Venkateswara - Legend

Legend

According to the scripture Sthala Purana, the legend of Venkateshwara's Avatar (incarnation) is as follows:

Once, some rishis headed by Kasyapa began to perform a sacrifice on the banks of the Ganges. Sage Narada visited them and asked them why they were performing the sacrifice and who would be pleased by it. Not being able to answer the question, the rishis approached Sage Bhrugu, who according to the Vedas, is believed to have an extra eye in the sole of his foot. To reach a solution after a direct ascertainment of reality, Sage Bhrigu first went to Satyaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. At Satyaloka, he found Lord Brahma reciting the four Vedas in praise of Lord Narayana, with each of his four heads, and attended upon by Saraswati. Lord Brahma did not take notice of Bhrigu offering obeisance. Concluding that Lord Brahma was unfit for worship, Bhrigu left Satyaloka for Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. At Kailasa, Bhrigu found Lord Shiva with Parvati, and so, did not notice his presence. Bhrigu then left for Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu.

At Vaikunta, Lord Vishnu was reposing on Adisesha with Sri Mahalakshmi in service at His feet. Finding that Lord Vishnu also did not notice him, the sage was infuriated and kicked the Lord on His chest, the place where Mahalakshmi resides. Vishnu, in an attempt to pacify the sage, got hold of legs of the sage and started to press them gently in a way that was comforting to the sage. During this act, he squeezed the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrigu's foot. The extra eye is believed to represent the sage's egotism. The sage then realised his grave mistake and apologized to Vishnu. Thereupon, the sage concluded that Lord Vishnu was the most supreme of the Trimurti and told the rishis the same.

Sri Mahalakshmi was angered by the action of Her Lord in apologising to Bhrigu who committed an offence. Out of anger and anguish, She left Vaikuntha and resided in Karavirapur now known as Kolhapur. After the departure of Mahalakshmi, a forlorn Lord Vishnu left Vaikunta, came down to Earth, and took abode in an ant-hill under a tamarind tree, beside a pushkarini on the Venkata Hill, meditating for the return of Lakshmi, without food or sleep.

Taking pity on Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwara decided to assume the forms of a cow and its calf to serve Him. Surya, the Sun god, informed Mahalakshmi of this and requested Her to assume the form of a cow herdess and sell the cow and calf to the king of the Chola country. 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 on the ant-hill, the cow provided its milk, and thus fed the Lord. Meanwhile, at the palace, the cow was not yielding any milk, for which the Chola Queen chastised the cowherd severely. To find out the cause of lack of milk, the cowherd followed the cow, hid himself behind a bush and discovered the cow emptying her udder over the ant-hill. Angered by the conduct of the cow, the cowherd aimed a blow with his axe on the head of the cow. However, Lord Vishnu 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 of shock.

The cow returned to the Chola King, bellowing in fright and with blood stains all over her body. To find out the cause of the cow's terror, the King followed her to the scene of the incident. The King found the cowherd lying dead on the ground near the ant-hill. While he stood wondering how it had happened, Lord Vishnu rose from the ant-hill and cursed the King saying that he would become an Asura because of the fault of his servant. The King pleaded innocence, and the Lord blessed him by saying that he will be reborn as Akasa Raja and that the curse would end when the Lord will be adorned with a crown presented by Akasa Raja at the time of His marriage with Padmavati. With these words, the Lord turned into stone.

Thereafter, Lord Vishnu, also known by the name of Srinivasa, decided to stay in Varaha Kshetra and requested Sri Varahaswami to grant Him a site for His stay. His request being readily granted, Srinivasa ordained that a pilgrimage to His shrine would not be complete unless it is preceded by a bath in the Pushkarini and darshan of Sri Varahaswami and that pooja and naivedya should be offered to Sri Varaha swami first. Vishnu built a hermitage and lived there, attended to by Vakuladevi who looked after Him like a mother.

A while later, a King named Akasa Raja who belonged to the Lunar race, came to rule over Thondamandalam. Akasa Raja had no heirs, and therefore, he wanted to perform a sacrifice. As part of the sacrifice, he was ploughing the fields when 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 to 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. She grew up as a princess into a beautiful maiden and was attended by a host of maids.

