We visited our elder son, who worked in Bangalore at that time for 12 days during winter ie in December 2017. He had planned to take us to a lot of places which are accessible from Bangalore. He himself had been to those places with his friends. He had covered those places on weekends but this time he planned a continuous journey for us.
Our itinerary was as follows
1) Reach Tirupati by train (overnight journey)
2) Tirupati and Tirumala in 2 days
3) Reach Madurai from Tirupati by Volvo bus (overnight journey)
4) Booked taxi for 4 days for Madurai to Rameshwaram and back to Madurai and then Madurai to Munnar and back to Madurai.
5) Madurai to Bangalore by bus (overnight journey)
Thus the roller coaster ride started on 25th December when we boarded the train 18638 / BNC Hatia Express 00:15 Monday for Tirupati.
We had arrived at railway station from Mahadevpura (where our elder son stayed) by Ola taxi.
We boarded the train and slept peacefully. It is reached at 7:40 AM same day after a journey of around 7 hours. A lot of vehicles were there outside Tirupati railway station take you to Tirumala.
How to reach Tirumala from Tirupati
One option is that you can purchase APSRTC return ticket which is valid for 3 days to go to Tirumala via bus.
SVBS bus stop is just opposite the railway station where there is a bus at exactly main gate for Tirumala.
But we did not go to bus stop instead we took a personal vehicle (which took 350 rupees) for drop only.
It was a very pleasant ride up there. Your luggage is scanned on starting the journey. Tirumala is 30 km from Tirupati and placed on top of a hill. Lord Balaji Venkateswara Swamy is located in Tirumala. Tirumala is maintained pure as divine place with no alcohol or meat and one of the busiest pilgrim centers in country. It is maintained as one of the safest and tidiest Hindu temples in the world. Tirumala is under control of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam ie TTD trust formed by AP government.
Many devotees go to Tirumala from Tirupati by Footpath way through steps.
We reached Tirumala and as we were feeling hungry we spotted the counter where free Upma prasad was given to devotees. We relished the hot Upma and felt satiated.
Room allotment at Tirumala
We reached ARP counter of CRO to get allotment of our room done, which we had already booked. It is booked one month before the stay date from TTD seva online.com website.
One person can book only single room for a single day only. They ask for check-in time which can be 11:59 AM before or after 11:59 ie 24 hours. We were reaching early morning by 8:30 AM, so we had booked before 11:59 AM. You have to give your ID proof like Aadhar card number of all the devotees during booking.
It also need to be produced at CRO office while getting room allotment done. It cost only hundred rupees per room per night (24 hours). We got Rambagicha guest house. We boarded the free TTD buses known as dharma Radhams which ply there to reach our guest house Rambagicha on first floor. Our two rooms were quite big with hot water facility. We took bath and were ready to explore the area. We had booked Arjit Brahmotsavam Seva (it is booked online) at 2 PM for which we had to reach Vaibhavotsava Mandapam (this was quite near to Rambagicha) at 1 PM. After seva we planned to have Lord Balaji Darshan.
So we had a lot of time to immerse ourselves in devotion at Tirumala and we decided to explore the area on foot till 1 p.m. To be comfortable at the place. It is so neat and clean that you can sit and eat on the road itself. Free drinking water and toilets are everywhere. South Indian food stalls provide very tasty and economical food like Idli, dosa, Utpam, upma etc. We also had our breakfast of dosa at reasonable price at only rupees 30 each.
It is said that you should first worship Sri Varahaswami before Lord Balaji Darshan. This temple is in north-west corner of Pushkarini tank north of main temple. But a big queue was there so we dropped the idea. We visited it at night around 7:30 PM when it was empty. Probably God had planned this way for us.
You should take bath in Swami Pushkarini Lake also which is there at Tirumala. We bathed in lake at night after VarahSwami Darshan.
Lord Balaji Darshan was our first priority that day. We had to reach Vaibhostsava Mandapam for Arijit Bramhotsavam seva also so all other things were planned to be done in the evening.
Getting ready for darshan
We reached our room and got ready for Seva. You have to wear traditional clothes ie kurta pajama or Dhoti for gents and saree or salwar suit for ladies. No slippers, mobiles & leather items are allowed so we left all things in the room only. We took sufficient cash with us and were quite excited because we were visiting Tirupati Balaji temple for the first time in our life. This seva is performed daily and Malayappa swami is worshipped along with the spouses on three vehicles (Vahanams) of lord namely Shesha, Garuda and Hanumantha. Vaibhavotsava Mandapam is located just opposite to the main temple.
We felt really blessed after attending the seva and came out and reached Supadam entrance to be in the queue to have Lord Balaji Darshan. Supadam entrance is a special entry to Tirumala queue system. General pilgrims are not allowed in Supadam entrance, only special Darshan or Seva pilgrims are allowed through Supadam entrance (2 PM to 06:30 PM). We could have the darshan via this queue because we had Arijit Brahmotsava Seva ticket of 200 Rs. PP with us.
