Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Recently I was in Tirupati, the sacred tirtha in Andhra Pradesh in India where the world’s most famous Deity known as Venkateshvara or Balaji is located. His temple is up on the hill.
Overlooking the town of Tirupati and where the temple is actually, it’s actually called Tirumala. It’s the most popular temple in India and after Mecca probably the most popular of all religious places in the world. Everyday hundreds of thousands of people come to take darshan. We were there in Tirupati at our ISKCON temple at the bottom of the hill having our GBC meetings, but on one of the days all the GBC members went up the hill taking the twenty two kilometer drive there to the temple and had an amazing darshan of Balaji.
We left the temple about 4.45 in the morning and arrived near the Balaji temple about half an hour later. The authorities in the temple are very sensitive about foreigners visiting so we all had to fill out forms in triplicate or even four copies saying who we were, what our back ground is, what our previous religion is, etc. And then we went to have darshan.
The ISKCON temple president in Tirupati, Revati Raman prabhu, explained the history of this amazing Deity. In the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam is the story of how Bhrigu Muni was trying to establish who was the supreme Deity within the universe. Was it Brahma, Vishnu or Lord Shiva. This is all described in the eighty nine chapter of the tenth canter of Bhagavatam. So it is very long story but eventually Brigu Muni visited Lord Vishnu and in order to test how spiritual his consciousness is he kicked Him in the chest, waiting to see what the Lord’s reaction would be.
Lord Vishnu was very humble and apologized if he had hurt Bhrigu Muni’s soft lotus foot on his hard chest and He took the dust from Bhrigu Muni’s feet. According to the story here in Tirupati Lakshmi devi then felt upset with the Lord for not reacting more strongly against Bhrigu Muni, and so she left the place, coming to the earth planet and taking up residence in the place called Kolapur.
Then the Supreme Personality of Godhead came down from Vaikuntha to try to find her. As He was looking around He eventually came here to these Tirumala hills and decided to stay here, to meditate and pray to be reunited with Lakshmi devi. Eventually an anthill grew around Him.
In the meantime Lord Brahma and Lord Siva came in the form of a cow and a calf to try to comfort the Lord in His feelings separation from consort. So the cow and the calf were purchased one day by the local king who would send them into the forest on the hill everyday to graze. However the cow, who was Brahma, everyday would go and release all her milk on the anthill where the Supreme Lord was residing. In this way the cowherd looking after the cow became angry and was going to strike the cow with his axe. however the Supreme Lord arose from the anthill to block the blow of the cowherd and was struck on the head.
When the cowherd saw this he fall down on the ground dead. The cow then returned to the king who saw her with blood over the body and the king came up to find out what it happened. When he came up and saw the dead cowherd the Supreme Lord rose from the anthill and cursed the king to become a demon because of the fault of his servant the cowherd. The king begged forgiveness and the Lord blessed him by saying that he would become relieved from the curse when his daughter, who would be named Padmavati, was married.
So then the Supreme Lord decided to stay on there in that area. Actually the area is also the residence of Lord Varaha. He stopped here after killing the demon Hiranyaksha. So when the Lord, who in this form has known as Srinivas, decided He wanted to stay there then Varaha came and told Him you could only stay here if you paid rent. In this way Lord Srinivas became a debtor to Lord Varaha.
While all these were going on mother Yashoda on Goloka Vrindavan became aware of this situation and she decided to come down also as she wanted to see her son who she was told would soon be married to the Goodness of fortune. Mother Yashoda of course had witnessed all of Krishna’s child pastimes but she had never seen Him become married and she wanted to see this.
So then mother Yashoda came down and received the name Vakula devi. One day a servant of the king was ploughing a field and found a lotus flower in the middle of the field. Under the lotus flower was a female child. He took the child to the king who adopted her as his daughter and gave her the name Padmavati, or she who came from the lotus.
Actually this Padmavati was the Maya Sita who Ravana had kidnapped when he wanted to kill the real Sita during the Ram lila. The real Sita went to the abode of Agni where she was protected for some time, and the Maya Sita was taken by Ravana to Lanka. However that Maya Sita always kept a desire within her heart to become a wife of Lord Rama, although the Lord told her after releasing her that He had taken the eka patni vrata, the vow to accept only one wife, who was the real Sita. But He told her that when He would appear as Srinivas He would will accept her as His wife. So that Maya Sita then appeared as Padmavati.
Padmavati grew up to be very beautiful girl. One day she met Narada Muni who read her palm and told her she was destined to become the wife of the Supreme Lord. Narada Muni told Lord Srinivas that Padmavati was nearby and she was destined to be his wife.
