Sri Balaji Venkateshwara ‘the King’ – The Deity of Miracles

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This article by Manisha Sarade

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Table of Content 

  •  What do the Puranas say about Sri Tirupati Balaji Venkateshwara?

  • Iconography of Lord Balaji – The reason behind several Symbols

  • Brahmotsavam – The 9 Day Festival of Tirupati Balaji

Balaji, also called as ‘Venkateshwara the king’, is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Venkateshwara is known to be the only God who took birth to save the people from troubles of Kaliyuga. He will reside there in the temple till the end of Kaliyuga. At the end of Kaliyuga Lord Vishnu’s other incarnation Kalki will take birth and destroy everything on earth. This would happen when sins will reach its peak and there will be no humanity left. That would be an end of Kaliyuga and Kalki will destroy everything and formation of new Yuga will take place. For this reason, Tirupati Balaji temple is also known as Vaikuntha of Kaliyuga. Also known as ‘Kaliyuga Pratyaksh Daivam.’

77" Superfine and Super Large Shri Satyanarayan | Handmade | Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

What do the Puranas say about Sri Tirupati Balaji Venkateshwara?

Two stories are famous about Tirupati Balaji temple. One from Venkatachala Mahatyam and Varaha Purana. These two stories show that the land of Tirumala was pervaded by Lord Vishnu’s Incarnation. It is only after the 9th century that we see that the Tirupati worship has become big. Chola, Rashtrakuta, Chalukya, Hoysala and Pandya were at war but exchanging culturally. Kerala - on the other hand, was going culturally its separate ways. But the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, and Telangana ruled by these kings retained Tirupati worship in a big way. Incidentally, Sri Lanka of this period, which was influenced by Hindu kings, also came into the Tirupati orbit. Ramanuja came into scene in the 11th century and promoted Tirupati as a great Vaishnava center. But it was the Vijayanagara kings who propelled Tirupati into the giant pilgrimage center it later became. Purandara Dasa and Kanaka in Kannada and Annamacharya in Telugu sang praises of the lord there.

Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, India

According to the Puranas, the Rishis headed by Kasyapa began to perform a sacrifice (yaga) on the banks of the Ganges. Sage Narada visited them at that time and asked them to tell him why they were performing the sacrifice and who would be pleased by it. Not being able to answer the question the Rishis approached Sage Bhrigu. To reach a solution after a direct ascertainment of reality, Sage Bhrigu first went to Satyaloka (the abode of Lord Brahma). There, he found Brahma reciting the four Vedas with his four heads in praise of Lord Narayana and attended upon by Sarasvati and not taking notice of Bhrigu offering obeisance. Concluding that Brahma was unfit for worship, Bhrigu left Brahmaloka for Kailasa.

At Kailasa, Bhrigu found Lord Shiva spending his time pleasantly with Parvati and not noticing the Sage Bhrigu. Parvati drew the attention of Siva to the presence of the sage. Lord Shiva became furious at the intrusion of Bhrigu and tried to destroy him. The sage cursed and left for Vaikuntham. The angry sage went to Shri Vaikuntham. Shrimannarayana was reposing at that time on Adisesha with Shri Mahalakshmi at His feet in service. Finding that Shrimannarayana also did not notice him, the sage was infuriated and he kicked the Lord on His chest, the place where Mahalakshmi resides.

At once the Lord hastened to make apologies to the angry Sage and pressed his feet to allay the pain caused to the leg. In doing so the Lord removed the eye in the foot of the Sage, which gave him power as to defy the Devas. The Sage thereupon decided that Shri MahaVishnu was the most Supreme of the Trimurtis and told the Rishis the same.They thereupon decided that Shri Maha Vishnu was the fruit of the Yaga and sacrifice was offered to Him (Vishnu). At the commencement of the present Sveta Varaha Kalpa, the whole Universe was filled with water and the earth was immersed in it. Lord Vishnu took to form of a White Boar and dived into the water to lift the earth. He slew the demon Hiranyaksha who caused obstruction to him and rescued the earth.

