Tirupati is one of the holiest places in Hinduism and is well known as kaliyuga vaikuntam by its devotees. Tirupati, or Aadhi Varaha Kshetra, as it is known in the Puranas (Scriptures on Hindu Mythology), is an important mountainous pilgrimage site in the Hindu world. It is dedicated to Vishnu the second deity of the Hindu Holy Trinity who assumes the role of preserver of the cosmos. In this temple Vishnu resides as Venkateswara, an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu. The goddess Sri, or Lakshmi (Vishnu's consort), resides on the chest of Venketeswara thus he is also known by the epithet Srinivasa (the one in whom Sri resides). The deity is seen by devotees as the Kaliyuga varada, that is the boon-granting lord of Kaliyuga (the fourth age of Hindu horology). Tirupati is held in particular reverence by the Vaishnava sect of South India, known as the Sri Vaishnava. Sri Venkateswara has another popular name Tirupati Thimmappa. Tirupati Thimmappa is very much alive in janapada (Dalits, Adivasi and Backward Castes) culture of south India. When people take piligrimage to Tirupati, they chant 'Tirupati Thimmappana Padakke Govinda'or 'Yedu Kondala Vada Govinda'
Tirupati is the second richest religious institution after the Vatican City and is one of the most revered Hindu temples in India. The temple has universal appeal amongst Indians, regardless of regional and linguistic divides.
Tirumala (తిరుమల), the abode of the Hindu God Lord Venkateswara, is situated on a very ancient ridge of mountains in a southern district of Andhra Pradesh. It houses the richest Hindu temple, monitored by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. One has to go through 7 mountains to reach the temple. The temple is open for more than 22 hours in day, and it usually takes anywhere from 2 to 20 hours, depending on the season, to get to the Sanctom sanctorum from the time one registers into the queue system.
Tirupati is also the most visited temple in the world. It is estimated that more that 50,000 people visit the temple everyday; this makes it almost 19 million people in a year, almost double the estimated number of people visiting Vatican City. The lord in here is said to be Swayambhu, meaning that the statue was naturally formed and not sculpted by anyone. The Temple was built by King Thondaman.
In the holy shrine of Tirumala, lot of devotees offer their hair as sacrifice against their fulfilled wish. They also drop their offerings in the form of money, gold, silver or anything they wish in the holy hundi(a box to collect the offerings). According to Hindu mythology, all the offerings to Lord Venkateswara count to repay the loan taken by him from Kubera for his marriage expenses which will be repaid completely by the end of Kaliyuga.
Tirumala also has a naturally formed rock arch which at about 1500 million years old, the second oldest natural arch in the world. The oldest arch is at Arches National Park, Utah, USA. The length of this arch is 25 feet and the height 10 feet.
The drive to Tirumala is an enchanting half an hour from Tirupati, the town at the base of the mountain. One gets to see abundant greenery and unique geological formations on the way to the hill shrine. There is also a walkway from the base of the mountain to the shrine. It is a strenuous walk and undertaken by ardent devotees as a penance. An average person takes about 3 hours to reach the temple from the starting point at the base of mountain (locally referred to as Alipiri)
The origins of the site are legendary. Its beginnings are shrouded in great antiquity and its origins are still a matter of scholarly debate. Sangam literature, the earliest of Tamil literature (dated between 500 B.C to 300 A.D), mentions Tirupati as Thrivengadam which used to form the northernmost frontier of the Tamil Kingdoms. Sangam literature, such as Ilango Vadigal's Silapadikaram and Satanar's Manimeghalai, bear testimony to the existence of a shrine at Tirupati. Puranic literature which was composed roughly around the post-Mauryan and early-Gupta era also mentions of Tirupati as the Aadhi Varaha Kshetra. The Puranas associate the site with Lord Varaha one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Varaha shrine holds great importance in Tirupati and is said to be older than the main sanctum of Venkateswara. While some scholars accept the antiquity of the shrine they believe that the image of Venkateswara was not originally that of Vishnu but of a buddhist deity, perhaps bodhisattva avalokiteswara. The region of Andhra in which Tirupati is located in was already known for the existence of ancient Buddhist sites of the Satavahana era, namely Nagarjunakonda and Amravati, thus scholars suggest that the ancient site of Tirupati was probably a buddhist site prior to its transformation into a Hindu one after Buddhism saw its decline in the face of Guptan Hindu Rennaissance. Even up to the time of Ramanuja, the famous Vaishnava scholar of the 12th century, the identity of the deity was still disputed until Ramanuja confirmed it to be Vishnu.
Whatever its origins, it was probably a well established Hindu shrine by the 5th century A.D, whenceforth the Alvars or Vaishnava saints who led the Bhakti or Devotional movement in South India sung in praise of Lord Venketeswara as Vishnu. For the centuries to come Tirupati was richly endowed by the kings and emperors of various dynasties thus adding to its current reputation as the richest and most opulent temple in the world. The Imperial Cholas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara emperors were just some of the contributors for building the temple and donating gold and other ornamanents for the temple. Tirupati survived the Moslem plunder of South India without being plundered by the invading Moslem rulers of Delhi, unlike other temples such as the Meenakshi Sundareswara in Madurai and Srirangam. Under the invasions the idol of Sriranganatha, the deity of Srirangam was brought to Tirupati for safekeeping. To remember this event, a hall in Tirupati is still known as the Ranganatha mandapa. It was under the regime of the Vijayanagara emperors that the temple attained its current opulence and size. The emperors of the dynasty, in particular Krishna Deva Raya, lavished on the temple numrous objects of priceless value, ranging from diamond studded crowns to golden swords. The coronation ceremonies of the emperors were also held at Tirupati.
Tirupati is located in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh,India. The population is 227,657 (agglomeration 302,678) (2001 census). It is a short drive from Chennai (Madras) and equally well connected by road,rail and air to other cities like Hyderabad