Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tirupati Darshan by walking through the 7 Hills...





Om Namo Venkatesaya

I heard someone saying these lines to convince someone to let him go to visit Mata Vaishnodevi, "Arey Bhaiyaa, Jab Mata ka bulawa aaya hai toh Jaana hi padega..."

I now learn that when God calls you, there is nothing that can stop you from going. Its all in his hands. After all, we are just his children and he has total command on us. From out of the blues, it was decided that I am going to visit the Lord Balaji Temple at Tirumala Hills, Tirupati on 24th August 2011. The decision was taken on 21st and on 23rd evening, my body was in the car that cruised from Bangalore. It actually took some time for my mind to realize and actually understand that I was in reality going to Tirupati. It was like a very long time plan that I had been having that I have to go to the temple. The last time I went there was perhaps in 1997 with my parents and grandparents. So, it was like 14 years now. I was definite that there would be tremendous change in the place by now. Moreover, being a child (6th standard then), I did not remember very accurately the time spent over there except that I very clearly remember that we stood in the queue for a very long time and when we were before the Lord's idol, I forgot to observe & pray. I had just taken 2-3 steps and my father asked me, 'Did you see the God? Did you pray?'. I asked, 'Where?'. He tried to show me but in vain as the security personnel was pushing us away. I ignored it all, bend down, almost ran back, saw the Lord and prayed. I asked the Lord something and in the meanwhile, the security personnel identified me and pushed me off. My parents had already gone out. It did not take much time for me to find them though. From Tirupati, we went to Mantralaya and then, we reached Hubli. To my utter surprise, my wish had already come true. It was no less than a miracle in my life. After having been rejected for Sainik School due to some medical reason, there was a letter that allowed me to come & join the school in case I get a medical examination done from a higher hospital and if they certify that I am fit. I was certified FIT by the Command Hospital, Bangalore and Sainik School, Bijapur allotted me Roll no. 3210, Adilshahi House and asked me to sit in Class 6th, A section. Life got a new definition

Thus, my faith in Lord Venkateshwara is very huge. I believe in God. I learnt that if you have good intentions, ensure honest approaches, make consistent efforts, remain dedicated, be selfless and keep moving towards your goals putting your best foot forward and leaving the rest to God, with complete faith in him, he will never disappoint you. He might not make your wish come true but that happens only when he has planned something better for you

While I was immersed in thoughts and memories, the car had paused at a Kamat Hotel on the way for dinner. We had dinner and proceeded. By about midnight, we could see the most beautiful 7 Hills of Tirupati where a line of lights was like travelling from the bottom to the top. The God's signature symbol appeared on the top with complete glow and I was super excited. In the meanwhile, I was told that this is the stretch that we had to walk as we had planned to walk up the hills rather than drive. Was it fear, hopelessness, lost feeling or what exactly that hit me in an instant is yet unknown but I was completely gone. I mean, such a big hill by walk? It took some time for my mind to settle down

Alliperi
We reached the entrance. We reached the pilgrims waiting hall and got fresh & ready for the walk. By 2.30 am, we prayed on the 1st step of the 3650 steps ahead of us and got started. By the time we had completed 50 steps, it was decided that we are going back. The steps were not very steep but we really could not understand what made us so tired. We were already sweating. It was, perhaps, lack of exercise or that the steps were one after another without breaks. Further, wearing jeans was a curse. I wish I could have come in a bermuda and some cotton wear. We thought, once we start something, specially as an offering to God, we got to go further. A similar thing happened when we had been to Goddess Chamundeshwari Temple, Chamundi Hills, Mysore and we had concluded that, "When we are going to God, the God will test us by putting obstacles. We have to clear all obstacles and keep marching. Only then, God is satisfied with our devotion". So, we carried on. The steps were quite challenging. After every 50 steps, there was a number inscribed on the step that told us how many steps we had covered. We soon covered 300th and then the 500th step. We kept taking breaks every now and then. And the journey went on. In about one & half hours, we reached around 1650 steps and took a long break. I had a Sprite. There was also some packed food like chips, noodles, etc available. As it was night, most shops were shut. 

Gali Gopuram
After a good half an hour, we started to proceed further and at around 2100 steps, there was a counter where our photos were taken and we were given free pass for Darshan that included free accommodation and free meals. We learnt that we had a total of 3650 steps to cover and thus, we had to cover another 1550 steps. However, from now on, the steps have a longer gap and you actually walk more than climb. The journey continued and after covering about another 600 steps, we reached the road. We were confused whether we were on the right path. We got a clarification from other pilgrims that we are on the right path. We have to follow the white color painted on the footpath for about 3 kms to reach the next steps. 