62" Super Large Perumal with Garuda | Handmade | Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

Brahma and the other Devas extolled Shri Varaha at the time with the chanting of the Vedas and showered flowers on him for saving the Earth. Lord Vishnu decided to stay on Earth in the form of the White Boar for some time, to punish the wicked and protect the virtuous. This place thenceforward came to be known as Varaha Kshetra and Varaha Kalpa began from that time. After the departure of Mahalakshmi, Lord Vishnu left Vaikuntha in a forlorn condition and took his abode in an ant-hill on the Venkata Hill under a tamarind tree beside a Pushkarini.

Brahma and Mahesvara, taking pity on the condition of Vishnu, made up their mind to assume the forms of a cow and its calf to serve him. The Sun God informed Mahalakshmi of this and requested her to sell the cow and calf to the king of the Chola country assuming the form of a cowherdess. The king of the Chola country bought the cow and its calf and sent them to graze on the Venkata Hill along with his herd of cattle. Discovering Lord Vishnu in the ant-hill, the cow everyday emptied her under over the ant-hill and thus fed the Lord. Finding that the cow did not yield any milk, the Chola Queen chastised the cowherd severely. To find out the cause of the absence of milk, the cowherd followed the cow and hid himself in a bush and discovered the cow emptying her under over the ant-hill.

Getting wild over the conduct of the cow, the cowherd aimed a blow with his axe on the head of the cow. But the God rose from the ant-hill to receive the blow and save the cow. When the cowherd saw the Lord bleed at the blow of his axe he fell down and died. On the death of the cowherd, the cow returned bellowing to the presence of the Chola King with blood stains over her body. To find out the cause of the terror of the cow the Chola King followed her to the scene of the incident. Near an ant-hill, the King found the cowherd lying dead on the ground. While he stood wondering how it had happened, the Lord rose from the ant-hill and cursed the king to become an Asure from the fault of his servant. Entreated by the king who pleaded innocence, the Lord blessed him by saying that His curse would end when He was adorned with the Kireetam presented by Akasa Raja at the time of His marriage with Shri Padmavati. Thereafter Shrinivasa decided to stay in this Varaha Kshetra. He therefore requested Shri Varahaswami to grant Him a site for His stay. His request being readily granted, Shrinivasa ordained that a pilgrimage to His shrine would not be complete unless it is preceded by a bath in the Pushkarini and Darsan of Shri VarahaSwami, and that Puja and Naivedyam should be offered to Shri Varaha first.

Yashoda brought up Shri Krishna, the son of Devaki, in his early years. Yasoda was not blessed to witness the marriage of Shri Krishna with Rukmini and she felt very sad. Shri Krishna promised to fulfil her desire in her next birth as Vakuladevi in his next Avatara as Shrinivasa. This Vakuladevi was sent to serve Shrinivasa by Lord Varahasvami, on whom she was attending till Shrinivasa came to Venkatachala. Sometime after, a King named Akasa Raja who belonged to the Lunar race was ruling over Thondamandalam. He had a brother named Thondaman. Akasa Raja had no issue for a long time and so he wanted to perform a sacrifice for obtaining an offspring. While he was himself ploughing and ground for sacrifice, his plough turned up a lotus in the ground. On examining the lotus, the King found a female child in it.

The king was happy to find a child even before he performed a sacrifice and carried it to his place and gave it to his Queen to tend it. At that time he heard an aerial voice which said “O King, tend it as your child and fortune will befall you”. As she was found in a lotus, the king named her Padmavati. In course of time Princess Padmavati grew up into a beautiful maiden and was attended by a host of maids. One day while she was spending her time in a garden picking flowers with her maids, Saint Narada approached her. Assuring her that he was her well-wisher, he asked her to show him her palm to read her future. He foretold that she was destined to be the spouse of Lord Vishnu himself.

