Somehow faith can make us do unusual things. Visiting a temple is akin to finding nirvana and an instant solution to problems, which is what sleeping on the floor in Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple, Tirumala Tirupati felt like. For a new worshipper and seeker that I was, prayers at Tirupati were blessings I needed in that phase. Added to this, I was going to the famous Srikalahasti temple, just a short drive away.

Legend of Tirupati

It was a trip to wash off my sins, so I thought. But all prayers don’t bring the answers we want, but the answers we are supposed to get; this was the learning I brought back. There are many legends woven around this most visited holy place on Earth. But the one most people talk about is how Lord Vishnu borrowed money from Lord Kuber for his marriage to goddess Lakshmi. The loan continues till the end of kaliyuga, the present era, which is why people donate generously to the God here.

Tirupati Prasad Ladoos

What was interesting to know is that there are different queues. You take the one with a higher fee for prasad and you get in faster. I paid Rs 1,500 for us three siblings and took about an hour to reach the main shrine. It’s difficult to see a lot inside as you weave more in and out, than stand still to pray; nevertheless it does bring solace to the soul. And the bonus, we got a huge ladoo as prasad. We got three, but even one was good enough for five people I thought.

Padma Temple tank and Sri Padmavathi Temple (background), Tiruchanur, Tirupati

Image Credit: Padmavati tank, Tirupati by Bhaskaranaidu

There is a holy pond too where devotees can wash off their sins. And of course, many get their heads shaved off, offering their hair to Lord Vishnu.

Facts about Tirumala Hill

The seven peaks of this hill are believed to be seven heads of Adisesha. Hence, it is also called Seshachalam.
The seven peaks are–Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. And the temple is on Venkatadri, the seventh peak.
The temple lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a holy water tank.
The temple complex comprises a traditional temple building and pilgrim lodging sites.
Natural Stone Arch, Tirumala Hills, Tirupati

Image Credit: Natural stone arch in Tirumala by Tatiraju.rishabh

Road to Srikalahasti Temple

This is where even the heinest of sins can be forgiven for Shiva is bholenath. Astrologers claim that planets caught between Rahu and Ketu, called Kalsarpa yoga, are pacified with special puja here.

For us, it wasn’t about redemption. I was more curious to see the temple as Parvati here is called Gnana Prasunambika Devi. Well, since my name came into the picture, this was vanity at work. But, believers say that you can visit temples only when the Gods call you.

Inside The Temple

The linga here is swayambhu or self manifested. And not even the head priest touches it. This is Vayulinga, one of the five natural elements, representing wind. Walking through the temple complex, we saw many inscriptions narrating the history of the temple, the names of the ancient Pallava and Chola kings, who built this temple. Stories and legends of the Gods, the pundits said, are all written in these ancient scripts.

Offering prayers to goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, we sat for a while, listening to the tales of the Gods. We did not understand Telugu and the priest spoke broken English. And gazed in awe at the huge gopurams, as towers are called in south India. Krishnadevaraya, the king of Vijayanagara, got the 120 feet (37 m) high main gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam constructed in 1516.

Legend of Sri Kalahasti

This temple is a boon to three Shiva devotees—sri, kala and hasti–spider, snake and elephant respectively. The trio worshipped the linga without any conscious knowledge. While sri, the spider, wove a web so nothing could damage the linga, hasti, the elephant, watered it to keep it clean. And kala, the snake, stood guard over it, putting his mani or gem on the linga, decorating it. Pleased with this worship, Lord Shiva granted them a boon and the temple was born.

The Miracle Wind

It’s nothing short of miracle when you watch the lamps flicker inside the inner sanctum. This is a dark place with lack of air movement, but the lights flicker as if wind is blowing.

I wish we had the time to see the abhishek, which the priest said is done by pouring a mixture of water, milk, camphor, panchamrita over the utsava murti. Then sandal paste, flowers and the sacred thread are offered. But we were with a group and it was a long time for this special ceremony.

What’s interesting about Sri Kalahasti templeSrikalahasti Gopuram, Andhra Pradesh

Image Credit: Srikalahasti Gopuram by రవిచంద్ర

The entire temple is carved out of the side of a huge stone hill.
It’s where all difficult curses are dissolved. Heartfelt prayers can get you redemption and relief, devotees swear by miraculous moments. Even goddess Parvati found redemption and knowledge here.
This is the site where Kannappa was going to offer both his eyes to cover the blood flowing from the Siva linga. Lord Siva appeared on time, restored his eye and granted him nirvana.
There is an enormous, ancient gopuram (entrance tower) over the main gate, which is 36.5 m (120 ft) high.
The temples runs Sri Gnana Prasunambika Devi Nithya Annadana scheme under which free food is offered to those who visit the temple. Almost 200 devotees are fed daily.
A little elevated, maybe not redeemed, we began our journey back to Chennai, where we had to board the train to Delhi.