For the first time ever, Tirupati: a guide to life analyses and connects the philosophy surrounding the god of Tirupati to the tests and tragedies of our everyday life. From what is considered a sin to what is dharma to anecdotes on sorrow neglect betrayal and ways of finding wealth success and faith the book bridges the generational gaps in relevance and application of ancient wisdom to modern life. If traces the divine and historical origins of ancient wisdom to modern life. It traces the divine and historical origins of the temple at Venkatachala and provides a glimpse into the interior of the holy shrine one of the world most important religious places. The book includes:
• The list of festival of Tirupati
• Vehicles of gods used of each festival
• Slokas read in the temple to wake up the lord
• Dos and don’ts of the temple
With a foreword by the head priest this is the story and glory of lord sri venkateswara the god who loves His devotees fulfils their desire and redeems them. Tirupati: a guide to life is for all those who believe that destiny can be changed and want to know how.
Kota Neelima has been a journalist for eighteen years,
starting her career while studying at the Jawaharlal
Nehru University, New Delhi. She writes on politics,
democratic reforms, and issues concerning rural poor
Neelima is currently the Political Editor with
The Sunday Guardian in New Delhi and a Research
Fellow for South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze
School of Advanced International Studies, Johns
Hopkins University, Washington DC. She is also an
impressionist abstract painter who has held four
solo exhibitions in India. She lives in New Delhi and
Washigton DC. Tirupati: a guide to life is her third
It gives me immense pleasure to be a small part of a long awaited book on Tirumala and It’s presiding deity Lord Sri Venkateswara in the light of modern though Pattern. This book by kota Neelima is a first of its kind attempt for readers across the world and a unique initiative to spread the message of Lord Sri Venkateswara.
The name Venkateswara mean the God who can destroy all sine in Sanskrit. The Varaha Purana says Lord Vishnu descended onto our planet earth in a physical form called Archavatara to bless the human beings in Kali Yuga. Lord Vishnu has been existing in four metaphysical dimensions para vyuha vibhava and antharyamin since eternity.
These four levels of presence can be conceived by only gods yogis and rishis with their high spiritual and yogic power. The archavatara (idol form) in contrast can be felt with physical senses by the common man who has no idea of yogic practices and spiritual training through Thapasya.
To me service to lord sri venkateswara as an archaka is a commitment to my ancestors from thirty five generations. I am born into one of the four priest families whose only profession is to conduct the archaka studied are only the result of my interest university studies are only profession is to conduct the archaka service in Tirumala temple. My college and university studies are only the result of my interest in science and was done with a clear understanding about my final fate to be an archaka throughout my life. After so many years in His service it was only recently that I came to understand the powerful impact of the purpose of this destiny. This impact changed my perspective my concept of life, and my needs.
Similar to my stunning interactions with Him my exchange of thoughts with Him and my gradual evolution under his supervision I also heard many fascinating incidents from fellow devotees. Many were saved from death from serious medical complaints like terminal cancer and accidents after receiving Balais Mahaprasadam. Many devotees had their almost crushed lived blooming again by his darshan and blessings.
This book deals with the concept of God and the meaning and purpose of pilgrimage from a different and refreshing angle. The Karma philosophy which was shelved as superstition is explained through a modern generation appreciates our ancestral knowledge. Section III gives guidelines for conducting oneself in the sacred temple town in a pious manner. This is an apt presentation of the code of conduct for a devotee adopted from our Agama text ahnikam. This book also lists the various facilities provided for visiting devotees by tirumala tirupati devasthanams (TTD) as also the various ritual and festival conducts in the temple. A brief description of the temple complex and its various organs are also included in the book.
I pray at the lotus feet of Lord Sri Venkateswara that the author be blessed immensely with health and long life to produce more such literatures for the benefit of the vast devotee community all over the world. I wish the venture all success.
Few get the chance to serve the Lord and I feel I have been fortunate to serve Tirumala and Lord Sri venkateswara the presiding deity of Tirupati. When kota Neelima the author of Tirupati: a guide to life requested me to write the preface to the book I saw it as another opportunity to offer my services to the Lord.
