A Visit to Lord Venkateshvara
Sunday morning after meditation and breakfast we set out on our journey to Tirupati-Tirumala, to visit the temple of Venkateshvara, the Lord of the Seven Hills. The evening before I had received a short e-mail from a friend in the States: “I just looked up your temple visit. The most visited religious place in the world with 50-100,000 people per day. Gulp….. I can feel my claustrophobia coming up! Enjoy.”…
Gokul, a group member from Bangalore, willed to accompany us. Nataraj gave some instructions as per the tour and the driver, we said good-bye to Tapovan and started.
The entrance of Tapovan – now our exit place
Nataraj giving us last instructions – he had very well prepared the details with the driver
Gokul and Meinrad at the taxis, “ready for take-off”
On the highway – reaching the outskirts of Bangalore. Again and again we saw scenes, where the Swiss police would be totally shocked – and which are totally normal here:
Bangalore is a huge city and it took a long time till I had the feeling that we are leaving the outskirts.
First it was a good 4-lane highway, it later grew smaller and became more winding. Interesting rock formations were seen alongside, like heaps of huge pebbles. Some were standing on the crest like ready to fall down.
It was already well past noontime that we arrived at Tirupati, the downhill station. We approached a huge security control hall, where all cars were inspected inside and outside. In the past there had been some attempts of attacks on politicians who were visiting the temple and to prevent any terror activities these checkpoints had been set up. All luggage had to go through a x-ray scanner. They first didn’t want to allow me to take the small electric kettle with me, for an excessive use of pilgrims with their electric devices might cause problems with the current situation in the uphill station.
The security control hall
Then our taxi started to climb up the 18 km road through a park-like hillside. Behind the tree we could see the peaks of the hills.
Finally we entered the temple city of Tirumala. We decided to immediately go to queue in for the Darshan of Lord Venkateshvara, the Lord of the Seven Hills, Balaji, the energetic centre of Tirumala. A friend from Visakhapatnam informed us on the way that there is a special entrance for foreigners with an “express queue”. We had to leave cameras, luggage and footwear in the car. Gokul came with us to show us the way and speak with the temple officials. We had to register with our passports and to fill out a form declaring that we as non-Hindus, have faith in Lord Venkateshvara and reverence to him and his worship and that we therefore ask to be permitted to enter the temple and have darshan of the Lord. Gokul had to take another queue and wanted to meet us again at the end – which turned out as a weak point in the plan…
We then entered the queue, which slowly proceeded to fuse with another queue where pilgrims had been waiting already for a longer time. When someone tried to make a shortcut at the queue, there was wild uproar of protesters… The more we proceeded the more the queue became pressing. After two hours in the “express queue” we finally entered the holiest of the holy. The crowd was ecstatically singing / shouting “Hey Govinda” and lifting up their hands. For about 15-20 seconds we could see into a dark corridor at the end of which we saw the statue of Lord Ventakeshvara. Though already before there was a powerful energy in the air, I had the impression like receiving a dazzling flash of Light. It touched me to the core. I visualised sending it out over the world and to my near and dear ones…
We had to rush on and were directed to the Prasad counter, where we received two big and very sweet Laddus. We sat on a bench and waited for our Indian friend to come. After one hour we thought we wouldn’t find him again in this crowd. We didn’t know where we would spend the night or where our taxi was. Outside it had become dark. Luckily we had the paper-slip with the phone number of the driver which Nataraj had given us. Meinrad asked a pilgrim with a phone to ring up the number and found out where the driver was waiting. But since we couldn’t orient well, we had to ring him up again from an information stand and finally we found him. But he neither knew about Gokul. So we had to wait. After 75 minutes Gokul rung up and arrived. He was astonished to see us, he didn’t know that we had the phone number of the driver and couldn’t find us at the temple. He had taken 3hs15min in his “fast line” – normal lines take 8-10 hs way into the temple – the speed depending on the fee one pays… Gokul luckily had found in the queue a friend who was driving back to Bangalore in the night and would bring him back – he wanted to be at office next morning. So they planned to share driving through the night…
We were quite tired when we finally found a place in a rest-house. It was a huge building and our room had two metal beds with plastic mattresses – the covers and blankets were damp. Fortunately we had some linen ourselves. After a short wash with the cold water we quickly fell asleep.
The “Holy busses” with brass decoration in the form of elephant heads – free circular transportations departing every 5 minutes for a round-trip.