One day, Lord Srinivasa, who was hunting, chased a wild elephant in the forests surrounding the hills. In the elephant's pursuit, the Lord was led into a garden, where Princess Padmavati and her maids were picking flowers. The sight of the elephant frightened the Princess and her maids. But the elephant immediately turned around, saluted the Lord and disappeared into the forest. Lord Srinivasa, who was following on horse back, saw the frightened maidens, but was repulsed with stones thrown at Him by the maids. He returned to the hills in haste, leaving His horse behind. The Lord informed Vakuladevi that unless He married Princess Padmavati, He would not be calmed.

The Lord then narrated the story of Padmavati’s previous birth and His promise to marry her. After listening to Srinivasa's story of how he had promised to marry Vedavati in her next birth as Padmavati, Vakuladevi realised that Srinivasa would not be happy unless He married her. She offered to go to Akasa Raja and his Queen and arrange for the marriage. On the way she met the maids of Padmavati returning from a Shiva Temple. She learnt from them that Padmavati was also pining for Srinivasa. Vakuladevi went along with the maid servants to the Queen.

Meanwhile, Akasa Raja and his Queen Dharanidevi were anxious about the health of their daughter, Padmavati. They learnt about Padmavathi's love for Srinivasa of Venkata Hill. Akasa Raja consulted Brihaspati about the marriage and was informed that the marriage was in the best interest of both the parties. Kubera lent money to Lord Srinivasa to meet the expenses of the marriage. Lord Srinivasa, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva started the journey to the residence of Akasa Raja on his vahana Garuda. At the palace entrance, Lord Srinivasa was received by Akasa Raja with full honours and taken in procession on a mounted elephant to the palace for the marriage. In the presence of all the Devas, Lord Srinivasa married Princess Padmavati, thus blessing Akasa Raja. Together, they lived for all eternity while Goddess Lakshmi, understanding the commitments of Lord Vishnu, chose to live in his heart forever.

Venkateshwara's temple, today is located at the top of the Seven hills in Tirumala. It stands as a special place, commemorating the marriage between the two. Everyday, a kalyana utsavam celebrates the divine union in a celebration that stretches to eternity. Even today, during the Brahmotsavam at the temple, turmeric, kumkum and a sari are sent from the temple to Tiruchanur, the abode of Padmavati. In fact Tirupati is rarely visited without paying a visit to Tiruchanur. In the light of this background, it has become the favored destination of many newly wed couples who pray for a happy wedding similar to that of Srinivasa and Padmavati.

A tale associated with the temple goes thus: A helper boy called Bala was once falsely accused of being a thief. When people started chasing him he had to run for his life. He was hit on the head by the mob and his head started bleeding profusely. He ran to the Tirupati Temple of Lord Vishnu and ran to the main door of the temple. When the people entered the temple, they couldn't find the boy but saw the head of God's idol bleeding. It was considered that the boy was sheltered and protected by Vishnu himself, and the priests put cloth on the idol's head to control the bleeding.

Thirumalai Ananthalvan : Selfless Service to the Lord

Millions of devotees throng the Tirumala Hills practically round the clock throughout the year. As the rush of pilgrims increases day by day, Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams is hard put to finding ways and means of accommodating them and arranging darshan without long wait. As they move towards the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Venkateswara, how many will remember that there was a time, just a thousand years back, when the Hills were deserted with not much of human habitation in sight ? Ask any Srivaishnavite to name the man of the millennium . Pat will come the reply, Saint Ramanuja.

Ramanuja ( 1017-1137 A.D.) had visited the Hills thrice. His maternal uncle, Peria Thirumalai Nambi gave him discourses on the Ramayana for several months at the Hills. The temple and the surroundings were in bad shape and worship was not organized regularly. Ramanuja was inspired by the Holy Hymns of the Alwars singing the glory of the Lord of the Seven Hills. He called an assembly of the Acharyas, 74 in number and posed them the question whether any one of them will take up the task of serving the Lord on the Hills on a day to day basis. Everyone was hesitating, fearing the hard life up the Hills what with tigers, malaria and the forests. There was Ananthalvan, a strong and silent devotee in the gathering. He rose to his feet and prayed, " Beloved Acharya ! Bestow the blessing of serving the Lord of the Seven Hills on this humble self. With your grace, I will be happy to undertake this service." Ramanuja was mightily pleased and embracing Ananthalvan, declared before the congregation, " Ananthalvan, You are truly the man ( Aanpillai)."

