Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tirupati : The abode of Lord Venkateshwara

Tirupati is famous world wide as the abode of Lord Venkateshwara popularly known as Tirupati Balaji an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. One of the most sacred pilgrimage Hindu site, the town is visited by hundreds and thousands of devotees from all over the world every year. The presiding deity Vishnu is enshrined in this temple, located on a range of the Eastern Ghats, called the Seven Hills representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri.

Location: Situated in the extreme southeast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati is situated in the Chitoor district. It is about 3200 feet above the sea level and comprises of seven peaks. Tirupati is 137 km from Chennai, 258 km from Bangalore, and 562 km from Hyderabad.

Languages Spoken: Telgu and English
Long Distance Code: +91-8574
Importance: Richest temple ofthe world
Area: 27 sq.kms.
Best Time To Visit: October To May
Tirupati Attractions


A shrine dedicated to Kalyana Venkateswara is a major attraction at Narayanavanam; a small town situated about 22 km southeast of Tirupati-Balaji. Legend has it that Lord Venkateswara married Padmavathi Devi, the daughter of Akasa Raja, at this place. To commemorate this great event, Akasa Raja built the temple here.        
The Venkateshwaraswamy or Tirupati Balaji Temple

Situated at the height of 3200 feet above sea level on the seventh peak, is the world''s richest temple dedicated to Tirupati Balaji. Tirupati, meaning husband of Goddess Lakshmi. The town is known as Tirupati while the seven hills are known as Tirumala. All the rulers of the great dynasties in the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateshwara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram, the Cholas of Thanjavur, the Pandyas of Madurai and the kings and chieftains of Vijaynagar have been devotees of this shrine. The history of the temple dates back to as far as 9th Century A.D, when Pallavas, the rulers of Kancheepuram, patronized this shrine. But it was not until the time of Vijayanagara dynasty in 15th Century AD that the temple got recognition, and the contributions started pouring in.

Many legends are attached to the temple and the devotees believe that the Lord would fulfill all their wishes, hence a large number of devotees visit this place daily. It is one of the most famous shrines in the country where an uninterrupted worship of the Lord has been carried out for over thirteen centuries. Even today, Tirupati draws enormous crowds throughout the year. The view of the deity profusely ornamented from tip to toe is in itself awe-inspiring. The idol of Sri Venkateswara has attributes of both Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer-two of the three aspects of the Hindu Trinity.

There are many festivals attached with the temple which also draw a huge crowd. One of the most important among these festivals is the Brhamotsav festival. Celebrated annually in September, the festival is especially grand every third year. On the final day of of the festival, the image of Lord Venkateshwara is taken out in procession in a spectacular white horse-drawn chariot. During the spectacular deepakulam ceremony, this ancient temple tank is full of decorated boats and thousands of brass lamps are reflected in the water. Another important festival taking place is the The Vijayanagar Festival held for three days at the historic Chandragiri Fort near Tirupati-Balaji in the third week of October every year. The fort is a living testimony to the valour of the rulers of Vijayanagar, and the festival coincides with the annual Brahmotsavam at the Tirupati-Balaji Temple. Musicians and dancers from all over the state come here to perform during the festival. The Rayalseema Food Festival is also held at the same time. During this festival, most of the local delicacies of the state are presented.

The small town of Nagalapuram, around 65 kms from Tirupati is famous for its Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple. Also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the idol is in form of Matsya or fish incarnation accompanied by Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. The beautiful temple, which is a fine specimen of the of the Vijayanagar style of architecture was constructed by the Vijayanagar emperor, Sri Krishna Devaraja at the behest of his mother. An important aspect of the temple is the Sun worship. The temple has been constructed in a way that every year in the month of March the rays of the sun pass through its gopuram and fall on the idol in the sanctum for three days.     

Padmavati Devi Temple

The smal village of Tiruchanur, around 5 kms from Tirupati has this large temple dedicated to goddess Padmavati, the consort of Lord Venkateshwara. Also known as Alamelumangapuram, the visit to the Lord is fruitful only after visiting the Padmavati Devi temple. The beautiful idol of the deity is holding a lotus in both of her upper hands while the lower hands are in poses of Abhaya, fearlessness, and Varada, benediction. There are idols of Lord krishna and Balarama and also of the Sun god present in this temple. According to a legend Goddess Padmavati emerged from the lake here, sitting on a Golden Lotus, after she had taken penace for 12 years in rage, when Lord Balaji was insulted by Sage Bhrigu. The visit to Tirupati remains incomplete if one does not visit the temple of Padmavati.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mathura : Birthplace of Lord Krishna

Around 60 kms from Agra on the road to Delhi are the holy twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan. Associated with the birthplace of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, these twin cities are special pilgrimage centers and are thronged by devotees round the year.

