The Temple of Lord Venkatesvara at Tirumala is one of the most sacred shrines in South India. People believe that Lord Narayana manifested himself at this spot to redeem people from the miseries of the ‘Kali-age.’ People throng in millions to get the sacred darshan and obtain the boons from the Varadahastha of the Lord here. It is perhaps the richest temple in the East. The temple has a hoary antiquity and several scholars have attempted to present the history of the shrine and of these “The History of Tirupati” by Dr. S.K. Iyengar and Tiruvengadachari are notable.
Dr. Ramesan has tried in the following pages to present the history of this shrine in all aspects making an indepth study of the problems connected with the Tirumala Temple.
He has attempted to reassess the voluminous literary, epigraphical and iconographic date and presented a connected chronological account of this famous centre of pilgrimage, which has received benefactions from ruling dynasties like the Pallavas, Colas, the Yadavarayas, and the Vijayanagara rulers.
Dr. Ramesan has identified the numerous structures in the temple complex mentioned in the inscriptions, dated them, and has provided us with an account of the evolution and development of this temple complex. This is a distinct addition to our present knowledge.
There are a number of misgivings amongst scholars relating to this God. Some believe that it is a ‘Saivakshetra’ while others state it to be a Sakti Pitha. As though to give credence to this, ritual and offerings connected with this shrine are similar to those of Sakti. The God is given a sacred bath on Friday and the Brahmotsava is performed during the Navratri festival when the Goddess Durga is worshiped with all pomp and splender. Dr. Ramesan after making careful personal study of the image has “finally set at rest the doubts, by persenting the data and establishing that it is essentially a Vaishnavakshetra and that the image of Venkatesvara belongs to the Pre-Pallava age when the Agama texts were not codified and that it is a Svayam-vyakta.
He has also utilised the data from the European records and traced the administrative history of the shrine in modern period after graphically describing its vicissitudes during the ‘earlier epochs, which serves as a background. This is a welcome addition to the literature on the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. We should be thankful to Dr. Ramesan for this magnum opus.
Lord Venkatesvara of Tirumala is our family deity, our kula deivam, who has been guiding the fortunes of our family for several generations. To me personally, He is not only the Lord of the universe, but a very intimate, close, loving, speaking, deity, to whom I turn for support in times of joy, and succour in times of distress. To me, he is not a mere stone idol: but a vibrant living personal God; full of grace and full of infinite blessings, to be conferred if only, one surrenders one’s self to Him.
My earliest re-collection of the Lord of the Seven Hills is of 1926, when as a child of five years I trudged along a doli which carried some of my family elders up the hill. Since then, off and on, I have been going up the seven hills, whenever I felt it, and whenever I felt the need for it.
On the Vijayadasami day of 1942, which was a misty and foggy day, when I witnessed the procession of the Lord at the close of the Brahmotsavam I. as a very young student, who had just then stepped into epigraphical research, felt a yearning, that in the fullness of time, I might be given opportunity to present a critical review of the epigraphs of the Temple. It is a curious quirk of fate, that on the same Vijayadasami day, nearly forty-years later in 1979. I am writing this preface on this book of mine, on The Tirumala Temple.
The intervening four decades have to me been years of great events. During these four decades, I have been on an average visiting the Lord practically once in three months. From 1956 onwards, T had kept detailed notes about my observations of the Temple, about its epigraphs, its sculptures, its architecture, its agamic practices, and about all matters connected with it.
I deem it a great stroke of good fortune, that at the end of my active career in the Government, a set of fortuitous circumstances should have so shaped themselves, as to afford me an opportunity to be the first servant of the Lord, as Chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams for nearly a year. Little did I imagine in my wildest dreams, that such a singular honour of serving the Lord, for however short a period it may be, would ever arise in my .life, My grateful thanks are due to the Giver of All Mercies for what I consider to be the greatest blessing in my life. In temporal terms, my profound and grateful thanks are due to Dr. M. Channa Reddy, the present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, through whom, the Lord of the Seven Hills made this’ possible.
So far as this book is concerned, I do not claim to be a scholar. Nor do I claim this to be an original one. I am not, in any professional sense, either a historian, or a specialist in anything. However, I have always been preoccupied with history, with epigraphs, with religion and the agamas as a whole, and with the general forces of history and philosophy, that supply the basic impulses towards human conduct. I have always believed, that history is nothing but the evolution of a drama that is played out by society, and that the ideas and thoughts that permeate a society, in any particular period, supply the motivating forces for their action. Hence, in my view, we have to look for a history of thought to trace correctly a history of events, and deduce from a critical review of a history of events, the evolution of a history of thought.
