Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tall Temples

T is for temples. Hindu temples in India are works of art. They say that they are built with intricately carved tall towers (gopurams) on top so that you look up, towards the spot between your eyes, which is the focus-point of meditation.

Temples are (as many religious places are) gathering spots for the community, the location of classical performances, teaching centers for children, and of course, places of worship. They're a quiet, or not-so-quiet place to meditate.

T is for Tirupati (thee-roo-pah-thee). This was the temple we were visiting. Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe, known here as Venkateshwara or Balaji, is the presiding deity of the Tirupati temple. We couldn't take pictures there, of course, but you can see a picture of him here.

In visiting the temple, you have two options: drive, or walk. The hike up to the temple is long and tiring, but beautiful.

Along the way, you first touch the chappals, or sandals, of Vishnu, because legend goes that he came there first. You are also supposed to visit his wife, a form of the Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity), known as Alarmel Manga (lady of the lotus) or Thaayaar (Mother). She stands on a pink lotus, with lotuses in her hands and money coming from her palms, surrounded by white elephants (like this).
We visited her only at night, when they take the small bronze version of the goddess out of the temple to visit the common folk who might not be able to make it outside. This is called an utsava. Here she is from behind, a retinue of devotees with her:

We climbed the 3600 steps slowly, along with others. Some people lit small lamps or bits of camphor along the center of each step.

Others tied bits of cloth or other things to strings hanging from banyan trees, for good luck or to make wishes:

Still others made small piles of rocks for wishes, or as recompense for some wish they had made earlier:

At one point, we could see the top of the temple, lit up with Vishnu's characteristic symbols: on the left, his chakra, a sharp-toothed circular wheel used to cut off the heads of the unjust; in the middle, his namam, a mark that usually covers his eyes to the world and which signifies him; on the right, the conch shell, which if he blows will stop the Universe.

We passed the deer park (a deer reserve):

Along the way, dancers danced under a tall statue of the monkey-god Hanuman, the son of the wind.

Eco-tip: Stop buying icky toxic paints and colors for your kids and artwork. Go natural with homemade finger paints(scroll down for the recipes)

1 comment:

Spiritually yours said...

This is a great blog on Tirupati. I am very happy to see youngsters visiting Lord Balaji.
I am keen on promoting Spiritual Tourism - not for commercial purpose but as an evangelist - By writing blogs and passing on more information to younger generation. One common refrain by youngsters in not undertaking spiritual tourism is lack of accommodation options. Where did you stay at Tirupati?.

I am writing to many travel portals to include pilgrimage centres. So far, I have got reply only from Travel Paisa who have added Tirupati and an article by me on udupi. Yatra have agreed to add provided there are packages from hotels.

Great Blog and please keep writing on any pilgrimage centres that you visit