After 3 hours we were in front of Lord Balaji. We had achieved the unforgettable sublime experience. It is the place where you can actually feel the aura of God. Every inch of Garbh Grah is blissful. Govinda! Govinda! Govinda! Chant all around. Om Namo Narayana, Om Namo Narayana in our heart we felt satisfied that we were in the abode of Srinivasa.
We all say that we had the darshan of God but in true sense, it is the Darshan that God gives us out of love on us.
Though we came out all exhausted, still we went to laddu counter to get our Prasad as the counters are opened till 9:00 p.m only. We were able to get issued our laddoos and came out by 7:00 p.m. Tirupati laddu Prasad is being distributed since 300 years and has a global patent. It is made of pure ghee and dry fruits and last for quite a long time.
We saw that there was no queue at VarahSwamy temple so will grab the opportunity and had peaceful darshan of the third incarnation of vishnu’s Dasavatharam. As per legend after saving the Earth from Hiranyaksha, Lord Varaha stayed on this hill in Tirumala on the northern Bank of Swami Pushkarini so our pilgrimage was complete. No pilgrimage to Tirupati is complete until you visit load VarahSwamy Temple.
We wanted to taste heavenly Annaprasadam and had heard a lot about Annaprasadam center where free and unlimited food is served to devotees on banana leaves. There are four dining halls on two floors, each dining hall accommodates 1000 persons. Food is prepared by solar energy with modernized cooking ranges, trolleys, vessels etc. We ate with hands the divine Prasad and came out.
Tirumala at night
Tirumala enlightened in lightings all over was looking like a heavenly place. Cultural programs were going on at Asthana Mandapam auditorium. Bhajans and Harikatha left a peaceful effect on our mind. We sat there for some time immersed in the atmosphere. While we were enjoying the surrounding within the complex, a dwarf lady came to us and offered to put Tilak on our forehead. We happily obliged and offered some amount in return. Once she was done with Tilak, we were very happy as the lady was very happy after getting the money.
2 meter high standing Idol of Lord Venkateswara on a Lotus accompanied by his consorts Bhudevi and Sridevi was still in our mind. The most precious single ornament in the world, the fabulous Diamond Crown on Lord Balaji’s awe-inspiring black Idol still shining in our heart. How can we forget this unforgettable event of our lifetime? Two years have been passed but all memories are still fresh in mind.
Swami Pushkarini Lake
My wife Wanted to have snan (bath) at Swami Pushkarini Lake so we went to our room. We prepare ourselves for bath and got our towels etc. in a bag. We took our mobiles and wore slippers again and headed back to pond (lake). It is considered to be as holy at Mighty river Ganga. It is believed that Lord Venkateswara himself bath in this pond along with his consorts. It was at 10:00 p.m. When we took a dip in the Pushkarani the highly sacred tank adjacent to the temple.
The water in the Swami Pushkarini is absolutely not stagnant for infected. It has a state of the art recycling facility and water is treated before it gets into and recycled continuously.
We must have done a lot of good in previous births as a bath is merit bestowed on us. Usually pilgrims bath here before entering the main temple but any time is good according to my belief.
There is also a changing room facility for ladies. Icy cold water bath at 10 pm, we must be very crazy anybody can think. Believe me the atmosphere at Tirumala is such that 10:00 p.m. looks like daytime because of lighting and Hustle and bustle all around. We were not alone as a lot of people were taking bath at that time also. Eating joints are doing a brisk business. Hunger pangs again gripped us after bath. We had hot milk and Jain food at a restaurant. Rates were again quite reasonable because all restaurants have to abide by TTD rules. We sat there on the stairs for some time and proceeded for the shopping area where a lot of shops were there. We did some shopping and came back to our room and slept very peacefully thinking that in-spite of all our fears about crowd at Lord Balaji temple, we were blessed with a very peaceful Darshan Govinda! Govinda!
In and around Tirumala
We woke up at 7:00 a.m. by alarm and got ready for local Tirumala trip. We had to vacate the room also because we could only stay there till 11:59 pm, check out time. We had our breakfast and talked to some taxi drivers who were waiting there for local sightseeing at Tirumala and drop to Tirupati. There are prominent three places in one direction and other three places in another direction at Tirumala which are famous and a must visit. The driver took us to all these places. These were Japali Theertham, akashganga and Papvinasanam, Venugopal Swamy Temple, Gobharbhan Gardens, Silathoranam, Srivari Padalu and Chakra Theertham.
First, we went to Japali Theertham and walked on the steps for 35 minutes to temple dedicated to Anjaneya Swamy. After Darshan we reached Akashganga the waterfall, the water from this Teertham is used for Lord Balaji’s Abhishekam. We had to walk for 5 minutes down the steps to reach the falls.