In our country, such a preoccupation, would inevitably lead to a study of the impact on society, of religion, which has contributed towards major shifts in the history of human thought, and thereby helped to shape world history. This mental preoccupation of mine, found me therefore, specially disposed, if not specially equipped, to take a comprehensive view of the Temple and its evolution, and to edit this book.
However, I have taken great pains to see, that the original sources were always resorted to far factual information, and one may rest assured, that this work will not suffer from any lack of factual authoritativeness. Whatever may be the other drawbacks of this book, the factual data presented here, can be accepted to be based upon widely respected authorities.
Sri Sadhu Subramanya Sastry, the renowned Epigraphist of the Devasthanams, has done yeoman service in collecting, tabulating. deciphering and presenting in a critical manner, a major portion of the epigraphs of the Tirumala Tirupati Temples. The work has been done by him with such thoroughness, competence, and authoritative mastery of the subject, that no one can hope to better it. I have fully drawn upon this mine of information, for preparing most of the historical material in this book. Most of his conclusions and translations have been quoted in his own words, in the body of this book, since his books have also been published by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. In this respect, most of the contents of the present book, based on epigraphs, could be deemed to be only an edition of Sadhu Subramanya’s work. I had also the benefit of seeing some stray essays written by him in manuscript, which were available in the Devasthanam’s office, and which contained further additional information, and which do not appear to have been published upto now. The present book could never have been written but for his monumental work, and I take great pride in acknowledging the profound indebtedness of this book to his pioneering work.
Similarly in 1950s Sri T.K.T. Viraraghavachari brought out a book of the history of Tirupati Temple, also published, by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, Sri Viraraghavachari was a very renowned scholar, and a devout bhakta of Lord, and he had critically examined most of the epigraphical source material that were presented by Sri Sadhu Subramanya Sastry. I have also drawn extensively from his books and quoted then in his own words in this book, and my grateful thanks are due to him also for much of the information in this book.
Dr. S Krishnaswami Iyengar wrote for the first time a history of Tirupati in t w v volumes in 1939. Sri Viraraghavachari’s book which was next, dealt at length with the mode of worship, the festivals and rituals and the historical evolution of the Temple administration. A short book on the Tirumala temple was brought out by Sri V. Srinivasa Rao about J 949. This was in the nature of an imformative brochure on the temple.
In 1953, Sri V.M. Narsimhan published a very small booklet of 25 pages on the Architectural Development of Tirumala Temple. This is in the nature of a very short essay.
In 1963, Professor M. Rama Rao of Sri Venkatesvara University published a very small pamphlet on the Temples of Tirumala, Tirupati, Tiruchanur which is more in the nature of guide book.
The Bharata Vidya Bhavan of Bombay has published in 1968 a handy and popular edition, by my good friend and colleague Sri P. Sitapati, I.A.S., entitled ‘Sri Venkateswara’. He has an exquisite write up in inimitable prose on the Holy figure of the Lord in this book, and since this could not be bettered, I have reproduced it in full in this book.
The above are the only publications on the Tirumala Temple. It would be seen from the above that apart from Sri Sadhu Subramanya Sastry’s epigraphs and Sri T.K.T. Viraraghava Chari’s book, there has been no consistent and authoritative account of the Temple containing an account of its geography, its history, its epigraphs, its iconography, a description of its festivals, the treatment of Tirumala Temple in literature and music, the temple administration under various kings and lastly the temple under the British etc. etc. It is rather curious that such a famous and ancient shrine, with a history of nearly 2000 years, has not upto now attracted the attention of scholars, especially, since, in the past two decades, a study of temples has become an integral part of the study of society in India. The present book presumes to supply this want in some respects.
The job that I set before myself was not to make any original discoveries or to put forth original points of view. Mine was a simple undertaking to collect, arrange and determine the proportions of the parts and phases of the great strides in Temple worship which is typified in the Tirumala temple. I did not expect to add anything new to the knowledge of the Temple, and I hope I have added none. The job that I set, before myself was to digest the originol sources that were made available by such illustrious scholars as Sadhu Subramanya Sastry, T.K.T. Viraraghavachari etc. and present them in. as readable and as cogent a manner as possible before the devotee public. for this limited task, I am probably better qualified than the other scholars, since I have no prouder title than my own name, and the only conceivable honour that I have is my own. I am therefore in the happy position of committing mistakes which will affect none. However, the subject of the abode of the Lord of the Seven Hills is so splendid, that no possible treatment of it by anyone could rob it of its sweeping dignity and grandeur. Some of this has stuck to this book, and I must confess, it is so, inspite of me.
