Thursday, February 10, 2011

Only one visit per year to be allowed to worship Lord Venkateswara?

A news report says that the TTD is planning to introduce a system by which the devotee can make only one visit in a year to the abode of Lord Venkateswara atop Thirumala. (News report given at the end of this post). The reason cited is that this will help in restricting the flow of pilgrims.

This proposal is nothing but a blatant interference in the religious freedom of the individual guaranteed under our Constitution.
No one has the right to ban a devotee from entering a temple.
No one has the right to say how many times a devotee can visit a temple.
If the crowd is huge, the devotees can not be penalized.
They come with the full knowledge of long hours of waiting and wait in the queues to have darshan for a few seconds.
It is the duty of the authorities to devise ways to manage the crowd and make sure that there is a smooth flow of pilgrims in the temple complex and the basic amenities are provided to them.
Instead of concentrating on such things, the authorities are giving a solution which is like cutting the head as a cure for headache!
This move by the authorities must be stopped. 

This kind of a suggestion can be given by people who have not experienced the connection with God.
Perhaps, as VIPs they have had easy access to the santum sactorum of the Lord.
They have not waited, nor longed to have a glimpse of God.
They only see the crowd of people but have not seen the prayers and wishes carried from their homes and families.
They do not know that the waiting also is a form of vow or prayer for the devotees.

This particular abode of Venkateswara has a special place in the Hindu society.
This temple had existed as a pilgrim centre for thousands of years.
There is a reference in Silappadhikaram to a pilgrim called Maadalan from the Chera kingdom (a place called Maankaadu in Kerala), visiting this Lord in Thirumala hills, in standing position holding the shanku – charka, after visiting the Lord on the snake bed in Srirangam.
There is yet another reference in Silappadhikaram to a young couple of Vidhyadaras from Northern Chedi kingdom near Manasarovar lake, visiting Thirumala hills on their way to Pumpukaar.
This shows that Lord Venkateswara had been very popular throughout Bharat from the north in the Himalayas to the South in Kerala.
Silappadhikaram was written in the 2nd century AD.
From this one can gauge the antiquity of this temple in Thirumala as a pilgrim centre.

This particular deity is the family deity of many people in India
Even if one does not know who one’s family deity is, one is advised by elders to take refuge in Lord Venkateswara as the family deity.
As Periyaazwar says, this deity has bound the people for generations.
Our parents, our grand parents, our great grand parents and all those who lived before them had visited this temple.
It was same sanctum sanctorum where aazwars, acharyas and our ancestors have stood and surrendered themselves at His feet.
This Lord stands there as a connecting link between us, the devotees and all our ancestors and acharyas.

Not only that, he forms a link between our own previous births and the present birth.
A devotee of this Lord is not a devotee of Him for the first time.
He has been his devotee in previous births also.
When Periyaazwar says that he is His servant from olden times, (நானும் உனக்குப் பழவடியேன்), it also holds good for all the devotees of this Lord.
There is some connection for each devotee with this temple that comes through many births. 

The main result of a continued devotion to this Lord is to get rid of the karmic baggage of previous births and to attain Liberation after the current birth.

One does not get to visit this temple just like that.
How-much-ever one may try, unless He wills, the devotee can not visit Him.
It is strange that the authorities in service of this Lord’s abode do not seem to know this!
One may plan to visit this Lord, but the actual visit is not in one’s hands.
Ask any devotee of this Lord of Seven Hills. He will have a tale to tell.

I for one used to get a unique experience every time I visit Thirupathi.
Let me narrate an incident from my life to show that we are not deciding our visits or vows to this Lord.
In my younger days, I used to do anga pradakshina (rolling around the temple in the early morning) every time I visited.
I didn’t do it as a part of any vow or prayer.
I just wanted to do it every time, because it gave me a light feeling as though I have shed some burden from my body and mind.
I used to think that by doing that, I was shedding off the ego or I-ness.
It made me feel as though I was like dust on the ground and I was a nothing in the presence of God.
I used to say that as long as I live, I would be doing this anga pradakshina every time I visited the Lord.

But the Lord has some other calculations.
He does not take any bit more than what we owe to him.
It seemed He decided how many times I have to do the anga pradakshina in this birth.
I fell sick some 15 years ago because of which my mobility was curtailed.
It disabled me to do anga pradhakshina in my visits to Thirupathi after that.
I can not even think of walking up the hill now.
I can not even prostrate myself before the Lord now – leave alone attempting to roll around.
It was a great blow and a lesson as well.

I am not an authority over myself to say that I can do anga pradakshina any number of times I like.
Even thinking of Him, or worshiping Him or writing the glory of Him – all these are not my efforts.
He has willed so and therefore I am thinking of Him, writing about Him etc.
If I am able to make visit His abode, it is because He has willed me to come over there. That is all.

Pilgrimage is something that ‘occurs’ by divine Will.
In astrology there are transit considerations and dasa- bhukthi stipulations to help one in making a pilgrimage.
Let not mortals be any longer steeped in thoughts of controlling or curtailing the pilgrimages to this or any temple.
Those who think so are not fit to serve the Lord in any capacity.

- jayasree

Related post:-

The Universal kula deivam at Thiruppathi.



Overcrowded Tirupati to allow only one visit a year

Getting a darshan of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala may soon be reduced to an annual ritual and entering the temple itself challenging.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam plans to restrict the number of darshans by each devotee to only one a year. And a 'biometric system' will record fingerprints and photographs of pilgrims so that no one gets darshan tickets for the second time in a year.

"The proposal is being mooted because of the steep rise in the number of pilgrims. On an average, 60,000-75,000 pilgrims visit the temple every day. It may go up to one lakh in the next three years. At present, pilgrims have to wait for 12-15 hours to have a darshan on peak days. To avoid this, we are contemplating this only once-in-a-year darshan,"
J. Satyanarayana, chairman of TTD's specified authority, said.

The BJP and local religious leaders have slammed this move. "It is not proper to prevent people from visiting the god any number of times. The TTD should make alternative arrangements for speedy darshan rather than coming out with crazy ideas," BJP leader Prabhakar said.

Following similar protests, the TTD will review another controversial plan to bring the temple under the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The TTD had recommended the state government that the temple and the other ancient shrines controlled by the trust board be handed over to the ASI to preserve their architectural heritage.

BJP state unit president G. Kishan Reddy said the temple would lose its sanctity if it is handed over to the ASI.

"There would be severe restrictions to the movement of pilgrims ... The TTD would lose the powers to spend on the upkeep of the temple and for every small work, it will have to knock the doors of the ASI," he said.

TTD executive officer IYR Krishna Rao said, "The ownership will continue to be with the TTD, only the upkeep will be done by the ASI."

The move apparently follows controversial decisions by the previous board like demolition of a 1,000-pillar mandapam and gold-plating of the entire complex.

"If the temple is handed over to the ASI, no one can tamper with its struc-Pilgrims wait for 12-15 hours for darshan. ture," a TTD official said. 

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