Situated on the bank of River Yamuna, Mathura is an ancient city known since ages. Although it is said to be the birthplace of the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, the history of this place can be traced back to the period of Ashok and even before that. Mathura has a strategic location, which ensured it to be the important place for trade and commerce. The archaeological findings from this place take us back to 5th century B.C. when it became the eastern capital of the King Kanishka of the Kushan dynasty. During the Gupta and the Maurya dynasties, the art and culture of this place flourished and grew into an industry. It became a major place for trading and learning.

Today all that remains of that history has been preserved in the museum and the town of Mathura has become famous for its temples.

The whole area is known as the Braj Bhoomi, which includes the place where Lord Krishna was born, and also the places like Nandgaon, his foster father's village and Gokul where he stayed and played with his friends. Vrindavan is around 15 kms from Mathura is also associated with the life of Lord Krishna, and hence is important pilgrimage place.

The ancient temples, the picturesque Ghats on the bank of River Yamuna, the invocating prayers and songs for the God and the Pedhas, sweets prepared of milk is what Mathura is famous for today.

Location: The city of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, is located at a distance of 145 km south-east of Delhi and 58 km north-west of Agra. Covering an area of about 3,800 sq. km., today, Brajbhoomi can be divided into two distinct units - the eastern part in the trans-Yamuna tract with places like Gokul, Mahavan, Baldeo, Mat and Bajna and the western side of the Yamuna covering the Mathura region that encompasses Vrindavan, Govardhan, Kusum Sarovar, Barsana and Nandgaon. In a nutshell, the land of Braj starts from Kotban near Hodel about 95 km from Delhi and ends at Runakuta which is known specially for its association with the poet Surdas, an ardent Krishna devotee.

Other Name : Brajbhoomi
Languages Spoken :  Hindi, Braj, English
Long Distance Code :  +91-565
Importance : Famous as the birth place of Lord Krishna
Area : 3800 sqkms
Best Time To Visit : October To March & During the month of July-August to witness the Janmashtami celebrations.

Mathura Attractions:

The Raslila Dance

The Raslila dance performance of the Braj area is very famous. This traditional dance form is being performed for ages today. The dance steps are those which are unique to the place and the steps are taken in accordance with the folk songs that accompany them. Normally the Raslila dances are the folk tales and mythological stories based on the life of Krishna, his pranks and his youthful romance with the Gopis and Radharani. Till date the Raslila is performed with much vigour and enthusiasm in the area.


This temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and his elder brother Balaram is structure in pure white build by the followers of the Hare Ram, Hare Krishna group in 1975. One of the most beautiful temples of the sect, this one in Vrindavan is very clean and has beautiful idols of the two deities.

Jugal Kishore Temple

One of the oldest remaining structures in the area is the Jugal Kishore temple. This temple was built along with four others. It was built in 1627 A.D. but the permission was granted by Emperor Akbar in his visit to the place. The other temples build along with this were the Radharaman temple, the Govindji temple and the Gopinath temple. Most of these temples have lost their old structure in some attack or the original idol has been smuggled away to save it from the wrath. Therefore it is only the Jugal Kishore temple which still stands in the same place and with the original structure and the deity and hence it is considered to be most important one.

The Vishram Ghat

According to mythology, Lord Krishna killed his maternal uncle Kansa in Mathura when he was still a young boy. Kansa was an evil man who has imprisoned Krishna''s parents and grandfather and would torture his subjects. After killing the evil man Krishna came and rested at this place on the bank of River Yamuna. So this place is called as the Vishram Ghat or the place to rest.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Puri : The Abode of Lord Jagannath

Puri, commonly known to Indians as Jagannath Puri, is one of the four major sacred sites for the Hindus all over the world. The seat of the hallowed God, Lord Jagannath, Puri, was once part of the Kalinga Kingdom which was brought under the rule of the Maurya dynasty, under the mighty Ashoka. Puri used to be a hilly region in the ancient times and is believed to have been inhabited by the Sabaras, a tribe belonging to pre-Aryan and pre Dravidian Austric linguistic group.

Most famous for the Jagannath temple, Puri also has a beautiful and virgin beach. This is one of the most unexploited beaches in India. This is a small town and the life of this town is all centered round the activities related to the Lord Jagannath and the temple. It is as if the sleepy town wakes up to the glory of the Lord during the annual Car festival or the Rath Yatra of the Lord; this when the whole town comes alive with devotees and enthusiasts who come from all over the world to watch this mega event.

Location: Just about 60 kms from the capital of Bhubaneshwar stands the holy beach town of Puri. Surrounded by the Bay of Bengal and the rice-growing alluvial plain on its east, Khurda district on its west, Sambalpur on its south and the state capital Bhubaneshwar on its northern side, it is an important sacred site for the Hindus. Puri is the neighbour of another important Hindu site of India, the Sun temple of Konark. The district of Puri encompasses most of the Chilika Lake.

