Sri Venkatesvara temple, Tirumala

Tirumala is located on the Seven Hill of the lord of the seven hills. The temple of Lord Venkatesvara is located here. Sastras, Puranas and Sthalamahathyms unequivocally praise the sacred place and hold that in the age of Kali one can attain mukthi (salvation) only through worshipping this Lord Venkatesvara on this hill.

Covering an area of two acres the temple is rectangle in shape. There are two gopurams, the outer and the inner on the two outer prakaras. The outer gopuram or the main gateway to the temple known as mukhadvaram is about 11 feet wide. It stands on a quadrangular base, 38 feet south to north and 32 feet east to west. There are two cut stone doorframes symmetrically placed from either end. The compound wall emanating from the outer gopura measures 414 feet east to west and 263 feet south to north. An early inscription on the right side front face of the door jamb wall of the gopura registers that in the 12th year of the reign of Yadavaraya Viranarasingadevar his queen Nachchiyar presented 64 cows and 2 bulls for nandivilakku for Tiruvenkatam-daiyam in the month of Panguni. From this it can be deducted that the gopuram was in existence in the early years of 13th century.Tirumala-Venkateswara-Temple-at-Tirumala-in-Chittoor
The first outer most enclosure is called the sampangi pradakshina. Adjoining the gopura, there is a mandapa of 36’ X 36’ standing on 16 pillars called Krishnadevaraya mandapa. In front of this, there is another similar mandapa known as Rangamandapa situated in front of the inner gopuram. To our right as we enter the temple, there are three statues. They are Krishnadevaraya and his two queens Tirumala Devi on the left and Chinna Devi on the right. On the south there are three more statues, copper one being that of king Venkatapathiraya and the stone ones of Achyutaraya and his queen Varadarajamma. There is also a copper statue of Todarmal and his wife in this enclosure.

The next important mandapa in the sampangi pradakshina is dvajasthambha mandapa. The dvajasthambha and balipita are installed in this mandapa. To the north of this mandapam are seen Aina mahal and poolabhavi. Poolabhavi is a step well used for disposing of the used flowers and flower garlands of the temple.

The base of the inner gopura measures 24’ X 36’ X 9’. There is a compound wall starting from this gopura and the measurements of this inner prakara are 160’ X 235’. The walls of the prakara bear several inscriptions. But most of them give a clue to find out when the prakara was constructed.

Entering the inner gopura, we step into the circumambulatory path called the vimana pradakshina. This is a quadrangular space enclosed between the walls of the second prakara of the inner gopura and the walls of the first prakara which surround the sanctum sanctorum. The kitchen, the yagasala, the kalyana mandapa, the vahana rooms and the parimala room are in this pradakshina. The shrines of Vakulamalika, Yoganarasimha, Varadaraja, Ramanuja, Senapati and Garuda are also seen in this pradakshina. There is one well in this pradakshina called the bangaru bhavi, from which all the water required for the temple and the kitchen in particular is drawn.

There is a large kalyana mandapa in the southern portion of the vimana pradakshinam and measure about 80X 36’.  It consists  of 29 pillars and shows unmistakable traits of excellence of the Vijayanagara school of architecture. Behind the shrine is a raised portion called the yagasala where homams are performed in connection with brahmothsavam.

The third pradakshina is called the vaikunta prakshina which goes round the sanctum on the south, west and north. It is opened only on one day in the year, i.e., on Vaikunta Ekadasi. The doors of the gate leading into the sanctum sanctorum are covered with gold plates and therefore they are called Bangaru Vakili. There are two images of Jaya and Vijaya on both sides of this door. On the Bangaru Vakili, the images of Vishnu are portrayed.

The sanctum sanctorum consisting of garbhagriha and the mukhamandapa attached thereto is a double structure. Two distinct and separate sets of walls do exist, one set enclosing or gripping the other with perhaps an air space in between. The sanctum sanctorum is a square shaped structure. The vimana over anandanilayam is a three storied structure. It has a square base of 27’4” and a high of 37’8”. At the four corners, two lions with a lotus in between them are beautifully portrayed. The main idol of Lord Venkatesvara is considered swayambhu or self existent. Lord Venkatesa is represented in sthanaka or standing form in uttamadasatala measuring about 10’ in height. It is carved out in a very fine grained metal like black gneissic stone and some call it a salagramasila. The image stands perfectly erect and majestic. He has four hands, the lower right hand being held downwards and slightly forwards in varada pose which is locally called vaikunta hasta. The pose seems to signify that he is willing to give his devote any form of gift that he may seek from him in good faith and earnestness. The other lower left hand is in katyavalambita pose. The two upper hands are raised to the level of the shoulders. The right one carries a cakra while the left holds a sankha. The kireetamakuta is of rare workmanship. The two ear lobes bear the makara kundalas. There is a small carved out image of Lakshmi on the chest. The god has the usual yajnopavita, bracelets and armlets. The god is decorated with a verity of jewels that makes his glorious form look grandeur still. Since the earliest inscription1, among those engraved on the central shrine is dated in the 16th year of Rajaraja I (A.D.1000-01), the date of the construction of this central shrine will have to be placed on a date earlier to this year.

The temple dates from hoary antiquity being mentioned in Sangam poetry and by the early Alvars and it is stated that the deity is referred to even in the Rigveda. The epigraphical records show that the temple has always been esteemed and patronized by the rulers of the land. The Pallava king of Kanchipuram appears to be the earliest donor to the temple. The Chola, the Pandya and the Hoysala rulers laid their treasure at the feet of Sri Venkatesvara along with their bodies and mind. Several kings of the Vijayanagara dynasty made large presents to the lord. After the decline of the Vijayanagara dynasty, the temple received gifts from the nobles and chiefs of the other parts of the country. The temple has further all along been receiving a never ceasing stream of offerings from the devotees from all parts of the world.