Tirupati is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimages centres in India, famous for its Venkateswara Swamy temple, better known as ‘Balaji’, dedicated to lord Vishnu. It stands on the Venkatadri hill overlooking Tirupati town from 850m above sea level and surrounded by lush nature.
Venkateswara temple is named after the Venkatadri hill also known as Venkatachala on which it stands. It is one of the seven summits called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri, representing the seven sages or Sapta Rishi.
This temple is the second richest pilgrimage centre in India in terms of donations, the richest being Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Between 50,000 and 100,000 pilgrims visit the temple daily – an average 30 to 40 million a year.
Pilgrims make donations in money or gold. They also cut off their hair and give it as a sign of devotion. The sale of hair is the temple’s second source of income.
The architectural style of the Tirupati temple is Dravidian, and above the inner sanctum is a golden dome. According to legend, the temple houses a self-manifested statue of Lord Vishnu.
NB: Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. Visitors come mainly to soak up the spiritual atmosphere common to all India’s great pilgrimage centres.