Year after year, Tirupati has been able to attract around 20 million people. Why is this so? Is it because of its spiritual aura? Or is it because of its rich history, its connection to mythology and the intricate Dravidian architecture? Intrigued enough? If yes, then let us dive deeper into Tirupati, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara.
Tirupati is at the foot of the picturesque Tirumala hills. These hills have seven peaks and are also known as the Seshachalam hills. The Sri Venkateshwara temple is actually located on the Venkatachala peak, which is the seventh peak. The Swarnamukhi river passes through the city. The Tirumala hills house the Sri Venkateshwara temple, one of the most visited temples for Lord Vishnu. It resides atop one of the seven peaks of the Tirumala hills (the Venkatachala peak). Tirupati and the Tirumala hills are also home to many other temples and holy places. Hence, Tirupati is rightfully called the “Spiritual Capital of Andhra Pradesh”.
King Thondaiman, a ruler of Thondaimandalam, built the first temple at Tirumala in the 8th century. Later, during the time of Ramanujacharya in the 11th century, Tirupati became a great Vaishnava centre, from where it spread to other nearby regions. The Sri Venkateshwara temple also bears inscriptions that belong to different dynasties that ruled here, showing their contribution to shaping this city. The Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Vijaynagara dynasties donated lots of funds and jewellery to the temple.
Tirupati is located in the district of Chittoor, in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh, India. The Tirumala hills, which houses the Sri Venkateshwara temples, is located in the Eastern Ghats mountain range.
How to reach Tirupati?
Tirupati is well-connected by road, railways, and air.
By air, you can reach the Sri Venkateshwara airport, located 15 km from the Tirupati city centre. The airport has regular flights to Coimbatore, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, and Vishakhapatnam. The closest international airport to Tirupati is Chennai International Airport, which is around 130 km away. You can also land in Hyderabad or Bangalore and drive to Tirupati from there.
By train, you can reach Tirupati Main station which has train services from most major cities in India. If the need arise, you can also get down at nearby stations of Renigunta (10km from Tirupati) and Gudur (100km from Tirupati) and travel to Tirupati by bus.
Tirupati is well connected to the major cities of Southern India by Road. The National Highway 205 (NH-205) pass through Renigunta, located near Tirupati. One can take the NH205 from Chennai (3 hours), Bangalore (more than 5 hours) or Hyderabad (around 10 to 12 hours) to Renigunta. The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation
(APSRTC) connects Tirupati to different places of Andhra Pradesh and to Hyderabad. Buses of the Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) connects Tirupati with Chennai. And, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) connects Tirupati to Bangalore. The bus tickets can be booked online. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) runs free buses from the railway station and central bus stand to Alipiri for pilgrims. Also, you can take car rentals from different cities and also reach Tirupati.
When to visit Tirupati?
The ideal time to visit Tirupati is in the winters, from November to February. The weather is pleasant during these months and you can comfortably cover the temple and other places of attraction in Tirupati. But if you want to witness the Srivari Brahmotsavam then you can visit in September or October, during the time of Navaratri.
The main language spoken is Telegu. But you can also find Tamil, Kannada and Hindi speaking people here since this is a popular tourist place.
Tirupati has a tropical climate, with a mixture of wet and dry months. Summer is usually from March-June, followed by the monsoon in July. The average precipitation in the monsoon is around 121 mm. Then there is winter which is there until February. Apart from the monsoon seasons, the city may also experience heavy rainfall in November.
- Summer: March to June; Average temperature: around 28-45 °C
- Monsoon: July to October; Average temperature: around 23-36 °C
- Winter: November to February; Average temperature: around 15-30 °C.
Fairs & Festivals in Tirupati
Tirupati celebrates most of the major festivals in India. However, a festival special to Tirupati is the Srivari Brahmotsavam. It is the most significant annual festival of Tirupati, celebrated at the Venkateshwara temple. The Brahmotsavam is held over nine days at the beginning of the Hindu calendar month of Asvina. It falls during Navaratri (around September or October in the Gregorian calendar). In this festival, the temple pujaris take the processional deity of Lord Venkateshwara, Malayappa, and his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi, on a procession in the streets surrounding the temple.