One day Padmavati came to the forest near where Srinivas was living and He tried to approach her, but the maidservants of Padmavati drove Him away by throwing stones at him. Lord Srinivas, having seen Padmavati, was completely convinced He must marry her. So Vakula devi or mother Yashoda made a special plan. She dressed herself as a mystic yoginee and came and visited the palace of Padmavati’s father, the king.
There she convinced Padmavati that actually she should marry Srinivas. So in this way Padmavati was married to Srinivas and then Lakshmi devi also came from Kolapur, and now the two consorts of Lord Srinivas, or Lord Balaji as He is known now in Tirumala, are Sri and Bhu.
When the arrangement was made for a wedding the Lord became anxious as He was just living in the forest and He had no money. So He approached Kuvera the treasure of the Demigods and asked him for money. Kuvera said that he would loan Him the money for a nice wedding but the money would have to be paid back by the end of Kali yuga.
So then the marriage happened but now Lord Balaji or Srinivas is indebted to Kuvera nad therefore there is a practice that all devotees who come to Balaji have to donate lots of money so that the Lord can repay that debt.
So this is the background to the temple.
It took more than an hour for all thirty GBCs to fill out the forms in great detail and when they finished they went to their special darshan.
Normally in Tirupati the devotees have to queue up for about eight or nine hours before they can see the Lord just for a few seconds. If one goes in the fast queue by paying three hundred rupees then normally one will have to wait for about three hours. However Revati Raman prabhu had arranged a special darshan for the GBC members and we went and joined a special line. After Revati Raman prabhu had explained the whole story then we went in for our darshan. Everyone was searched by a police as they don’t allow any cameras or cell phones or any electronic equipment and then we entered the actual temple compound.
There is a big stone wall around it and inside is the main temple which is actually quite small. We waited for a little while on the side in the area there they store the palanquins for carrying the festival Deities on festival days. There were a number of those palanquins there, each one of them solid gold, and they were really quite amazing. After may be ten or fifteen minutes of waiting we were escorted in by soldiers to have our darshan. There were other groups having darshan at the same time and we had to wait for them. There was one of the main Ministers of the government of Andhra Pradesh with his family members in front of us. So we had to wait a few minutes.
The temple is maybe thirty meters long inside and about four or five meters wide, with railings down the middle to separate those who are coming in from those who are going out. After the Minister and his family came out then we were able to approach Balaji.
He is a most amazing Deity about eight feet tall. On that day we were there He had a massive solid gold crown on incrusted with diamonds, rubies and other very valuable gems. When I visited it here for the first time many years ago we heard that someone had just offered a new crown like the one that Balaji had on this day, and we were told that that crown, which is also was gold and crusted with diamonds, had cost seven million dollars.
So when we GBC members saw Him He was completely covered in clothes made of solid gold also incrusted with gems. His hands and arms also had gold coverings with gems. He had a big tilak covering His eyes which is said to be there so that He doesn’t see sinful people. One day a week, every Thursday, that tilak is taking of so He can see the devotees. On His chin was some medicinal herbs which are there every day as this is where the axe of the cowherd struck Him when He was protecting the cow. On this day we also saw that the Lord’s chin was covered by a lot of these medicinal herbs.
We were fortunate enough to be able to stand in front of Balaji for perhaps one or two minutes, just drinking this amazing vision through our eyes, and then we had to slowly come out as the next group of visitors came for their darshan. Slowly we came out looking backwards at the amazing magnificence of Balaji until we came outside. Then we went around the temple and visited different places within the compound. We had darshan of Yoga Nrisimha, an old stone Deity of Lord Nrisimhadev sitting in a cross legged position. Then they took us in the store house of the Lord.
They dress Balaji once a week, and when they do that they have a big abhishek, bathing ceremony, and then dry Him off with cloth, also using fragrant oils. So they took us in to that store house where they keep the cloths which they have used for massaging and drying the body of the Lord, and for massaging Him with fragrant oils. The pujari took different of these cloths and pushed them into our faces and we were able to smell the amazing oils which the Lord’s body has been anointed with. Then we were given different types of special prasadam and eventually after spending about an hour inside the temple walls within the compound then we came out and wandered around the temple area for some time.
Each of us was given a big bag of Balaji Prasad, a big Vada about twenty five or more centimeters across plus a big laddu weighing probably one or two kilos.
After all these wonderful experiences we got back in our cars and drove back down to the ISKCON Tirupati temple to continue our meetings.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami.