Sri Tirupati Balaji Temple: Much More Than Just The Aura
We were a group of 6 MBA Friends, 3 boys and 3 girls, wanting to go on a “Temple Visit” and we decided to head to Tirupati Balaji Temple. It was sometime in August 2013. Since we also had a couple of friends joining in from Bangalore, we opted for train journey from Pune to Bangalore (16 hours one way), an interim break of 6 hours and then from Bangalore to Tirupati (8 hours one way).
Train Journey from Pune to Tirupati Balaji Temple
First things first, Tirupati Railway Station is very conjested and crinky. It was all the more hot and humid and sweaty, than what we expected. On reaching at 8.30 pm, it didn’t take even 5 minutes for us to literally feeling like running out of the railway station. The platforms are very small. Add to it, there were 3 more trains on the remaining platforms coming in at same time. For somebody not used to travelling in Mumbai local trains, especially at peak hours, this is a scary scenario. Just outside the railway station, there is a bus stand, having buses to major cities in across the state, making the area too chaotic.
Thankfully, we had a local resident friend, my friend’s office colleague, who had already arranged a vehicle to take us to the Tirupati Balaji Temple in Tirumala. Tirumala is where the temple is, around 40 kms from Tirupati Railway Station, up the hill. The fare charged was some Rs. 1,500/- approx. Don’t know if it was too much, didn’t bother actually. On coming out of the conjested station area, we found planned roads, dividers of each side and low traffic in Tirupati City.
(Tirupati City – as can be seen from the hills of Tirumala, Image: MakeMyTrip)
May be it was now past 9.00 pm and very unlike Mumbai. There is also a separate walk-way up to the temple. But this walk-way is closed at night due to wild animals’ movements. We preferred vehicle and the most striking thing during this 40 kms travel was the kind of “Hindi” the driver was speaking. For eg: Referring me as Brother in hindi, saying “Bayaa, KIDHAR KO JAAYEGI TU”… Inspite of teaching him it is not Bayaa, it is pronounced as “Bhaiya, kidhar jaayenge aap”, all in vain. So, we started then to enjoy his HINDI. LOL !! (Note: For all non-Indians reading these above 3 lines, I am trying to explain in nutshell the different ways of speaking the same thing… due to change of cultures…)
Tirupati Balaji Temple and Kashi Vishwanath Temple both, receive more visitors than the Vatican City and Mecca combined
Tirumala – The Destination
Tirumala is even better planned city in itself. On the way to our Guest House, we could find restaurants on the verge of closing by around 10.00 pm. Since we didn’t have food yet, that was a concern. There are State-wise guest houses like Karnataka House, Maharashtra House etc. I also heard that there were family rooms and dormitories available for free, somewhere in the vicinity, but I ain’t sure though. We had made a booking at the Karnataka House. Price charged was in the range of INR 2,500 per night for 2 PAX, which I felt was reasonable. Not having too many expectations in the first place is a secret to enjoy the experience and helping yourself not being too critical. The rooms were spacious with a double bed, cupboards, hot shower etc. Keep everything aside, a hot shower is must.
Feeling fresh and all set to try the local cuisine outside, we managed to find a small but good restaurant just on the backside of this Karnataka House. The plan was to have food and then around 3.00 am in the morning, get in the queue. So, we had food, came back to our guest house for a short sleep. But then, to our horror, the bed bugs just didn’t let the 3 of us boys sleep. The girls were lucky, I think, since they dozed off w/o any disturbance. With nobody at the reception, we 3 boys, then actually had to sleep on the floor in the corridor with only a mattress and a pillow each. Thankfully, since the guest house was open & airy, there was cool breeze flowing, it made things just a little better. Just a matter of one night I thought ! (4 hours of sleep, hence no worries, went with the flow)…
(Image Source: TTD News)
On getting ready by 3.30 am, we found beautiful orange coloured buses, that ply on the all roads in Tirumala in set routes 24/7, for free. Passengers can take any bus and still reach the Temple. It’s more like the Hop On and Hop Off Buses that you find in Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Istanbul (Big Bus).
[Image Source: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams]
On reaching the Tirupati Balaji Temple queue for Darshan, we were advised to go traditional, boys with Dhoti etc. Half Sleeves Shirt or T Shirt was fine. There are 2 queues, one that is free and the other where you have to pay INR 300. On thinking that the line of 300 will help us get in quickly, we opted for that. Both lines started way outside the temple premises, moving inside the temple and up to the Deity. Normally, the free line takes more time. We got in the queue at around 3.45 am, going in possibly all the zig zag ways, we managed to get Darshan by 10.30 am. This is my new record of standing in temple queue… 6 Hours & 45 Minutes !
The premises of Tirupati Balaji Temple (from the inside) in very huge & spacious, with drinking water, refreshment counters and lavatories.
2 things that caught my critical mind was that inside the huge temple premise, there is a door, which is a gateway for the actual place where the Deity is kept. Though the door looks big, with all the fine structural work that was done on it, the space for movement of the visitors through that door is very small. It is also the same door that visitors, who have already taken the Darshan, take to come outside the main premise. This actually could be a strong reason for the obstruction of movement of people and for causing big queues. Second, it has always been my complaint to all Temple Trusts, who are strong commercially these days, that the actual time spent by the visitor before the Deity is never more than even 5 seconds. The security seems to be pushing around and literally throwing people outside. Could be that this is daily affair for security in view of the long queues & they don’t have an option too. With so many visitors day in and day out, what can they possibly do better ? Anyway, it is human for people coming from far off to atleast be able to see the Deity in full.
I opted for a queue of INR 300 to reach faster to the main sanctum but the people in free line, who didn’t pay and opted to wait longer to reach the sanctum at Tirupati Balaji Temple, were the ones who got to see HIM first. GOD is a great leveler !
Post Darshan, I found that the free line people having nice time with families, chatting etc. Out of curiosity, I asked one of the families, who were parallel to us, when did they get through and they said at 6.30 am, they were done, their Darshan was over. Great !!
There are quite a few Tourist Attraction Spots near Tirupati Balaji Temple, to explore… Don’t forget !
We then headed to see nearby attractions in Tirumala like Rock Garden (below)
[Image Courtesy: Tirumala Tirupati Sevas]
all in the radius of 15 kms, had lunch “Prasadam” in the premises, came down to Tirupati City (pretty big city that way), had great Andhra Pradesh local food again, very cheap cost-wise and off to Bangalore, spent a day in Bangalore with local friends and finally back to Pune.
PS: Advanced Reservation at Tirumala is highly recommended, rather than going there blindly. Also, while returning if your have some time left, you may explore Tirupati and nearby areas like Deer Park, Chandragiri Palace & Fort etc. We didn’t find any Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) like CCD or Mcdonalds in Tirupati, to pass additional time, when our train was scheduled to leave for Bangalore, at around 9.00 pm.
Last Visited in August 2013