Many of you would be wondering about the need for such a book. Who is it for? Are there not enough books on religion and spirituality already available? Our lives have become complicated and challenging in recent times or perhaps it is we who have made it such. We worry about too many things and when confused or in trouble seek direction and answers from the Lord. In this timely book Kota neelima tries us understand the relevance of tirupati in today’s times. Tirupati a guide to life is a breath of fresh air in the present times. It helps us to understand and remember the basics of life and that it is still indeed simple. More often than not it is we who get confused and lost and eventually complicated it unnecessarily.
Tirupati: a guide to life help us to go back to our roots through the philosophy and teachings of lord Sri Venkateswara. It is in essence the modern man’s guide to Tirupati and its philosophy. Along the way the author also talks about the history of Tirumala the temple complex as it stands today the festivals and various vehicles of the Lord However what I found most fascinating is thechapter change as that is the only constant thing in our lives now and we all have to adapt to survive in the present world. The thirty ways to God is also a really useful guide on how to be a good devotee and seek the Lord.
Simply written with stories and facts Tirupati: a guide to life is a unique book that I hope will appeal to scholars devotees and the common man alike. I congratulate Neelima on her brilliant effort and wish her all the success with the book.
A Modern God
Pilgrimage are perceived as being for the very young or the very old. Others are busy battling with various destinies promotions and postings: swing votes and sweeps: long cars and short loans stents and sentiments.
It is however known both practically and intuitively that every karma action of every human being is accounted for and balanced. But it is the nature of this Kali Yuga where time moves so swiftly that it renders this knowledge useless. No known gadget can give human beings an evaluation of their lives and a choice of destines. Maybe someday their will e email updates on how one fares on the Karma scale weekly reminders on balance of sins and perhaps a mobile app for moksha salvation. Until then religion is the only answer.
Religion in the modern age however must be capable of existing outside its own realms; it must possess a truth that can survive the scientific temper and include freedom of choice in a world bred on democracy and free will.
Our lives crowded as they are with a bewildering variety of Karma and experience might make if impossible for us to sift through each thought world or deed to know the quotient of sin. The modern God must be one who absolves absolutely and simply.
Modern religion has to make space for the four objectives of life listed in Hindu scriptures as Dharma Artha kama Moksha (virtue wealth desire salvations). Happiness can be achieved by achieved by achieving any one or all of these but only with virtue Dharma as the first objective of life. Pray for victory in an election but not for someone else defeat ask for a successful business deal but not that a rival may lose it; seek happiness for oneself but not wish for unhappiness for others.
The true purpose of God in the modern age is then to help change destiny. There is not enough time for devotion submission and penance. And yet time devotees beg for a better life abetter fortune a better posterity. But do the gods reinvent themselves to suit modern times? A God who is worship does.
A Linear Life
The word is the result of cause and effect. Life is the result of cause given in an earlier life, and a lifetime is spent in living the effects. The cause given in this lifetime leads to the next life or rebirth. This continuous accounting of cause and effect is cyclical in nature punctuated by birth and death and explain almost every human experience.
Cause and effect also explain choice. It is the reason why given the option provided by a diverse world the choice of one option seems initially logical and eventually inevitable. An option is chosen by the mind because it provides the best results and is guided by because it provided the best results and is guided by samskara cause inherited from earlier lifetimes. The chosen option may be perceived to lead to the fulfilment or a desire such as fame wealth, knowledge happiness all contributing it effect for this lifetime.
Interlinked circles chain the destinies of all those involved in the making and implementing of choice turning them into stakeholders in its results.
The maze of crossing fate lines extends seemingly into the future not only in one life but successive lifetimes. Death does not bring closure to the cause-effect continuum but just ends one chapter of it. This texture created by constant karma is true for every living being connecting its past with the future like a great weave of invisible threads spread over the entire earth.
