Tirupati and Tirumala are places well known all over India. Sri Venkateshwara, the presiding deity of Tirumalaor engadam, is revered by lakhs of people all over the country who visit His famous temple throughout the year, traveling long distances. The chief centers of pilgrimage are Sri Venkateshwara's temple on the Tirumala hill, the shrine of Govindaraja in the town of Tirupati and the shrine of Padmavati, situated in Tiruchanur, three miles to the south of Tirupati. Of minor temples, mention may be made of the Kapileshwara temple at Kapilatirtham, the Rama temple in the town of Tirupati and the Parasareshvara temple at Jogi- allavaram, situated a furlong to the west of Tiruchanur. The Hill on which the temple of Sri Venkateshwara stands popularly known as Venkatachalam is low and surrounded by many hills of an altitude, as is the case with the hill on which is located the Mallikarjuna temple
Of Srisailam, The hill to the north is 3426' high, the height to the east is 2750' high, the hill to the south is 2920' high and the hill to the southeast is 3620' high. There are five well-known paths leading to the Temple. Of them, two routes start from the town of Tirupati, the stepped pathway, seven miles long and the motor road, twelve miles long. The third route is from Chandragiri. The fourth starts from the Mamandur Railway station and the fifth pass by Nagapatla.
The Temple of Tirupati:
The town of Tirupati came into existence only about the middle of the twelfth century, with the foundation of the Govindarajaswami temple. Before this time there was a small village, named Kottur, to the north-east of Kapilatirtham, situated about two miles to the north of the modern town. On the spot where the Govindarajaswami temple stands there was a small shrine dedicated to Krishna. The famous Vaishnava teacher, Ramanuja founded the Govindaraja temple and started a small settlement round it named Ramanujapuram, confined to the four Mada streets round the temple. This small colony was expanded later on, particularly in Vijayanagara Times. An Achyutarayapuram came into existence to the northeast. An Srinivasapuram came to be formed to the west. The main bazaar was formed and a fairly big township
grew up. Several other shrines were also founded like the Rama or aghunatha temple, the Periya-alvar shrine, the Achyutaraya temple, the Mammalwar shrine, the Kapileshwara shrine and the Narasimha shrine. Near the foot of the hills a Lakshminarasimha temple and an Alvar shrine came to be built.
The Govindarajaswami Temple:
This temple is the main attraction for the pilgrims at Tirupati and the biggest temple in town.
The Tirumala Hill is 3200 ft above sea level, and is about 10.33 sq miles in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name, Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Five persons are allowed for Shrivari Darshan. Laddus will be given after darshan. Laddu Padi tickets are sold at Vijaya Bank. Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The sacred temple of Sri Venkateshwara is located on the seventh peak,
Venkatadri (Venkata Hill), and lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. The name Tirupati, meaning the 'the Lord of Lakshmi should have been appropriately applied to the village on the Venkata Hill, the abode of the Lord. However, it has been popularly assigned to the Municipal town at the foot of the Hill, while the village around the Hill near His temple is called Tirumala (the Sacred Hill).
Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala is regarded as the world's richest temple with an estimated annual income of over 300 crores. The hill temple, which received a stream of royal benefactions, has a fabulous collection of very rare and precious ornaments whose antique value is beyond anybody's guess. It also has crores of rupees worth assets in the form of land and buildings spread across the country. The main source of income is derived from the "hundi" which netted an all time record of Rs.116 crores in the year 1997-98 by way of cash offerings. During the period the hundi also received 450 Kg of gold, 3,200 Kg of silver articles, diamonds weighing 2.430 Kg besides more than 2 Kg of pearls, loose stones, corals and other precious offerings. There is no dearth of funds for the sacred temple as philanthropists from all over the country and abroad queue up to make fabulous donations in fulfillment of their vows. Lord Venkateshwara who according to the mythologies is "self-manifested" (svayambhu) is regarded
as the most revered Hindu God today. On any given day the main deity is adorned with not less than a hundred Kg of gold, diamond and pearl ornaments. Of all the ornaments, which adorn the deity, "Makara Kanti", "Lakshmi haram", "Shaligrama haram", "Suryakatari" (golden sword believed to have been presented to the Lord by the Sun God) are of immense antique value their history being rooted in legends. Aside the recently made diamond crown whose present value is put around Rs.30 Crores the other ornaments such as "Nagabharanams", "Sankhu-Chakram", "Kati Hastham" and "Abhaya Hastham" are also made of gold and diamonds. The "Golden Dhoti" (peethambaram) made of pure gold laces is the heaviest of all his "costumes", weighing about 40 Kg. This particular vasthram adorns the main deity during Brahmothsavam and on other main festive occasions.
It is mind boggling to learn that more than 150 Kg of pure gold is used to provide a gold metal cover to the exquisite "ANANDA NILAYA VIMANAM", the granite canopy over the sanctum sanctorum. In addition to this the temple management is contemplating to provide gold-coated copper sheets to all the pillars and doors including the outer prakaram of the sanctum sanctorum to add to the aesthetic beauty of the shrine and thus transform it into a "golden temple" complex. According to rough estimates, nearly 100 Kg of gold is required for the work and the TTD is already in the process of procuring the same. An interesting feature of the temple is inspiring its rich collection of ornaments; donations are still pouring inn from devotees in the form of fabulous offerings. For instance, during 1998 year a devotee from Sri Lanka who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons had donated three diamond-studded golden crowns for the processional deities - the Lord and his
two consorts. Another devotee a business tycoon from Pune offered a diamond parrot, a pair of Nagabharanams besides other princely offerings to the temple. Apart from these another devotee has come forward to donate a "Vajra Kireetam" to the goddess Padmavati of Tiruchanoor whose estimated cost is around Rs. one crore. To add further to the grandeur of the temple, the management has already initiated the task of remaking various "vahanams" used for the procession of the Lord. Beside the "surya prabha" vahanam remade last year, the TTD has recently refabricated the gold-coated "sarvabhoopala" vahanam at a cost of Rs.23 lakhs using four Kg of gold. The temple annual income which was Rs. 37 lakhs in 1945-46 rose to 9 crore in 1970-71 to Rs. 23 crore by 80-81 and then toRs. 108 cr. (90-91) and touched all time high of Rs. 300 crore during 1997-98 By the end of the millennium TTD is expecting its income to touch the Rs.350 crore mark.