Who is Ananthalvan ?

Ananthalvan was born as the son of Sri Kesavacharya of Bharadwaja Gothra in the year “Vijaya”, the 975th of the Sakha Era, 4154 years after Kali Yuga commenced, in the month of Chaitra on the day of Chithra Star at Sirupudur in Mysore and was named Anantharya.

He was taught the Vedas, Vedangas and Dhivyaprabandhams of Azhvars at the right age. On hearing about Sri Ramanuja he went to Srirangam. His samasrayanam was done by Sri Arulalaperumal Emperumanar who proclaimed that for them and for him the Acharya was always Ramanujar. Just as the Lord was born as Nara and Narayana, Adiseshan too was born as Ramanujar and Ananthazhvar as Acharya and Shishya.

Ananthalvan choose to settle down on the Hills in fulfillment of the command of the Guru and went on to lay the garden of flowers, dug up the lake and named it after Ramanuja. As a part of maintenance of a garden in the service of the Lord, Ananthazhwar was digging up earth, assisted by his pregnant wife. She got tired.The compassionate Lord could not contain himself. He assumed the form of a lad and assisted her in her service.Ananthalvar got angry and hit with a crowbar a young man who was trying to help his wife in laying the garden. Ananthalvan was chasing him when the young man disappeared into the temple. The priests found blood oozing from the chin of the Lord as Ananthalvan entered the sanctum sanctorum. He applied camphor on the chin and prayed for forgiveness. The crowbar can even today be seen at the entrance to the temple as a memento to the dedicated devotion of Ananthalvan. The camphor is distributed as prasad.{Sri padarenu}

One time Lord consider Anandhalvar as his guru and Ramanujar as Loka Guru and give a slokam

During the second visit up the Hills, Saint Ramanuja went round the garden laid down by Ananthasuri and was delighted to find the garden thick with vakula, patala, punnaga, shenbaga and other flower bearing fragrant trees, the bunches of flowers hanging from the branches, entertaining the ears of pilgrims with strains of music poured forth by bees and all kinds of plumaged birds. Saint Ramanuja remembered, how on the first occasion, he had given the call to Ananthasuri at the time of discourse on Nammalwar's hymns referring to the Lord as residing in flower bedecked Venkata Hills ( Sindhupoo maghizhum Thiruvengadam). He called Anantharya and declared in the august presence of Peria Thirumalai Nambigal, " O Anantharya ! Having nursed Thee, I now reap the fruit."

Anantha Suri was some sort of a chronicler. His Venkatchala Ithihasamala represents to Tirupati what Koil Olugu is to Srirangam. The Holy triumvirate of Saint Ramanuja, Ananthalvan and Peria Thirumalai Nambigal at a conference at the third visit of Ramanuja set up the Pedda Jeeyangar Mutt to regulate the vaikansa agama form of worship. The Saint began his SriBashya with an invocation to the Lord as Brahmani Srinivasa. This was a free Sanskrit rendering of Nammalwar's famous hymn addressing the Lord as "Alarmelmangai Urai Marba."

Epigraphs TT 171, 173 and 175 on the Tirumalai Hills show Ananthalvan's dedication to Saint Ramanuja. His word was gospel to him. Whatever was dear to Ramanuja was dearer to Ananthalvan. He prays to Ramanuja to bless him with the noble spirit to imbibe the teachings of Nammalwar. His devotion to Andal was so great that on one occasion he was seen diving deep down the Srivilliputtur temple tank to search for the remnants of holy turmeric if any used by Andal. He composed the Ramanuja Chautsloki showing how Srirangam, The Tirumalai Hills, Kanchi and Melkote were dear to Ramanuja. His Gotha Chatusloki is a work of great art, rich in lines whose depth of thought, warmth of feeling, glow of imagery and grace of phrases will ring for centuries in every land where the glory of Andal is cherished.