Once in a while some of these threads break and instead of wrapping round space and time reach into the dimension of god or attain salvation. That is when the cyclical destiny turns linear. But this can be achieved only by a rare and an exclusive state of mind. For the human mind in its natural state is linked in its very function to the cycles of destiny.
The function of the human mind is to think. And it is difficult to imagine any human thought that does not involve desire. The human mind appears wired to this cause effect continuum to which it contributes cause and through whose effect it lives. To break from this is to change destiny and that is the object of salvation. It is not an easy thing to achieve but nor is it an impossible one. It is an option that exists even though like everything that requires work it appears like a distant one.
However it does beg the question: why should the option of changing destiny and salvation however distant be even available to the mind if the only purpose of the mind is to be part of the mechanics of birth and rebirth? Where is the need for breaking from the only known template of life its fate?
Perhaps because of another aspect of the human mind which is as unavoidable and as difficult to change as is its tendency to desire its tendency to question.
The First Question
The initiation of most thoughts is based on question a quality that that has set the human being apart from the rest of Creation. Our civilization is based on the ability to question and change. It now appears impossible that the mind should have gone on to other questions without asking the fundamental one: who or what is God? The rig veda asked this question early in human evolution at a time when others were still grappling with matter of survival. This timeless question still remains a testimony to the explorative nature of the Indian mind which never ceases to examine what has been held as truth and contest the drawn lines with the wisdom of three thousand years.
It is the question that has resulted in the milestones of personal and public conduct which mark the way to salvation and lead us to human improvement. The desire for salvation has often translated into debating choosing and designing destiny.
By controlling thought and desire in the mind cause and effect can be controlling in life. By addressing what is human once can make the choice towards that which is divine. But to do that human being must rise above the basic instincts that govern all living beings and live by a superior set of rules that direct mankind two most important endeavours for finding God the internal and the external journeys.
The external journey has been mapped with landmarks of good and bad right and wrong dharma and adharma. These have been the basis of organization of our societies and nations. The system of crime and punishment easily extended to heaven or hell helping to choose the right desire or causes or with the right effects. The internal journey which is far more individualistic has been more difficult to direct.
As all thought originates in question the external influence had to govern the inner question. It had to be a question with the power to change closer to and thereby bring the nature of man closer to the nature of God. The most significant question for the human mind has been: what is sin? With this question the human mind becomes aware of its conscience a crucial landmark on the inner way to God.
The desire to be freed from past and present sins to live a purer life in future inevitably influence cause choice and effect. That is yet one more landmark in the internal journey of the mind.
Religion connects all these internal landmarks to external ones in the physical world since all journeys need points of reference.
In Hinduism temples serve this purpose but few address modern issues the way the God of Tirupati does. By cleansing the soul of the darkness of sins the cause is changed thereby changing the effect and changing destiny. By granting justified desires the causes can be chosen so that the effect can be chosen and destiny too can in turn be chosen.
Lord Sri Venkteswara
The divine plans of the avatar of Lord Vishnu as revealed to visionary sages are explained in many sacred texts. The stories of lord Sri Venkateswara in this book are selected from the skanda purna with the help of translations. To connect readers to the ancient work in the classical language the words and phrases from the Sanskrit text are given throughout the book next to the text in English. The Sanskrit text is taken from the Skanda Mahapurana published by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan which is one of the most precious works still in print defying the time and tide of history. The greatness of Lord Sri venkateswara venkatachala Mahatmya is described in detail in the second section of the Skanda Purana called the vaishnava khanda which is devoted to Lord Vishnu.
The skanda purana is a lenthy work of 90,000 verses with seven khandas, maheswara khanda, vaishnava khanda, brahma khanda, kasi khanda, vantyaka khnada, nagara khanda and prabhasa khanda with many section in each khanda. All these explain the importance of the pilgrim centres across the country giving their geographical locations and historicity.