My foremost thanks are due to the present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr. M. Channa Reddy for all the consistent encouragement that he has been given me right through in my assignment in the Temple.
My special thanks are due to my young friend and colleague Sri P.V.R.K. Prasad, LA.S., Executive Officer of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, who so enthusiastically and .readily agreed to take up the publication of this’ work, under the auspices of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Brief as has been my association with him, it has been a very intimate and to me a gratifying one. He has taken to his work, not as a mere official assignment, but as a mission, and the one year of his association with the temple has brought about great and, perceptible changes in the temple administration. My grateful thanks are due to him for all the help that he rendered to me.
I am deeply beholden to Sri R. Suryanarayanamurthy, Public Relations Officer, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, and the able Press Manager Sri Vijaya Kumar, and all the staff and workers of the Devasthanams Press who have printed this work so well and so neatly and in record time.
My personal thanks are due to Sri R.S.P. Anjaneya Sarmaand Sri Syed Habeebuddin, who have faithfully served me as my personal assistants and who have ungrudgingly typed the entire work as a labour of love.
I have discussed with my friend Dr. R. Subramanyam, Professer of History, Nagarjuna University, the architecture of the Temple and especially that of the Vijayanager period. I am grateful to him for his suggestions and for the write up on the architecture of the, Mukkoti Pradakshinam of the Temple which has been embodied in full in the book. I am also deeply grateful to him for having so kindly agreed to write a Foreword.
I must also thank my good friend Sri C. Anna Rao, Peishkar, Executive Officer, and later Chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, who gave me all the help required to study the temple at close quarters through 20 or 30 years. I could never have attained such an intimate rapport with the Temple but for his unfailing courtesy and-readiness, always to help.
I am grateful to the Geological Survey of India for the description of the natural geological arch and the geological non-conformity mentioned in Chapter I. Similarly Chapter 11 was edited under my supervision while I was State Editor, District Aazetteers, Government of Andhra Pradesh, for Chittoor District. Since the historical background of the Temple is the same, I have reproduced it in full with only slight changes here and there.
I have also perused a very comprehensive and authoritative work on the iconography of the Temple prepared by Dr. K. V. Raman and which it is hoped will be published shortly by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. To avoid duplication in block making by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, I have selected the same photographs for my treatment on the chapter of the iconography of the Temple. My grateful thanks are due to Dr. K.V. Raman for this.
Last but not least, my special thanks are due to my wife, Smt. Tripura-sundari Ramesan, Who has been so full of understanding and accommodation, in dealing with an otherwise busy husband, who chose to be beset, in his spare time, by the wayward moods of a historical research student rather, than by the pleasures of homely comfort.
I have dedicated this book, as all my other works, to his Holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamy Sankaracharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham, who has been my guru and God always guiding me in his own inimitable manner on the path of right thinking’ and tight conduct.
History of the Tirumala Temple
The description of the Tirumala Temple
The Idol of Lord Venkatesvara and other Murtis in the Tirumala Temple
Details of the Daily Rituals and worship at Tirumala Temple
Festivals in Tirumala Temple
The Sthalapurana of Tirumala and other legends
Tirumala in Literature and song
Seven phases in the Construction of the Tirumala Temple
The architecture, sculpture and iconography of Tirumala Temple
The epigraphs of Tirumala Temple
The administration and management of Tirumala Temple in Pre-Vijayanagara times
Tirumala Temple during the Vijayanagara period
Currency, Banking, Irrigation, Taxation, Food-offerings and other Economic Conditions of Tirumala Temple during Vijayanagara period
Tirumala in the post Vijayanagara period
Tirumala during the days of the Carnatic Wars
The Tirumala Temple under the management of East India Company
The Tirumala Temple under the British
Condition of Tirumala Temple in the beginning of the 19th Century
Relinquision of Government control over the Tirumala Temple and administration by Mahant etc., up to date
The significance of Temples
Some peculiar customs followed in the Tirumala Temple
The cult of Bhakti
The Katyavalambita Divya Manohara Murti of Sri Venkateswara
Sri Venkatesvara Ashtottararn
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