Inside the Tirupati Balaji Temple Complex

Venkateswara Temple Complext, Tirupati india
...I spent the rest of the night leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. (This pic was taken before I moved in to the hall.)

It was 1 am when I reached Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh.  Tired of the long journey from Mahabalipuram via Kanchipuram I was planning to get off the bus and head toward the nearest hotel. God had different plans. I was surprised to see bustling crowds of devotees at that hour of night and shocked to learn that no room was available in the whole of the temple town. I spent the rest of the night along with my co-traveler leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. When the day broke we moved towards the temple hoping to get inside for darshan.

The richest temple of the world, formally known as Venkateswara temple, is hidden from the devotees until they pass some barriers. A glimpse of the roof of the temple could be seen from a small hilltop. Devotees wishing to go inside the temple have to pay Indian Rs. 300 so that they could stand in a queue that is supposed to have less people. But that priority queue appeared to be a couple of kilometres long, forget about the regular one that I guessed could have extended several kilometres more. We decided not to go for darshan.

As we were moving out of the temple complex we met a yogi, who sported long beards and was clad in a saffron outfit like most yogis. He was furious with the temple authorities for not letting him inside. “They say I have to pay money to enter temple,” he complained. “And I have problem with these South people. I don’t understand their language.”

The yogi belonged to Haridwar in north India and spoke Hindi and English. But many people in south India don’t speak Hindi. The security guards and some vendors on the street who the yogi had tried to talk to didn’t understand English as well. That had frustrated the yogi. Plus, he found the denial of entrance particularly insulting. The denial had hurt his yogic ego big time. “What are they trying to do here?” he asked. “Are these people running a temple or a business in the name of God? I have visited many temples in south India—Rameswaram, Meenaxi—but nobody stopped me at the gate. How can a yogi like me pay money to enter a temple?”

Without stopping a penniless yogi from entering, no temple can become the richest in the world, I thought.

Rameswaram: It was not the first time I was left to sleep on the street or on floor near a temple. It had happened two years ago too. Here’s the experience (the photos on this post were uploaded this week!).

[This entry is extracted from an article that first appeared in the Kathmandu Post recently.

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7 thoughts on “Inside the Tirupati Balaji Temple Complex

  1. Dinesh, I was in my teens when I went to visit the temple with my family. It was the same thing then, pay to get in line which was so long you couldn’t see the front. I was so dissappointed, I left with my sister and sat in the bus while my parents went in. There experience wasn’t that good either. The priests, apparently, hustle the devotees to move fast, giving them hardly any time for darshan. Somehow, these places lose their aura when money takes over the purpose of visiting a temple. I feel bad for the sadhu but maybe he was better off not visiting.

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    1. It may have to do with the huge crowds (look at India’s population of which majority is Hindu), I am not sure, but I have found many other Indian temples more commercial as well. I also don’t like the fact that some temple hold more importance than others thus attracting more devotees.

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  2. I remember those days when we were in India tour almost a decade back, which was supposed to be educational tour and later turned out to be a religious one! One of my friend actually paid 150Indian Rupees to enter in a priority queue in Kali temple in Kolkata. Later he found that, to get even closer to Kali at the end of the queue in the temple, they ask for more money. We were happy that we were not religious as he was!

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    1. I have had similar experience at Kali temple, Kolkata last year.

      I found [the temple] smaller than that of my imagination. Like many other Indian temples, there too, the priests (or pandas) were waiting to rip off devotees. I was shocked to see how a group of priests sat right at the front window of the temple blocking the view of the main idol. If paid, say Rs. 50, they would not just go aside but also push other devotees to clear the space so that the payer could have clear view of the idol. I didn’t pay but somehow stole the view.

      And at the Kamakhya temple, Assam, I saw the pandas looting (or waiting to loot) the illiterate devotees

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  3. Once my Mom and Dad went with my Cousin to visit Sangam at Allahabad, they were told by a person that he will take them to Triveni Sangam by Boat for some 50 odd Rupees. They agreed and went with him.

    When they reached Sangam some Pandas came on other Boat and started performing some kind of Pooja on their [Mom and Dad] behalf with Flowers, Nariyal, Milk and many things and in the end gulped 500 Rupees from them.

    Once Mahatma Gandhi visited Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi where he was very much offended by the Pandas there who loot common people and came back from Temple.

    When me and my Paternal Uncle went to Haridwar for Asthi Visarjan of my Grand Father we were surrounded by many Pandas to perform rituals, we selected one who charged 100 Rupee and after the ritual he asked money for Bhojan of Brahmin guys which was 50 Rupees per person and we paid for 3.

    I mean to say that whichever holy place you visit you will surely see someone waiting to loot you.

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  4. Hello, This is wonderful and amazing information provided by this site….it is not only informic but also discloses many facts which i never known before….thanks for this information….i would like to share important information to all viewers that there is a Balaji temple near buldhana district of Maharashtra state……this is the replica of Tirupati Balaji …..every god balaji lover must visit this wonderful temple….

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  5. I rode up to the temple here in 2003. At the bottom checkpost a (fat) policeman tapped my trousers with his cane and feeling a cigarette packet, fished them out and had them for himself! I do remember the road was fine and enjoyed a nice ride up to the temple.

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