Some other popular festivals of Tirupati includes:
This is a harvest festival celebrated in January. It takes place over three days. The first day is called Bhogi Panduga, the second day called Pedda Panduga and the third day is called Kanuma Panduga. People revel in giving gifts of sugarcane, fried gram, molasses and dry coconut, decorating their house, distributing sweets and offering prayers to God. People also feast on food items special to this festival including Karapupusa, Palakayalu, Ariselu and Chakkilalu.
Vasanthotsavam means the celebration of Spring. It is an annual celebration held over three days held in Tirupati.
Rayalaseema Food and Dance Festival
The Rayalaseema Food and Dance Festival is held in October. The festival celebrates the art and cuisine of the Rayalaseema area of Tirupati. The festival is organised by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department and showcases art from the last 400-year-old culture of Andhra Pradesh. You can also indulge in various cuisines of Tirupati and see some cultural dance.
Transportation/Stay to prefer
Tirupati has many types of private hotels, from budget to luxury.
The TTD also offers a large array of options for accommodation, both paid and free. The free accommodations include Sri Kodanda Rama Dharmasala, Sri Govindaraja Dharmasala.
The paid accomodation by TTD includes Sri Venkateswara Guest House, Sri Venkateswara Dharmasala, Srinivasam, Sri Kodandarama Dharmasala, and TTD Alipiri Guest House. These places offer non air-conditioned accommodation. If you want air-condition rooms, you can book the Sri Padmavathi Guest House. But do book your room in advance since this is, after all, one of the most visited temple cities in India!
TTD even has cottages in the Tirumala hills that can be rented. These include Sri Venkateswara Guest House, Sri Padmavathi Guest House, and Sri Varahaswami Guest House.
Places to visit in Tirupati
Sri Venkateshwara Temple
The city of Tirupati is synonymous with the Sri Venkateshwara temple. The temple is spread over 16.2 acres of land inside the Sri Venkateshwara National Park. The Archaeological Survey of India considers the temple as an ancient monument of national importance. The temple is also an architectural marvel and embodies the nuanced elements of Dravidian architecture. The Venkateshwara temple is now maintained by the TTD, who also conducts tours and packages for the devotees.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu chose the Tirumala hills as an alternative to Vaikuntha, his celestial home. The seven peaks of the Tirumala hills are symbolic of the seven hoods of Adisesha, the serpent under whose hoods Lord Vishnu resides.
It is also thought that Lord Vishnu was unhappy when Goddess Lakshmi left him, and he wanted to marry Padmavathi, one of her incarnations. But he was out of wealth for his own wedding since Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and fortune) left him. Thus, he borrowed money from Lord Kubera. Hence, devotees make offerings believing that they are helping Lord Vishnu (or Venkateshwara) clear his debt and that he will help them in return. This has made the temple among the richest pilgrimage centres in India.
Sri Varahaswamy temple or Bhu Varahaswamy temple
The northern premises of the Venkateshwara temple on Tirumala, and the northwest corner of Swami pushkarini, houses the Sri Varahaswamy temple. This temple is older than the Venkateshwara temple. Lord Varaha, Lord Vishnu’s boar avatar, is the main deity of this temple. Legend says that after saving Earth from the demon Hiranyaksha, Lord Varaha stayed on the Tirumala hills. Later, Lord Varaha donated land to another form of Lord Vishnu (Lord Venkateshwara) at his request. Hence, as gratitude, Lord Venkateshwara offered the first puja and food offering to Lord Varaha. Even today devotees usually visit the temple of Lord Varaha before Lord Venkateshwara.
This is the temple lake where pilgrims usually bathe before visiting the main temple.
Sri Kapileswara Swamy temple
It is a temple of Lord Shiva near the Venkateshwara temple on the Tirumala hills. The temple is at the entrance of a mountain cave, where a waterfall feeds directly into the temple pushkarini (lake).
This temple houses Goddess Padmavathi, the wife of Lord Venkateshwara. It is in Tiruchanur, around 5 km from Tirupati.
Sri Kondandarama Swamy Temple
This temple commemorates the visit of Lord Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, to Tirupati, during his return from Lanka.