Languages Spoken: Oriya, English and Bengali
Long Distance Code: +91-6752
Importance: Famous for Jagannath temple
Area: 16.84 sqkms
Best Time To Visit: October To February
Puri Attractions

The Temple of Lord Jagannath

One of the four sacred places for the Hindus, the Puri temple is dedicated to lord Jagannath. Jagannath literally means the Lord of the Universe. This 65meter tall temple can be seen long before entering the town of Puri. The tallest and the most magnificent temples of Orissa, the idols are the most unique as they are made of wood and have a change over after every stipulated time. The idols comprise of Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Lord Jagannath.

The Jagannath temple was built by the Kalinga King Chodganga in the beginning of the12th century. The Deities of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan are made of Margosa wood. Lord Balabhadra is the elder brother, Lord Jagannath is Younger brother and Devi Subhadra is youngest sister. According to the legends the Lord Jagannath earlier was worshipped alone as Neelmadhab, in dense forests by a tribal king Vishwavasu. The king Indradyumna heard about it and wanted to worship the Lord. So he sent one of his spies, but the spy too could not find the exact place so eventually married Vishwavasu's daughter. At the pretext of being the son- in - law, he requested the tribal chief to take him to the deity, Vishwavasu took him blind folded. But the person outsmarted him by throwing mustard seeds all the way, which grew within few days and called King Indradyumna. But the king was disappointed when he could not find the deity there. But a divine sound assured him that he would be able to worship the Lord.The present temple was begun by King Chodganga Dev and finished by his descendant, Anangabhima Dev, in the 12th century. The main temple structure gives an imposing impression because of its height of 65m on an elevated platform. The temple has the largest kitchen in the world and feeds thousands of devotees every day. A meal for more than 100,000 people is cooked on a festive day and other days minimum of 25000 devotees are fed.

The main temple has the blue wheel called as the Neel Chakra made of alloy of eight different metals. This 11 feet 8 inches high with a circumference of about 36 feet, is perched on the top of the temple and a flag is tied every day. On every 11th day of the lunar circle a lamp is lit on top of the temple near the wheel. The temple can be entered through four gates which have their own significance. The Eastern Gate is the Singhadwara or the Lion Gate, the Southern Ashwadwara means the Horse Gate, and the Western Gate is the Vyaghradwara or the Tiger Gate, and the Northern Hastidwara which means the Elephant Gate. The animals are neatly carved on the gate, but the most commonly used is the Lion gate which falls on the main road. In front of the gate is the Aruna Stambha or the pillar of Aruna which once was situated at the Sun temple of Konark. It has the figure of the charioteer of the Sun God.

The navakalebar or the new body ceremony of the deities takes place whenever there is an extra leap month in the year. During this time various artisans are employed who have been doing this sacred duty for generations. It is not one man who makes the idol but it is made in parts by various artisans. During this time the small township takes the shape of a huge fair.

The Puri temple has always attracted invaders for its riches over the centuries but it has withstood all the attacks and the problems, as the devotees say, by the grace of Lord Jagannath. Unfortunately, non - Hindu are not allowed inside the temple, but as the legend says, just viewing the Neel Chakra on the top can give one the same emancipation as that of seeing the Lord in the temple.The Lord and his siblings are taken out in a huge procession every year in June - July and are shifted to a summer temple for a week. This procession is known as the Rath Yatra and the annual religious affair attracts tourists and devotees from all over the world.

The Beach of Puri

The beach of Puri is one of the best beaches on the Indian coastline. It has been always considered to be a sacred beach with daily thousands of devotees taking a purifying dip in its waters before visiting the Lord Jagannath temple. The clean turf and the white sands with large waves gushing towards the shores is a wonderful sight. The beach is ideal for swimming and other water sports. Tourists and devotees equally flock to the beach every morning to watch the spectacular sun rise form the shores. The rising fire ball from the waters pouring saffron in the waters and colouring the sky in various shades is indeed a magnificent sight to watch.

The Clean and clear beach is to day full of people throughout the year. Although it can be very hot in summers, the waters and the sand are beckoning enough for a tourist to come here time and again

The Gundicha Temple

The Gundicha temple which is just a km away from the Jagannath temple of Puri is also known as the aunt's house. The most famous festival of Puri, the Rath Yatra, has connections with this ancient temple. As the Rath Yatra symbolizes the departure of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura, so is the Lord and his siblings taken away to the Gondicha temple for a week in their respective chariots. The Gods rest in the Gundicha temple for a week and return in the same chariots after a week. The devotees tag these Chariots which are around 14 meter tall and have six wheels each with a huge rope. Thus Gundicha has earned its name as a resting place of the Gods for a week.

The Balighai Beach

About 8 kms away from Puri is the virgin beach of Balighai. Situated on the confluence of River Nuanai and the Bay of Bengal this beautiful beach has a huge plantation of Casuarinas and has a Turtle Research Institute which one can have a glimpse at. It is also a natural habitat of the Baliharina Deer which can be spotted here.