Goddess Lakshmi with Raining Coins

At this time Lord Shrinivasa, who went for hunting chased a wild elephant in the forests surrounding the hills. In the pursuit, Shrinivasa was led into a garden, where Princess Padmavati and her maids were picking flowers.The sight of the elephant frightened them and their Princess. But the Elephant immediately turned round and saluted the Lord and disappeared in the forest.Lord Shrinivasa came on horse back and saw the frightened maidens and he was accosted by them with queries. Lord Shrinivasa had explained them about his birth and parentage. He enquired them about their princess and her parentage and birth.

When he was informed that the Princess was Padmavati (lotus-Born) the foster Daughter of Akasaraja, he loved her and made advances to the Princess. He was repulsed with stones by the maids and he urgently returned to the hills leaving the horse, which fell on the ground. Vakuladevi, as usual, brought dinner to Shrinivasa comprising various delicious dishes. But she found him lying on his bed love-sick. She enquired the cause of his sickness. The Lord informed her that unless he secured Princess Padmavati, he would not be well. Vakuladevi then asked him to tell her all about the Princess, who she was, and how he came to love her. The Lord then narrated the story of her (Padmavati’s) previous birth and his promise to wed her.

In olden times Lakshmi was staying as Vedavati in a Rishi Asrama in the forests. At that time Ravana, the lord of Lanka came there and tried to tempt her. Vedavati grew angry and cursed him that she would bring about his death. To fulfil her words, Vedavati entered into the fire but the fire-God rescued her. He took Vedavati to his house and entrusted her to his wife to take care of her. When Ravana was about to carry away Sita from Panchavati in the absence of Rama and Lakshmana, the Fire-God appeared on the scene and offered Vedavati to Ravana as the real Sita who was kept with him by Rama to evade Ravana. Ravana took Vedavati to Lanka thinking she was the real Sita, while Agni (Fire-God) took Sita to his house and asked his wife Swahadevi to look after her.

18" Ravana With Nine Heads | Handmade | Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

After the destruction of Ravana, Vedavati entered the fires when rejected by Rama. Then the Fire-God offered the real Sita to Rama. Rama then questioned her as to who the other lady by her side was. Sita informed Rama that she was Vedavati who suffered all the tortures for her sake for ten months in Lanka and requested Rama to accept her also as his spouse. But Rama declined her request saying that he was wedded to policy of having only one wife during his life time, and he promised to wed her in her next birth as Padmavati, born as the daughter of Akasaraja when he will take the form of Shrinivasa.

There upon Vakuladevi thought that Shrinivasa would not be happy unless he married Padmavati and she offered to go to Akasaraja and his queen and arrange for the marriage. On the way she met the maid-servants of Padmavati returning from a Siva Temple. She learnt from them about Padmavathi’s love-sickness and went to the queen along with them. Akasaraja and his queen Dharanidevi became anxious about the health of their daughter. They learnt about Padmavati’s love for Shrinivasa of Venkata Hill. Akasaraja consulted Brihaspati about the propriety of the marriage and was informed that the marriage was in the best interests. After the departure of Vakuladevi Shrinivasa could not rest in peace. He doubted her success in the mission. He therefore assumed the form of a Yerukula-woman and entered the streets of the capital telling fortunes. Padmavati’s maids saw her and invited her to the presence of their queen.

The maid-servants went and informed the queen that the fortune-teller was hesitating to come into the palace without an invitation from the queen. The queen came out herself and invited the fortune-teller into the palace.The fortune-teller was taken to the presence of Princess Padmavati. The fortune-teller saw the palm of the Princess and told the queen about the cause of Padmavati’s indisposition and advised to give her in marriage to Lord Shrinivasa. She also told the queen that a lady would approach her shortly to formally request Padmavati’s hand in marriage on behalf of Shrinivasa. After the departure of the fortune-teller, Vakuladevi went to the queen along with the maids and informed her that she came from Shrinivasa to request the hand of Padmavati in marriage for him.

