DAY 1- 25 Dec 2010:
Left home for Bangalore by 0820 hrs flight from Mumbai reached Bangalore international airport at 1030 hrs and took BIAL as had some work in B’lore. Had food in Nandini restaurant at Indiranagar and then took bus no. 333 from Domlur for Majesty bust stop as I had to catch the bus for Tirupati. Majesty bus stop is an ocean. You get both local and interstates and intrastate buses from there. For Tirupati I had to go to the interstate bus stop which is just opposite to the normal bus stop. Went there and took the bus for tirupati at 3.30 pm. The bus charged me Rs 147/-. The bus reached Tirupati at 930 pm at tirupati bus stop. From there I proceeded to Srinivasan Ashram which is 2 mins walking distance from buss top and is just opposite to bus stop. Srinivisan Ashram is a place to take rest as established by TTD trust. Once can get room and also if want to stay in the open hall can stay. There all facilities like toilet and bathrooms are also there. One can also get mattress and other stuff by depositing Rs 100/ which will be refunded on return of such mattresses.
Tickets for Darshan is also given at Srinivasan Ashram in the early morning but only for 2 hrs and there you will get a huge queue for the Darshan Tickets. These are all paid tickets. But if you all alone, the best way for darshan is walk upto Tirumala. I already had planned to walk upto Tirumala, one person also suggested me that since I am all laonebetter I Should walk. Persons walking gets direct darshan without spending time. So I spent night at Srinivasan Ashram. Since there were a lot of people there, could not sleep well actually there.
DAY 2- 26 Dec 2010:
Woke up at around 0430 am, had a bath. Initially I thought that water would be quite cold but then realized that the temperature of the water was just perfect suiting the temperature outside. In order to walk up one has to go to Allepy which is also the entrance for the buses to the top of the hill. At Allepy there is a luggage centre for people walking up. The collect the luggage there and gives you a token. The only thing is that your luggage needs to be locked. Once can get the luggage at Tirumala on production of the token. I took an auto from Ashram and reached Allepy. Generally the auto persons charges Rs 40/- but since it was too early in the morning, they agreed at Rs 20/. I heard that there are free buses also from Srinivasan Ashram to Allepy. I left my luggage at Allepy and stated to walk at 5:45 am. This luggage from Tirupati to Tirumalal is a free service. One need not had to pay anything, however the luggage people generally asks for some kind.
I started to climb. The stairs were at a height. One needs to climb very patiently. If you run or speed up, you will get exhausted. The moment you feel that you are tired, better rest rather than forcing yourself. First 2000 stairs are a bit tough. On the way you will find food and fruits being sold. They also sell water, Glucon D. There are toilets and drinking water facility also on way.
After 2000 steps I reached at a place …………., where in registration for walking pilgrims is done. They take photo and issues you a slip. This serves as your identity that you have walked for Darshan. On the way you can also get to see the deer park which has a lot of deers. It was a good scene. The way goes on and after some time may be around 30 mins, you come to place which touches the road. At the exit point they stamp your darshan tkt received at …………… they we touch the road wherein buses can be seen. After 15-20 mins walk, reached a place which is the last milestone wherein we had to climb last 600 steps. I reached the luggage collection counter at Tirumala at 8.28am. By this time my luggage has not reached. I waited for about an hour then could see truck coming there. All the luggages were offloaded from the trucks. I could see my luggage. After collecting the same at 10.30 am. Then the problem was to keep the luggage as I had to go for darshan. Then someone told me that there is a locker facility specifically for the pilgrims who walk down. Then I proceed ahead, there was a building PAC2, which has the locker facility. They take 350/- deposit which is refunded on return of the locker keys. The building has a toilets and bathing facilities as well. One can take rest as well. After keeping my luggage, I started walking toward temple for darshan. The name of the temple building is Vaikunth Ashram.
There was separate queue for walking pilgrims. I stood in the queue. The queue started to move and we had to wait about two and half hours. While walking through this way, you alo get laddu coupons vaued Rs 20 for 2 laddus. You can buy as many coupons as you can. This is the easlies way to buy coupons as later on there will be a lot of problems . Even charges for others are Rs 100/- for 4 laddus outside. This rate of Rs 20/- for 2 laddus is only for walking pilgrims.
As we enterd the main building, it was very very crowded and there was a lot of push from all sides. Then I entered the main temple. I could see police and security people were just throwing people. Then mu turn came. Had a great darshan. I could very clearly see god infront of me. Then a security person came an pushed me out. From there came and had Hundi darshan. Then came out collected laddu and came and collected mu luggage. From there I went to busstop and took the bus for Tirupati. Reached Tirupati bus stop and then unted for the bus for Madurai.
There are only 3 buses from Tirupati to Madurai- one at 6.15 pm. Other at 7.20pm and third at 8 pm. I came to the bus tkt counter for Madurai. I was told that there is no bus for Madurai today as evey seat is booked. I requested for 1 seat only but then they refused. Later on after 5 minute they told they can allot me 1 seat. I grabbed the ticket. They charged Rs 20 premium to which I agreed immediately. I reached bus stop and boarded the bus. The bus started at 8 pm. Journey from Tirupati to Madurai by bus is about 13 hrs. Fare from Tirupati to Madurai is Rs 310/- by ordinary bus and Rs 450/- by AC bus.
