Tirupati is a world-famous Hindu pilgrimage place in Andra Pradesh, India. It is a place where people from all walks of life and different part of the world come to worship Lord Shri Venkateshwara.
I am a big fan of long weekends as these are the times when I get a break from my routine work and get a chance to explore the world. The recent long weekend (August 12-15) was a similar opportunity for me to plan a family trip and we zeroed on Tirupati trip. Though this was not my first trip, it was different from my last ones in many respects such as the time we spent on the Tirumala (upper Tirupati, where Lord Venkateshwara Shrine is located), witness different rituals of the temple and overall comfort we felt.
Before I get into the details of my trip, I would like to keep you informed about an important point, if you want to enjoy your stay at Tirupati, go for online booking of tickets. Now, TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) trust has made everything online, and you can easily book darshan, accommodation and Seva tickets online. This will not only help you to plan your itinerary in advance but also speed up the process of getting the required stuff quickly at Tirumala.
Tirumala is 267 km from Bangalore. As we had booked the tickets for 1:00 PM same day for the darshan, we started early at 5:30 AM from Bangalore and took NH75 and NH206 route. There is a double lane till Chittoor district, which is an easy ride. Post that it is a single road till the Tirumala entrance. There are many small restaurants on the way, but as we were running short of time, we decided not to stop anyway (except for bio break) as anyways we were carrying home-made food and snacks. The route is scenic with lots of hills on both the sides and ample greenery. On the way, we noticed the rows of terracotta and clay product shops. The rates in these shops were almost three times less than Bangalore price and there were plenty options to pick the stuff.
We reached at the foothills of Tirumala at 10:35 AM, it has a grand entrance with very tight security. It usually takes 15-20 minutes to cross the gate as all the time there is a huge queue of vehicles going towards Tirumala. The security guard asked us to remove all the stuff from the vehicle and cross them through scan machine and also asked us to go through the scanner for obvious security reasons. After the clearance and receiving the ticket from the entrance, we started our uphill journey of 22 km to reach the top of Hill (Tirumala). It is a beautiful scenery en-route, and one can feel the positive vibes of the surrounding.
There are lots of accommodation options both in Tirupati and Tirumala, but if you want to stay in Tirumala, you need to do the advance online booking of it. As we booked the accommodation in Tirumala, so our next action after reaching the top was to search for the place which we booked. We were guided by the police and security guard that we need to collect the accommodation information from a place near CRO (Central reception office). One can only book the accommodation in Tirumala only for 24 hours. So, while booking the accommodation tickets online, you will get two options, either to book a room before 12:00 hrs or after 12:00 hrs. You can select the timing according to your darshan timing. Since for us, it was 1:00 PM, we had selected after 12:00 hrs. For noon booking, the counter open at 12:00 and there are four counters (as per the different room categories-Rs. 150; 500; 1500 and 2000), everybody is asked to stand in the queue as per their room category.
Our room was in Sankumitta Guest House (SMGH), it was a spacious guest house, and each room has two big rooms (2 beds in each room) and an attached bathroom with the 24 hours hot and cold water facility. After briefly relaxing in our room, we had our food and decided to get ready for the darshan. The way to reach the darshan queue from the guesthouse was hardly a minute away. In order to save time, it is a good idea to keep our belongings (shoes, bags, etc.) at room because everything has to go through a scan before entering the temple premises and considering the crowd it easily takes few minutes to half an hour to pass through the scan process with stuff.
May be because of afternoon time, it was not much crowded. Om Namo Venkatesaya and Govinda Govinda chanting were extruding powerful positive energy and giving strength to every devotee to keep walking and feel energetic and enthusiastic. Hours of wait and walk is worth to get a glimpse of Lord Venkateshwara. The aura around deity is so powerful and tranquil that in spite of seeing the Lord in front of you, it does not seem enough and it develops an excitement and thirst to visit next time. As per current rule, with each ticket one can get only two Tirupati laddus, the taste of these laddus are so unique and famous that these laddus have got the GI (Geographical Identification) status. It is good to carry a small poly bag to collect the laddus to avoid standing on queue else you can also buy a polybag from the counters (each bag cost two rupees).
There is an Anjaneya temple (Hanuman) exactly opposite the main temple, people go there to light a lamp and pray. We were able to finish everything by 3:00 PM, and after that, we decided to return to our room for some rest and then for an evening walk around Tirumala town. Evenings are pleasant with the chanting of Venkateshwara in the air. Tirumala is a clean and well-managed town; there are lots of vegetarian food joint, parks and shops to purchase souvenir, clothes, fancy stuff and toys.
We decided to get up early next day and take a visit to the temple premises. It was a great feeling to see the calm, composed and divine atmosphere. Hundreds of people were sleeping in the premise of the temple with all their luggage and family, also few groups gathered in front of the temple to perform some rituals.