Lord Tirupati Balaji- The Destroyer of Sins
Who Is He?
Lord Balaji, also known as Venkateshwara, Srinivasa or Venkatachalapati, is one of the most widely worshipped gods in India. The name "Venkateshwara" itself means the Lord who destroys the sins of the people. According to Hindu scriptures, this age is the "Kaliyuga", or the age where evil is at its pinnacle. The scriptures warn of the persecution of true believers and the rise of oppressors. It is at this time that Lord Vishnu chose to be incarnated as Lord Balaji for the salvation of humanity. Hence, Lord Balaji is considered to be the supreme form of Vishnu in this age.
The Legend- Part 1: Who is the Best ?
Long long ago, some sages were offering a sacrifice on the banks of the Ganges. And as it happens when too many cooks gather, the soup got spoilt! The sages couldn't come to an agreement as to who was the supreme one out of the Trinity, Lord Vishnu, Brahma or lord Shiva. Unable to come to an agreement, the sages asked Bhrigu to find out who was the greatest among the Trinity.
To cut a long story short, Sage Bhrigu ended up being insulted by both Brahma and Shiva and he responded by cursing them. Frustrated, he went to lord Vishnu, who was deep in sleep. Bhrigu lost his cool and hit Lord Vishnu on his chest. Waking up, Lord Vishnu expressed his concern about Bhrigu's foot and asked if he was hurt. The pleasantly surprised Bhrigu declared Lord Vishnu to be superior amongst the trinity.
Unfortunately, Lord Vishnu's wife witnessed the whole incident and was very upset. Out of her anger, she left her heavenly abode and came down to earth. Heartbroken, Lord Vishnu too came down to earth, and taking refuge under an anthill, started meditating for the return of his wife.
The Curse of Brahmins
When Lord Vishnu's wife saw Bhrigu disrespect her husband, she uttered a curse that henceforth, she would not visit the home of any Brahmin and they will forever live in poverty. It is after this unfortunate incident that Bhrigu wrote his famous book of astrology, the Bhrigu Samhita, which guided Brahmins as to how to earn their livelihood.
The Legend- Part 2 : Heartbroken
Vishnu's self exile worried the other gods. Taking pity on him, Shiva and Brahma, the remaining Trinity, took the forms of a cow and her calf to serve him. By the design of the gods, the same cow and the calf was bought by a king. Everyday, the cow would go to the anthill and empty her udders, thus feeding Lord Vishnu. Meanwhile, the King got suspicious as the cow always seemed to be devoid of any milk. He asked his cowherd to investigate who ended up hitting Lord Vishnu and when the lord bled, the cowherd died of shock.
The king came to know about it and ended up being cursed by Lord Vishnu. The king pleaded innocence and pleased by his entreaties, Lord Vishnu blessed him, saying that he will be reborn as Akasa Raja, and his curse would be lifted when he presented the Lord with a crown on the occasion of Vishnu's marriage with Padmavati.
Now who was Padmavati? She was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu's wife! And in due course of time, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Srinivasa. The 3rd part is about their subsequent marriage.
The cowherd, who committed the sin of raising his weapon against Lord Vishnu was blessed too! He and his descendents would go on to be the doorkeepers of Lord Balaji's temple. To this day, the people who open the doors of the Lord's temple in Tirupati belong to a particular caste.
The Legend- Part 3 : The Marriage
The king, cursed by Lord Vishnu, in due course was reborn as Akasa Raja. He ruled wisely and justly, but was always plagued by sorrow as he was childless. As destined by the gods, he found Padmavati, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu's wife, while tilling his lands. His joy knew no bounds and he adopted her as his daughter. Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu too reincarnated as Srinivasa, as the son of saint Vakula, who was none other that Lord Vishnu's foster mother in his earlier incarnation as Krishna.
Padmavati grew up to be a beautiful woman. And she and Lord Srinivasa first met while Srinivasa was chasing a wild elephant on a hunting trip. It was love at first sight for Srinivasa. And the fact that the wild elephant faced him and saluted him, made a positive effect on Padmavati's mind! Bitten by the love bug too, Padmavati came back to her palace and promptly fell ill.
Lovesick and restless, Srinivasa came to the city disguised as a fortune teller. Padmavati's maids, scared because of her ill health, invited the disguised Srinivasa who then revealed to Padmavati that she was destined to marry him. This had an immediate effect on Padmavati and she sat up, completely cured. Fortunately, nobody playes spoilsport and the marriage was joyously conducted.
For his marriage expenses, Lord Srinivasa took a huge loan from Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth. So huge was the amount, devotees to this day offer money and valuables when they go to the Lord's temple in Tirupati, believing the loan is not yet cleared!
The Legend- Part 4 : How the temple came into existence
Six months had passed. Lord Srinivasa enjoyed his happy union with Padmavati. However, trouble brewed when his consort MahaLakshmi came to know about this marriage. She came to see her husband and it is said that Lord Srinivasa turned into a stone idol when confronted by both his wives, Mahalakshmi and Padmavati.
Confusion ran high. But before any curses were uttered, Brahma and Shiva diffused the tension when they revealed the purpose behind Lord Srinivasa's plan. His desire to reside in the seven hills of Tirupati for the salvation of mankind. Expressing their wish to be with their husband, both the wives too turned into stone idols.
The place where they turned to stone, was soon covered by an ant hill. And it was after a long time when the Lord appeared in a dream of the ruler of that place, urging him to construct a temple for him. And it was after this that the temple for Srinivasa was constructed on the seventh hill, which was called Venkatadri
The picturesque Tirumala Hills
The Temple in present day
In the present day, the temple is located in the hill town of Tirumala, near Tirupati in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. Tirumala is 853 m above sea level. It comprises of seven peaks, representing the seven heads of the great serpent upon which Lord Vishnu rests.
The temple today is the richest in India, and reputed to be the most visited place of worship in the world. People from all fatihs are welcome here. The idol of Lord Srinivasa is placed inside the sanctum , or Garvagriha. Legend has it that the idol is self-manifested, with no known sculptor and no record of who installed the idol inside the temple.
The idol is richly decorated with precious ornaments and silk clothes, and is flanked on both sides by his wives. At any given day, there are long queues of people waiting to get a glimpse of Lord Venkateshwara. It is not unusual for people to wait one whole day in a queue for a few seconds of glimpse of the idol.