DAY 3- 27 Dec 2010:
Got up early in the bus; rather should say that not able to sleep in the night as it was difficult to sleep in aseater bus. Saw outside the window in the morning. I could see the road in extremely fantastic. The bus was just flying. I could feel that I am going to the eng of some corner. I reached Madurai Bus top (MAT TAVNI Bus terminal) at 830 am. From this place, railway station is about 45 mins. I went to railway station, cancelled my train tickets for onward journey and came back to bus stop. Biggest challenge that I face is that people in Madurai cannot understand hindi, there are some who can understand English. Language is a big problem. I could feel that even some local people who can understand hindi pretended as if they have not understood me. Bus from Madurai to Rameshwaram can be accesses very frequently as there are frequent buses. They are all non AC buses. They charge Rs 56/- and it’s a 4 hr journey. I knew that in order to reach Rameshwaram, one has to cross the sea, but it was quite some time and people were saying that Rameshwaram is about to come. I was wondering there has not been any sea as of now. Then in some time, I could see that the bus took a bridge. I could see railway track underneath which was parallel to the flyover. The Railway tracks were very low and I could feel that if one goes by train then they will feel that the train is running on sea- water. The track is about 2 km. One should travel through the bridge during the day time. It’s a good experience to see. You can see the sea all the way around. The scene is fantastic. Then I reached Rameshwaram bus stop at around 2.40pm. I got down at bus stop. You can get local bus from there for the temple. Local buses takes Rs 2/- per passenger. You can also get auto rickshaw who charges Rs 50/-. I any how got a rickshaw in which there were already certain passengers. The rickshaw charged me Rs 20/- upto the temple. I started to search for guesthouse/ lodge but was not able to get any place. They told that there are around 5000 pilgrims of ISKCON who have come and they have booked all the guest houses/ lodges which was actually the fact. I can see all the Hare Rama Hare Krishna people on the roads. Ultimately after a lot of struggle I was not able to get any place at all. There is even a place by Tirupati Tirumala Devasthan (TTD) and there is also one Agrasen Agarwal Dharamshala but did not got any place there as well. There is also a private Guest house which is also very cheap namely GOSWAMI MADAM so tried there as well, but did not had any luck there as well. SO I was very sure that I had not place to spend tonite. After spending some time and asking a lot of people, I got to know that there is a person who gives a locker for 3 hours and charges Rs 50/- for 3 hours and he shuts down at 7 pm sharp. Since I had no other option, I went to him and kept my luggage there but he told me very very clearly that I had to come and collect my stuff at 7 pm otherwise, he will close and leave for the day and then I had to collect tomorrow morning. It was about 3:30 pm. I then asked him about the 22 kunds as to where they will be found on which he told me that I can get them inside the temple building. He then asked me whether I want to have bath in the kunds. You can get a lot of people over there who pours water on you and charges about Rs 2 per bucket. They in a way charges Rs 50/- from you for pouring water from 22 kunds. For entering the temple you have to pay Rs 13 to the temple authority and Rs 12 for the kund people which are within the temple. This Rs 12/- is charge as if temple people will pour water on you but then you have to wait whenever they comes as they also comes If there are a lot of people. I would suggest you to take a personal person and pay him Rs 50/- rather than waiting for temple people. I also hired a person then since he got only me and 2 other he did not went inside and told us that the temple authority will assist us. We sometime had to wait at the kunds for the temple people to come and pour water. While we were having bath in kunds with buckets I found that out of kund number 2, 3, 4 only one kund was working and two were closed. Water of the kunds tasted differently and even the temperatures were different. I completed 21 kunds. Then came the last kund. The last was not a kund as such but water was flowing from a place and one person was collecting water in a small ghanti and was pouring it. This completed all 22 kunds. Then I changed my clothes in the change room which is built inside which I was carrying with me as you are not allowed to enter the temple with the wet clothes.
From there I proceeded to have darshan. There were free lines and even chargeable lines of Rs 10/- and Rs 50/- per person. I preferred to go in free line as there was not enough queue. I was in the queue for about 10 minutes then I had a darshan. I could see the SHIVLING very clearly. It was a small sized SHIVLING. It was a great darshan. I could see SHIVLING surrounded by Diyas all around.
Then I came out and enquired about the MANI Darshan. It was about 540 pm. I was told that its done in early morning and they charge Rs 50/- for darshan. I was shocked for the money being asked for darshan as I was of the opinion that its temple and darshan are free of cost. Since I had no place to stay in the night and even paying money for darshan did not digested me so I thought to return tonite to Madurai and catch next day train from Madurai to Mumbai. The train number is 16340 and leave Madurai at 1145 am and reaches Dadar next day evening at 2030 hrs. I headed towards the bus stand and got a bus to Rameshwaram bus stand. They charged me Rs 2/-. I was waiting there for a bus for Madurai. I had my dinner over there only. Had lacchedaar paratha at bus stand. Believe me it was a very small shop but the paratha was so tasty tasty that I never had such a paratha in my life. The bus started at 730 pm and we reached Madurai bus stop (MAT TAVNI) at 11:30 pm. From there I proceeded to Railway station which I was aware as I went in the morning itself. As I had to go to Mumbai next day and did not has any reserved ticket, I started venturing and enquiring about the ticket but it was not fruitful. Since I did not had any place to sleep, I spread my mattress an slept in the station.
DAY 4- 28 December 2010
Got up early in the morning and then freshened up. There were pay and use bathrooms so had a bath and freshened up. Then took an ordinary ticket for train no 16340 (Nagercoil – Mumbai express) which runs on Mon, Tues, Wed, Friday and Sunday from Madurai to Mumbai. Actually it starts at 630 am at Nagercoil. Had no other option but to travel in ordinary ticket. Believe me the trip was really really hectic and the crowd..oh god one can expect the type of crowd in a general compartment.
DAY 5- Reached Mumbai the next day.
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