As remarked in the introduction to the skands purana part I valume 49 of the series Ancient Indian tradition and mythology these sthala puranas cover the Himalayas region (as in the kedara khanda and Badarikasrama Mahatmya) Uttar Pradesh (in kasi khanda and ayodhya mahtmya): Orissa (in purusottama ksetra mahatya); Malwa rajasthan and Gujarat (in avantyaka khanda); the Narmada valley (in reva khanda); western India including Gujarat (in Nagara and Prabhasa khandas); south India (in venkatachala mahatmya and setu mahatmya). This series also dates the skanda purana tentatively between the seventh century AD and the ninth century AD. In those times as even in these the Hindu approach to religion has remained on the whole democratic and inclusive one reason why convergence continues to be the nature of India’s vast diversity.
While the idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara is self-manifest the temple may have been established in the seventh century AD according to the stone inscriptions on and their study have thrown a great deal of scientific light on the origin and history of the temple the main credit for which goes to the eminent scholar Sadhu Subramanya sastry. A compilation of the inscription by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) and the epigraphical reports provide a chronology for the temple and its many ancient practices the section tracing the origin of tirupati draws on this evidence accessible thanks to the extensive library and book publications department of the TTD in Tirupati.
Through religion has decided the routes and rules for attaining the grace of God the individual is free to choose which way to go. As a result of reform and reinterpretation devotion is simplified and made affordable to suit the modern age. For instance devotees of Lord Sri Venkateswara may find hurdles devotees may have their wishes fulfilled by merely uttering his name. Devotion in not just defined by sermons or rituals attendance or submission. The God is selfless in giving and needs nothing in return from his devotees but their affection. The main idol of the God wearing his iconic smile seems to convey to the world that all the wealth offered to Him does not touch him. And the object of man’s life is to attain even a degree of that calm detachment.
A Guide to Life
The stories in the book are derived from one or more parts of the skanda purana and have been organized into chapters with a brief introduction that provides the details. The translation in this book is not literal but adheres to the spirit of the original.
Some of the chapters of the book like ‘The Avatars’ (part I and II) and the welfare of the world are draws from parts of the skanda purana that describe reasons why God decided to dwell among people and reasons for choosing Tirumala Tirupati as the place for the divine residence.
Since improvement of human nature is at the crux of changing destiny or the desire for salvation it is the central theme of all these stories. But the stories do not instruct a devotee on how to conduct his or her life; they destiny. There is no moral at the end of each story instead there is just an option.
Anyone could relate to these stories in those times these stories were about everyone. They spoke of a powerful king in the same manner as they spoke of a poor potter or criticized a legendary sage the same way as they flayed a common man.
Two important chapters in the book keeping promises and breach of Trust are stories about the ethics of leadership. Another crucial chapter the bitter fruits of karma is the well known story of a great king who could not avoid his destiny and how even the worst sin can be absolved with the grace of God.
The chapter on change refer to one of the many ethical debates in the epic story of the Mahabharata and debates whether or not a prince should break a personal vow for public good. Strength it states lie in taking responsibility and not in abdicating it. The chapter on the company of Sinners is significant because it debates how a change in destiny can also be for the worse if the choice is misused. And the chapter A parent burden devles into the agony caused to parents by the follies of their children.
Also vital are the chapter modern sins and sins and twenty eight hells which identify a cause effect framework that may lead to unhappiness. By identifying the bad the devotees get to know the good. The graphic detail of hell in fact allows one to imagine the hurt or damage caused to other by one deeds. In that way these chapters help cultivate sensitivity towards others by being careful about one word and actions.
The temple is accessibly by road train and air the God can be viewed throughout the day except for a few hours at night. Daily hundreds of people walk up the pristine hills of Tirumala climbing over 3, 500 steps to the top covering a distance of about 9 Kilometres. Describing the greatness of the sacred hill in the chapter venkatachala mountain an eminent sage speaks of things that are equally unmatched in their quality like the donation of water the importance of education the virtue of hard work a clear conscience and the importance of being truthful.
According to TTD statistics 50,000 to 80,000 devotees visit the temple every day with the numbers reaching lakhs on special occasions. The section on celebrating the God of Tirupati lists the significant festivals the magnificent vehicles of procession and the Suprabhatam or the well known song for waking up the God in the morning.
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