Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh: The sacred and one of the ancient temples of Sri Venkateshwara is nestled in the verdant Eastern Ghats - a mountain range that runs along south-eastern India. These hills are called as Tirumala Hills and are 3200 feet above the sea level. It comprises seven peaks, namely, Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri, representing seven hoods of Adisesha, thus the name Sheshachalam.
The lord here is called with many names like Edukondalavada, Sri Balaji, Srinivasa, Venkataramana Govinda, Voddikasulavada and many more. The main temple (Abode of Lord Venkateshwara) stands on the seventh peak, Venkatadri and lie on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini. It is by the Lord's presidency over Venkatadri, that He is called as Venkateshwara. According to Shastras and Puranas, it is said that one can attain mukkti (Salvation) after worshipping Edukondalavada, meaning, the Lord of Seven Hills, in Telugu.
The temple has its origins in Vaishnavism, an ancient cult where people worship Lord Vishnu. The sanctum sanctorum, which houses the awe-inspiring idol of the Lord of the Seven Hills, is situated in the main temple complex of Tirumala. The main shrine includes the sanctum and the three successive halls in front of it up to the Bangaru Vakili. It consists of Snapana Mandapam, a square hall, Ramar Meda, a rectangular hall, Sayana Mandapam, also rectangular in shape, where the Ekanta Seva is performed and the Sanctum or Garba Griha, in which the idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara stands. In between the sanctum and the Sayana Mandapam, is the celebrated threshold, called the Kulasekhara-padi.
To peep into this historic temple, you need to have lot of patience and interest to look around every corner of the temple complex that speaks garrulous legend. Some of the places inside the temple complex are Snapana Mandapam, Ramar Meda, Sayana Mandapam, Mukha Mandapam, Bangaru Vakili, Dhwajasthambha Mandapam, Nadimi Padi Kavali, Garbha Griha, Mukkoti Pradakshinam, Kalyana Mandapam, Potu, Bangaru Bavi, Ranga Mandapam, Tirumala Raya Mandapam, Vimana Pradakshinam.
There are many types of sevas and darshanam's which can be made in the temple. The darshana begins at 3am in the morning and ends at 12pm in midnight. It takes around 3-4 hours of waiting in the queue for either darshan or paid darshan. Every devotee is issued a computerized token, at Venkateshwara Bus stand, Padmavathi Bus stand or at the entrance of Tirumala, with approximate time to enter the queue complex. This system facilitates to know one's turn for darshan. For everything, the bookings have to be made well in advance. Offering of hair is another important vow many devotees undertake.
Another unique custom of Tirumala is the Tonsure ceremony. Pilgrims to Tirumala usually offer the hair on their head to the Lord as a devotional offering. Persons in need of the assistance of the Lord, usually take a vow and when they visit the temple,offer their hair at the Kalyaanakatta, special hall erected for this purpose. A bath in the Pushkarini follows the Tonsure ceremony; the pilgrims then enter the temple and worship the Lord.