It was about 5.30 am and the scenic beauty was striking. We loved the walk. It almost appeared like a morning walk for us except that the muscles had a different idea. Soon, we reached the steps. People gave us an idea that there were steeps steps half the way and then, the steps were at a good relaxing distance further. We started and I had a total muscle cramp in my thigh. I just could not lift my leg and lied down by the side. It took some time and I got started again. As we closed in to 3200 steps, things seemed easy and the steps seemed to end quicker. Finally, after about 4 hours of effort, our wish had come true. It was about 6.30 am and we were atop the Tirumala Hills, to be specific, the Venkata Hill. Wikipedia says, "The Tirumala Hill is 3,200 feet (980 m) above sea level, and is about 10.33 square miles (27 km2) in area. It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. The temple is situated on Venkatadri (also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill), the seventh peak, and hence is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills (Saptagiri in Sanskrit)"

It was an amazing experience. We planned to immediately get fresh (you got to get fresh at any cost as you are always like wet in rain except that the water has come from within your body rather than the clouds) and immediately leave for Darshan. There was some kind of a confusion. While we wanted a separate room for us to get fresh, the possibility was difficult. We were told that as we have come by walk, we can use the free accommodation facility that was like a hall and some bathrooms. Further, in case we wanted a room, we have to go to some CRO or CDR office to get the room allotted. There are a good number of rooms over the hills but the queue was quite long. We did not have enough patience. While we were looking for some option, a persona approached us and inquired if we need a room. We said yes and he said, "Rs 300. 1 hour only". We were okay with it. After getting fresh, we started on our way to the Lord's Darshan. We were told that as we are on Footpath Darshan, there was a special line for us and we can get a quicker darshan than others. I was impressed. We got into a bus that took us to Vaikuntam Q Complex. After handing over our luggage, mobile phones & footwear, we entered the line with huge excitement. It appeared empty and we ran happily through it with satisfaction for having come the footpath way. We reached a compartment and were asked to sit there. Hundreds of devotees were already in adjacent compartments and were keenly waiting for them to open and move further. Things got a little uneasy here. We were sitting in the compartment for close to 2 hours and still, there was no movement. We started at about 9.30 am and it was about 11.15 am then. The compartment was opened and we joined the queue further. On the way, we collected the tokens for Laddoos. Now, this line was taking a really long time to move. People were agitated and started shouting. Some people claimed that there must be some VIP in the Sheegra Darshan queue and they are allowing them to move quickly. I sat down as I was totally tired. I could not believe that I sat for almost half and hour and the situation did not improve. It was about 2 pm and we were still in the queue. It was learnt from the people in the Sheegra Darshan queue that they came in at 11 am and they were at par with us in the line now. The Sheegra Darshan line & Footpath Darshan line run parallel to one another and we could see that the other line was progressing quicker. But then, we were happy that we were able to spend more time in the temple. We were kind of enjoying it. At about 4 pm, we had almost reached the temple of the Lord Balaji Venkateshwara and the excitement was on a rise. There was also some concern to see that the people in Sheegra Darshan now who were beside us started their journey at 2 pm. So, it was like they were almost getting the Darshan in 2 hours while we were here for close to 5 hours now. I learnt a lesson that in case you want a quicker darshan, you have to go the Sheegra Darshan way

Soon, the bliss was on. We entered 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. within next few minutes, we jumped and looked all over to see pure gold all around us and it was marvelous. And there we go. The Lord Balaji Venkateshwara was before us dazzling dynamically with such beauty, power and blessings for all his devotees. Govinda, Govinda, Govinda, Govinda were echoing of us like hymns and it was an eternal bliss. I ensured that I will see the Lord, pray and take enough time. However, it is difficult unless you are a celebrity. But then, I was able to get my slot of time that I needed. May be, I was in front of the Lord for about 10 seconds directly and another 15 seconds while I was a coming out walking reverse with my facing towards the Lord having no idea about what path I was on while walking backwards. Anyone who has visited the temple will definitely say that it is quite high. I was delighted

As we came out, we felt we have to go back in again but then, you know it is not possible. Its such an eternal feeling to sit before God. I have experienced such great peace sitting in temple. But then, with the size of people visiting this temple, the darshan itself is a blessing. We had prasadam and moved towards the Laddoo counter. It mandatory to take token to purchase Laddoos. It costs Rs 100 for 4 laddoos. Some people claimed that one can not take more than 2 tokens. I took 1 token. So, I now had this 1 Rs 100 token for 4 laddoos and another token for 2 laddoos that I got as a part of Footpath Darshan (by paying Rs 20). We took the laddoos and headed towards the Vaikuntam Q complex to collect our belongings. After that, we had some food immediately as we did not have anything since morning (except the prasadam & laddoo some minutes back) and loaded ourselves into the car to be driven back to Bengaluru. We stopped on the way for light dinner and reached Bangalore by about 1 am

It was a fantastic experience. It was a kind of dream come true for me. Like I mentioned, I had intention of going to the temple but I never tried to strengthen it as I am a very firm believer in God and once I strengthen the will, I will not feel comfortable till I do it. So, I was just telling myself that, 'One day, the Lord will call you... And when the supremacy calls, you have no option but to go'. The 14 year gap was one reason perhaps why he ensured that I am in his service for 14 hours. (2.30 am to 4.30 pm). Numbers you know. They are quite fascinating

I just loved the experience and thanks my friends for making this possible. The plan was on a very short notice and that perhaps had more advantages as we just went ahead rather than spending time on planning and discussing. For those who are planning, I would say, 'Stop planning. Start moving. The Lord is there to provide you with whatever you need'

3 comments:

  1. Good to go through your experience of visiting Balaji Mandir. I feel the Q system is mismanaged totally. Usually with computer tagging Sheegra dharsan should take max 1 hour, sudharshan dharsan 2 hours and general 3 hours. We find there is no difference in Sheegra dharasan and free darshan of late. The entry too is not regulated at all.

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  2. Hey Puneet.......... nice to hear you had a nice experience..........good write up.........

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