Papvinasanam, as the name suggest free us from all the sins. Little walk take us to this teertham. On the way back from akashganga and Papvinasanam is small temple of Lord VenuGopala Swamy is there. Drive to this temple is serene. We had to take 50 steps to reach the temple. There are many shops selling local wares. Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is very neat and less crowded.
We went to silathoranam & Chakra theertham afterwards. TDD has developed the area into a rock Garden adorned with flowers, natural rocks and benches for tourists to sit and enjoy the view. We also visited Srivari padalu located close by. Chakratirtha is a water body near silathoranam where Lord Vishnu plunged his Sudarshan chakra and created a crater. Amazing waterfall makes it a famous place.
We visited Srivari padalu where divine footprints of Lord Venkateswara are enclosed in a glass frame, positioned on a stable Rock Foundation. We reached there climbing more than 300 steps and offered prayers. All these places are very well maintained by TTD.
Tirupati local Temple tour
We drove towards Tirupati and reached our guest house the srinivasam complex which we had booked from TTD website. It is very near to Tirupati Bus Stand. Plenty of restaurants are available just across the main gate. We got issued our room and took rest for 2 hours. had Lunch at a nice dhaba and hired an auto to take us to Padmavathi Amman Temple, iskcon temple and Kapil theertham.
We reached Padmavathi Amman temple and purchased kumkumarchana ticket at 200 rupees per person (2 persons are allowed on single ticket) for 3:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. Darshan and Pooja. The temple is dedicated to goddess Padmavathi the consort of Lord Balaji. Padmavati a symptom of goddess Mahalakshmi provided Darshan to Lord Balaji on Red Lotus plant in Padma Sarovar Lake. There are many sub temples in the temple premises. We went straight to the diety and performed the Archana. Laddoos prepared in Desi Ghee were rich in camphor and were very tasty. Temple premises is very well maintained, neat and less crowded. We felt really blessed after darshan of all dieties Govinda Govinda.
We purchased cashew nuts from outside Padmavathi Amman Temple. Fake cashew nuts were also sold there at dirt cheap prices so beware of such type of sellers.
Here Lord Shiva is called as kapileshwara because the idol is believed to be installed by Kapil Muni. At the entrance of temple a huge stone statue of seated Bull Nandi greets the devotees. Holy pond is situated in temple complex where a bath is meant to wash off the sins and bring relief. We washed our hands, feet and face in the holy water and sat there for some time.
Our auto driver was South Indian who could understand neither English nor Hindi.
We stopped at roadside Nariyal Pani Wala (coconut water outlet). The lady selling the coconut water helped us to convey our plan for that day to auto driver. We drank the fresh coconut water and asked the auto driver to take us to ISKCON Temple. The architecture and location made it more attractive. It is also one of the largest ISKCON temples of the word. The idols of Lord Krishna and goddess Radha are richly adorned. Amid the chanting of Hare Rama Hare Krishna we sat there for about an hour and attended the Evening Aarti. We had dinner at vegetarian restaurant Govinda in temple premises. We reached srinivasam Complex by 7:30 pm and took our luggage from our room and boarded the bus for Madurai at 8:00 p.m. It was booked online one month in advance. The bus operated by Shree Renugumbal Travels was very comfortable AC sleeper bus. The Boarding Point was dhansari Travels just opposite srinivasam Complex where we were staying.
Tirupati Tirumala 2 day trip will remain forever in our hearts. God has been really kind towards us. We feel really blessed.
Points to note or Remember
1) Stay at Tirumala can be booked only from TTD website one month in advance
2) we can stay at Tirupati also and go to Tirumala for Darshan only
3) APSRTC and TTD operated many types of Temple tour packages can be availed of while staying at Tirupati
4) one can avail of any type of mode of transport according to one’s pocket. Any person can go to Tirupati and have Lord Balaji Darshan whether rich or poor. Free food/water, transport & stay options are there for poor people.
5) bus by TTD for surrounding Temple tour starts at 6:00 AM from CRO Tirumala and returns to Tirupati by 1:30 p.m. And covers four Temples.
6) alya darshanam Temple tour by TTD at 6 AM from srinivasam or govindaraja choultry behind railway station covers 7 temples @ 250 Rs per person. Another tour starts at 8:00 a.m. Up to 4:00 p.m. And covers 7 Temple.
7) an ancient footsteps path which starts from alipiri can be taken to go to Tirumala from Tirupati, 3550 steps are there covering a distance of 11 km
8) APSRTC runs free buses from Tirupati railway station to alipiri.
9) your journey can be comfortable if you research very well before taking the plunge, it will save a lot of time and you will be able to cover a lot of places in short duration.