasamala'.

The tradition is that flowers on the hill should be used only for God and not for human beings. According to Agamas the flowers removed after use by the deity should be deposited in a well or tank. The flowers and Tulasi used for adorning Sri Venkateswara Swamyvaru will be distributed to the devotees only on Panchami Theertham day after decorating Sri Padmavathi Ammavaru after Thiruppavai Sathumurai and Sthana bahumanam at Panchami Theertha Mandapam in Tiruchanoor, where Goddess Padmavathi's temple is located. This is the only day when we can get the flowers, Tulasi, Turmeric etc., used for both the deities at Tirumala & Tiruchanoor.

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Lord Williams 'Chalipandili'

A high level official of the British Government by name Lord Williams had a chronic disease, which could not be cured in spite of expert medical treatment. 
A Hindu official who was a devotee of Lord Venkateswara advised him to take a vow that he would visit Tirumala after getting relief. After hearing the fulfillment of a vow taken by Sir Thomas Munro and a permanent trust to offer Pongali prasadam to Lord Venkateswara and get the same distributed to the devotees every day, Mr. Williams also visited the holy hill and prayed from outside the temple.

To his surprise, he got miraculous relief from his illness and then created a charity called Lord Williams Chalipandili (Drinking water shed) at first mile from Tirumala from footpath (near Neredu Maakulu) where the pilgrims can quench thirst. This charity is being continued and a pucca water shed is existing there to supply drinking water free to the pilgrims. The management of TTD even to this day as a permanent measure continues this charity.

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Non-Hindus worship Sri Venkateswara Swamy

According to legend Babi Nancharamma, a staunch muslim devotee of Lord Venkateswara also worshipped Sri Venkateswara swamy varu. Another muslim devotee has given 108 flowers made of gold each weighing about 23 grams offering. These flowers are used during Astadala Pada Padmaradhana (an arjitha seva).

Once Sir Thomas Munro, the governer of Madras presidency was suffereing from acute pain in stomach, which could not be cured by medical treatment. A Hindu secretary who was a staunch devotee of Sri Venkateswara advised Sir Thomas Munro to take a vow that he would visit the sacred seven hills and to his astonishment, he got complete relief from his chronic stomach pain. He then created an endowment to offer one big Gangalam of rice prasadam (Pongali) to the Lord every day to fulfil the vow taken by him and then to distribute the said Pongal prasadam free to all the devotees during sarvadarshanam.

For this purpose an endowment was created by gifting the revenue collections etc., of a village called Kotabayalu, in Vayalpad taluk of Chittoor district as a permanent measure of charity called Munro Gangalam. The endowment of Sir Munro is being continued by the TTD even to this day.

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