Having consulted Brihaspati and heard from his queen about the prediction of the fortune-teller and arrival of the messenger, from Shrinivasa, Akasaraja decided to bestow his daughter on Shrinivasa and he called the palace purohits to fix a Muhurtam for the marriage. Akasaraja informed his Ministers and other Officials of his intention. Immediately a letter was drafted for being sent to Shrinivasa requesting him to come and marry the Princess. Akasaraja entrusted the letter to Sukamahamunin for being delivered to Shrinivasa. Suka went to Venkata Hill with Vakulamalikadevi. He presented the Patrika to Lord Shrinivasa, who felt pleased and sent his garland through him for Padmavati.

Immediately Lord Shrinivasa called for a conference of the Gods to win their consent for His marriage with Princess Padmavati. To meet the expenses of the marriage, Kubera lent money to the Lord. Lord Shrinivasa started for the residence of Akasaraja with his consorts and Brahma and Siva and his vehicle Garutman. At the entrance the Lord was received by Akasaraja with all honours and was taken in procession on a mounted elephant to the palace for the marriage. In the presence of all the Devas, Lord Shrinivasa took the hand of the Princess Padmavati and wedded her and thus blessed Akasaraja.

Goddess Lakshmi as Padmavati

Contest between Adisesha and Vayudeva During the Dwaparayuga, Vayudeva (the Wind God) went to Vaikuntam to pay his obeisance to Lord Shri Vishnu. The Lord was reclining in the company of Shri Lakshmi. The doorway was guarded by Adisesha. Vayudeva was incensed when Adisesha prevented him from entering Shri Vishnu’s mansion. Adisesha and Vayudeva began to fight with each other.

When Lord Vishnu intervened, each was boasting of his superior valour and supreme might. To test who was stronger, the Lord suggested that Adisesha encircle the Ananda hill, an off-shoot of the Meru Mountain on its northern side, and that Vayudeva blow hard to try and dislodge the Ananda hill from Adisesha’s hold. The contest waxed furiously, and as the World trembled, Brahma, Indra and the other Divine Beings requested Adisesha to yield victory to Vayudeva for the welfare of the world.

Obliging them, Adisesha released his hold on the hill. As a result, Adisesha and the Ananda hill were blown away to the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. Adisesha was dejected by his defeat. Lord Brahma and the others appealed to him by saying that he would be merged with the hill Venkatadri and Vishnu would reside on him. Adisesha then metamorphosed into the vast Seshadri, with his hood manifesting itself as Venkatadri sustaining Shri Venkateswara, his middle as Ahobila supporting Lord Narasimha, and his tail as Shrisailam bearing Lord Mallikarjuna (Lord Siva).

Restoration of the Earth by Adi Varaha – During the eight thousand yugas (the equivalent of a day and night for Brahma, the Creator), there was a raging fire, and everything on Earth was reduced to ashes. Man had to forsake the Earth and seek refuge in Janaloka. At the approach of night (of Brahma), Vayu, the Wind God, blew furiously. Huge clouds were formed, there was torrential rain, and it resulted in Pralaya Kalpa (the Great Deluge). The Earth sank into the Patala loka, and remained in that state for a thousand years (during a part of that night of Brahma). Shri Maha Vishnu, wanted to rescue the Earth. He assumed the form of Adi Varaha and proceeded to Pataloka. He fought a fierce duel with Hiranyaksa and killed him. He then slashed the water and brought up the Earth on his tusks.

Brahma, the Devas and the sages extolled Adi Varaha’s virtues, by chanting the Vedic mantras. They prayed to Him to re-establish the Earth as before. Adi Varaha obliged them, and called upon Brahma to recreate the world. He expressed his desire to reside on the Earth to protect its people. He commanded his vehicle, Garuda to fetch Kridachala (an extensive natural hill with lofty peaks, embedded with gold and precious stones, and which resembled Adisesha in shape) from Vaikuntam.