Bhattar, the successor to Saint Ramanuja at Srirangam, once sent a disciple to Ananthalvan to ascertain who a true Vaishnava was. Ananthalvan told the Brahmin from Srirangam, " A true Sri Vaishnavite is like a crane, like a cock, like salt. He will be like You." Bhattar later on explained the four different ideas of Ananthalvan. The Srivaishnava ignores ordinary mortals and awaits the arrival of a true Gnani so that he may surrender to that Mahatma through devotion to service. Not for him the different parts of the Vedas which are not always of universal appeal. Like the cock picking up the good grains from the chaff, the Vaishnava will swear by the Dravida Veda of Nammalwar. Just as the salt dissolves itself in food and becomes useful thereby, the Srivaishnava effaces himself in Bhagavath, Bhaagavatha and Acharya Kainkarya. Like the Brahmin from Srirangam, he is free of ego or arrogance, always humble and devoted to the Srivaishnava clan.

Ananthalvan's final sacred gift to the pilgrims visiting the Hills was the shrine for Ramanuja. The image was presented to Ananthalvan by Saint Ramanuja Himself on request and was consecrated after the Saint shuffled off his mortal coil. Consecration may be later in time but the image itself is more ancient than those in Sriperumbudur, Srirangam and Thirunarayanapuram.

Ananthalvan rebukes Nanjeeyar for taking to Sanyas. For him liberation is attained by service to the community. Indeed Ananthalvan advises his disciple Vaishnava Dasa to spend his wealth for the upliftment of the poor and the down trodden if he is to aspire for the grace of Lord Venkateswara.

Ananthalvan joined eternity with the Lord on the sacred Thiru Adi Pooram day. Even today, Lord Venkateswara visits the garden and bestows honours on the Magizha Tree.

The satari at the main sanctum sanctorum is known as Sadagopa in remembrance of Nammalwar. The one in the Ramanuja shrine is known as Ananthalvan.

The Vaishnava community always held religious beliefs as filling too vital a function in sustaining individual morality and morale and social order and control. Ananthalvan belonged to a different clime and a different age, but it was not blind faith but faith married to reason.

Inside the Tirupati Balaji Venkateshwara Temple

Garbha Griha

The Garbha Griha or sanctum is where the main deity of Lord Sri Venkateswara resides. The deity stands majestically in the Garbha Griha, directly beneath a gilt dome called the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana.

This exquisitely-wrought deity called the Mulaberam, is believed to be self-manifested, as there has been no known sculptor possessing the capability to sculpt deities so proportionately and beautifully. Further, no human being is known to have installed it in the shrine.

Ordinarily, the Lord wears a gold kiritam (crown) which has a large emerald embedded in front. On special occasions, he is adorned with a diamond kiritam.

On his forehead, the Lord has a thick double patch of up wrought namam (tilak) drawn with refined camphor, which screens his eyes. In between the two white patches is a kasturitilakam.

His ears are bedecked with shining golden makara kundalas. The fist of His raised right hind hand is implanted with a gem-set chakra, and the corresponding left fist with the sankha. The slightly outstretched front right hand, has its fingers pointing to His lotus feet, as the only recourse to His devotees to attain oneness with Him and enjoy eternal bliss. His front left hand is akimbo to assure His devotees of protection, and to show that the samsara sagara is only hip-deep if they seek His refuge.

His body is clothed with a pitambaram tied with gold string, and a gold belt to which are attached tiny, jingling gold bells. He is adorned with precious ornaments. He has a yajnopavita flowing down cross-wise from His left shoulder. He bears Sri Lakshmi Devi on His right chest and Sri Padmavathi Devi on His left chest. He bears Nagabharanam ornaments on both shoulders.

His lotus feet are covered with gold frames and decked with clinging gold anklets. A strong curved belt of gold encompasses his legs.

During Abhishekam, we can have darshan of Goddess Lakshmi.

The Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana was covered with gilt copper plates and surmounted with a golden vase, in the thirteenth century, during the reign of the Vijayanagara king, Yadava Raya.

Pilgrims are not allowed to enter the Garbha Gruha (beyond Kulasekara path)

Read more about this topic:  Venkateswara

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