Silathoranam or the Natural Arch, Tirumala hills
It is a National Geo-heritage Monument. It is a distinctive geological feature 1 km north of the Venkateshwara temple, near the Chakra Teertham.
Sri Venkateshwara National Park
It is a national park and biosphere reserve spread over 353 square kilometres. The national park is home to many plant and animal species. Some of the plant species are rare and endemic, and the Cycas beddomei is found only in the Tirumala hills. It also houses many threatened birds, reptiles, and mammals. It is home to leopards, the gliding lizard, and the golden gecko.
Sri Venkateshwara Zoological Park
It is the second-largest zoological park in Asia and covers over 22.39 square Kilometres. The zoo hosts a wide range of animals such as lions, tigers, bears, marsh crocodiles, deer, monkeys, elephants, peafowl, grey pelicans, and starred tortoises.
It is a historical fort of the 11th century in Chandragiri, Tirupati. The Archeological Survey of India has also established an Archeological Museum at this fort. It exhibits a rich collection of historical artefacts from Tirupati and other historical places like Gudimallam, Gandikota, and Yaganti.
Sri Venkateshwara Museum
The TTD established the museum, one at Tirupati and the other at Tirumala. It boasts a wonderful collection of Tirupati historical artefacts, temple architecture, and a comprehensive photo gallery about Tirupati’s culture, history, and traditions. It also has a meditation centre.
Other Places to visit in Tirupati
Some other temples and tourist spots in and around Tirupati includes the Akash Ganga waterfalls, the Kalyani dam, the Sri Bedi Anjaneya Swamy temple, Sri Suryanarayana Swamy Vari Temple, Govindaraja temple, Thathayyagunta Gangamma Temple of Goddess Gangamma, Sri Venugopala Swamy temple, Gudimallam Sri Parasurameswara temple, Sri Kondandaramaswami Temple, Sri Hathiramjee Mutt, Srivari Sikhara Darshanam, Sila Thoranam, Dharmagiri, Narayangiri, Papavinasanam, Asthana Mandapams, Gogarbham Gardens. Tirupati also has a regional science centre, which also has a space exposition hall with a digital Planetarium and an Innovation space.
Cuisines to taste in Tirupati
Being a pilgrimage city, you will mostly get pure vegetarian food. However, there is no dearth in the variety of vegetarian cuisines available here. Also, the food is available for every budget. You can also enjoy authentic Andhra food while in Tirupati.
By the way, do not miss the famous Tirupati laddu. It is the ‘prasad’ at the Sri Venkateshwara temple. Also, after your darshan at the Sri Venkateshwara temple, you can get meal coupons for free. This meal usually has rice, sambhar, rasam, vegetable curry and chutney.
Things to do in Tirupati
The most popular thing to do in Tirupati is of course visiting the temple of Lord Venkateshwara and the other nearby temples in Tirumala and Tirupati. This city is one of the most popular pilgrimage places in India, and you are surely going to be awestruck by the sheer number of pilgrims and the grandeur of the temples. To get the most out of your pilgrimage experience, you can visit Tirupati during the Srivari Brahmotsavam festival.
Other than visiting the temples, you can visit the museum and fort to know more about Tirupati’s history. If you are a nature lover, then the Sri Venkateshwara National park and Zoo is sure to win your heart. You can trek through the forests of the Tirumala hills in the national park to get the ultimate trekking experience amidst the wildlife. Also, you can definitely explore the roads, streets and foods of Tirupati, and enjoy the local experience.
Souvenirs to buy in Tirupati
Tirupati is famous for handicrafts like woodcarving, calamari, and special Whitewood toys. You can also get traditional Tanjore style gold leaf paintings from the town of Madanapalli. Mythology is the main theme behind these paintings. You can get books and periodicals on Hindu religious treatises. You can also get video and audio cassettes of Vedas, Sankirtanas, and Pravachanams, published and marketed by the TTD.
So what are you waiting for? If you are interested in pilgrimage, temples, mythology and history, Tirupati is the perfect place for you to visit. The spirituality of the place and the energy of the pilgrims will surely leave you mesmerized. So plan your trip, pack your bags and come to the magical city that is Tirupati.
Om Namo Sri Venkatesaya