Garuda in Namaskaram Mudra

Garuda brought Kridachala and deposited it on a sacred spot (to the East of Swami Pushkarini) chosen by Adi Varaha. Adi Varaha stood within the divine vimana of Kridachala, which shone with many gem-studded gopuras. Brahma and the other holy personages requested the fearsome-looking Adi Varaha to assume a tranquil and composed look, and rest on the hill to protect men and grant boons to people unable to reach God through Dhyana Yoga (meditation) and Karma Yoga (doing one’s own duty). Adi Varaha appeared with four arms and a white face. He was adorned with jewels and accompanied by Bhu Devi. He resolved to stay at Venkatadri, under a divya vimana, to grant the prayers of men.

Iconography of Lord Balaji – The reason behind several Symbols

Lord Balaji is shown or visualized having a Tilakam on forehead, ‘Shanku’ / ‘Conch’ on the left shoulder, ‘Cakra’ / ‘Disc’ on the right shoulder, ‘Bhudevi’ (Goddess Earth) and ‘Sridevi’ (Goddess of Wealth) at the heart, left hand in receiving posture, right hand in a bestowing posture, both hands are decorated with ‘Adisheshu’ / snake and coins / prosperity pouring in at the feet. Lord Venkateswara is adorned with multitude of ornaments. Let’s look at the meaning / philosophy / practical view behind this, so that we are fully embodied into Balaji.

Tilakam: Tilakam on Balaji’s forehead consists of two things – one ‘V’ or ‘U’ shape and the second of ‘bindu’ with tail as dropping into the ‘V’ or ‘U’ shape. The ‘V’ / ‘U’ shape implies the capacity to hold, a container, a field to nurture. The ‘bindu’ with tail and dropping into ‘V’/’U’ signifies the “Life Force’ being dropped into the container / field to get nurtured. Both the ‘V’/’U’ shape and the dropping ‘bindu’ together signifies that Balaji holds the life and the humanity. Further, when everyone who wears or sees the ‘tilakam’, (s)he is reminded about the core of humanity and Life. This keeps focus on Life eternity, enjoy Life, save Life, develop Life and everything related to Life is in front of you for taking Action that sustains Life. That’s another reason why the tilakam is on forehead which is the centre of ‘agna cakra’ in the human body and usually the main attraction in the human structure.

‘Shanku’ / Conch: In its traditional / religious sense ‘Shanku’ / Conch is considered as the instrument to blow signalling the arrival of auspicious time, event, person, etc. In Mahabharat, Krishna blows his ‘Shanku’ named ‘Panch Janya’ in the beginning of ‘Kurukshetra’ the epic war between ‘Pandavas’ and ‘Kauravas’ the brothers.

Now, what is the answer, if one asks the question why only ‘Shanku’ / Conch, why not anything else to blow the sound signalling the time, event. Conch is the natural shell which was used as body by a living creature in the ocean. It has the capacity to produce the reverberating waves of sound with thumping force that can generate alertness in the minds of everyone who listens to it. Why not anything else which is made of something by humans? The simple reason is to indicate that to use the vast resources available in the nature and particularly deep inside the oceans. Further signifying that use the natural resources after their life is over, rather than taking the life of the creatures for the human use.

Superfine Lord Venkateshvara as Balaji at Tirupati

Next question that can arise is why the ‘Shanku’ on left shoulder and why not right shoulder? This is interesting. Usually, in Hindu tradition left is used for denoting the “given” things, thus ‘Shanku’ is part of natural “given” things and hence Balaji follows it to have it on his left shoulder.

‘Cakra’ / Disc: Balaji is considered as ‘Kaliyug Avatar’ of Lord Vishnu and thus uses the ‘Cakra’/ Disc as his weapon / instrument. There is a deeper meaning / philosophy behind using ‘Cakra’. Cakra is nothing but a wheel which is the original technological invention. If there is no wheel, there is no progress. You name anything; it would have an association with the wheel directly or indirectly. Further, wheel symbolizes the cyclic nature of things and the nature itself. Thus using ‘Cakra’ signifies the use of technology and discovering the nature to its core. Next question is having ‘Cakra’ on the right shoulder. Majority of the human beings are ‘right-handed’ and use right hand in their daily use. Thus, it is implied use of technology in daily life. Further, right signifies the efforts put in to create our own destiny. Hence, usage of technology in a right way human beings create their destiny. This we can easily identify with the current age where we have reached a stage of potential extinction of human race with the nuclear arms race.

Bhudevi / Sridevi: If we need to carry out anything, what do we need? We need money and other raw materials. It is expected that with the grace of “Goddess of Wealth” / ‘Sridevi’ you have plenty of money. Other raw materials are available from the “Goddess Earth” / “Bhudevi’. Balaji having these two goddesses at his heart generate and bestow wealth to all who seek his blessings.

Brahmotsavam – The 9 Day Festival of Tirupati Balaji

Intricate carvings, ancient inscriptions, glorious idols, and mystical environment greet the pilgrims who travel from different corners of the world to the holy city of Tirupati. Resting peacefully on the seventh peak of Tirumala Hills, just to the north of the flowing Sri Swami Pushkarini River – A silvery facade greets the eye as one enters the complex. Situated in Andhra Pradesh, this land is the abode of divine temples. Dravidian style architecture of multistoried entrance towers and huge complexes fascinates every tourist who comes to pay homage at the sacred shrines.

Brahmotsavam, the Hindu festival is an auspicious festival celebrated every year at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. The temple is illuminated with lights and candles on the grand festival and is revered as one of the most magnificently built temples in the world. According to legends the origin of this festival is associated with Lord Brahma. It is believed that once Lord Brahma worshiped Sri Balaji at the catchment area of the holy Pushkarini River to thank the Lord for fortification of mankind. The festival derives its name from Lord Brahma since it was Lord Brahma who first conducted this festival at Tirupati temple.

“Brahmotsava” which literally means “Brahma’s Utsavam”. The festival is celebrated with great zeal during the month of October. The celebration of the Brahmostsava is performed over nine-day period. On the very first day of the festival “Anurarpana” ritual is performed along with the celebration of Shri Vishvaksena. The “Anurarpana” ritual signifies fertility, abundance and prosperity. During all nine days of the festival various religious activities like homas and daily processions where various idols of the god are taken out different chariots (vahanas) present in the temple.

The importance of this festival can be known by the fact that every year thousands of devotees flock in Andhra Pradesh to be the witness of this majestic festival. They enjoy participating in the various rituals conducted during the nine days to seek the blessing of Lord Venkateswara Swami. The devotes assimilated to take part in the auspicious festival often term the experience as a heavenly connect and blissful (“ Vaikunth Anubhav”). firstly Gurudadhwaja Festival is hosted near Srivari Alaya Dhwajasthambham. Then a procession dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara proceeds on Pedda Seshavahana and covers four streets of the temple. This goes on for two hours until midnight. During this festival it is believed that the mighty snake alter itself as the vehicle for God. The main reason for celebrating this festival is to pray to God for providing a life which is filled with high values and morals.

Key Takeaways
1. Sri Venkateshwara Balaji, also known as Lord Venkateshwara, is a major deity in Hinduism and is worshipped primarily in the southern states of India.
2. The temple of Sri Venkateshwara Balaji, located in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in India and is believed to be the richest temple in the world.
3. The temple has a rich history and mythology associated with it, and is believed to have been built over a period of several centuries.
4. Sri Venkateshwara Balaji is believed to be a form of Lord Vishnu and is worshipped for his qualities of compassion, generosity, and benevolence.
5. The rituals and practices associated with the worship of Sri Venkateshwara Balaji, including the offering of hair and the darshan (viewing) of the deity, are discussed in the blog.
6. The significance of Sri Venkateshwara Balaji in the context of Indian culture and spirituality is also explored in the blog.

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