A popular belief one hears when you say you want to visit the Tirupati Temple in Andhra Pradesh, India is – “Only when ‘HE’ calls for you, can you make it” – in the sense, making time to go there, have a good darshan(occasion of seeing a holy deity) and believe that you have been abundantly blessed by him.
Welcome to the Land of Lord Balaji aka Venkateswara!
In the past, Narayanan had mentioned a few times about making a trip to Tirupati but we never really gave it much thought until a few days ago. He mentioned yet again and I took that statement a tad bit more seriously than usual and told him that we are going this weekend, come what may.
What then enfolded was a weekend darshan – in one and a half days!
- From and To: Chennai Central (MAS) to Tirupati (TPTY)
- No: of Days: One and a Half days
- Mode of Travel: Train
- Duration of Travel in Train: Under 4 hours
- Cost of train ticket: Rs. Under 400 per person (Max)
- Place of Stay: Mayura Hotel
Reasons for choosing Mayura Hotel:
- We found a killer deal – Rs. 1500 plus taxes (usually it is Rs. 2500 plus taxes) for a double bedroom.
- Almost opposite the Tirupati Bus stand and less than 2kms from the Railway Station.
- 24 hours checkout
Cost of trip: Under Rs. 5000 for two people (travel, food, site seeing) for one and half days right from start to finish.
For general information, check this before your start to the Holy Land.
After reaching Tirupati station, we took an auto to the hotel for Rs. 30 (under 2 kms).
Tips on Darshan Tickets: Sometimes these hotels have tickets for the darshan; however the best thing to do would be to buy tickets online in advance. I’d recommend the Rs. 300/- tickets, and you can buy them from here. Scroll down to ‘E-Darshan Entry’ which clearly shows the availability of tickets for the dates you wish to go. If you decide to climb up the mountain, you can enter for free.
We decided to go on a Saturday which is a very busy and crowded day in Tirumala Hills, and all the Rs. 300 tickets were gone leaving us with no choice but to take the free ticket route. There are three ways to go under free category – climb uphill from Alipiri to Tirumala Hills, climb from Srivari Mettu to Tirumala Hills or take a bus, taxi, own transport etc to reach Tirumala directly.
Each of it, I hear, has different entrances. The ticket will clearly tell you what category you belong to. The ones who climb have their respective ticket counters on their way up while the ones who directly get to Tirumala Hills can seek the Information counter to find their entrance. These different entrances determine the time you get to spend in the queue. The Rs. 300 category and the people who climb up (special privilege) get to enter the sanctum sanctorum in a shorter time compared to the direct Free entry passes.
We chose to climb from Srivari Mettu – 2500 steps uphill to reach Tirumala, it’s shorter (in terms of distance and time) and an easy climb compared to the Alipiri route.
The foot of the seven hills in Tirupati has 3550 steps (approx 11 Km) before one reaches Tirumala Hills. Here’s a warning – the initial and the final leg is rather difficult as the steps are steep. Enroute one gets to see few temples, lots of food stalls to keep the energy level high and also the ticket counter.
This route is open 24 hours. But for a few places, the entire path is beautifully covered and has enough and more places for you to rest. When I went a few years back with a group of about 10, we took about four and a half hours to complete the climb.
Srivari Mettu Route
This is about 18Km+ from the main bus stand, railway station and is open only between 0600AM-0600PM. At the beginning of this footpath, you have small shops from where you can buy what is required as you don’t find any until Tirumala Hills. So stack up water, chocolates etc that can keep you going. This in comparison to Alipiri is an easier climb – around 6 Km stretch and the steps aren’t that steep.
Don’t miss the nice views of the town while climbing up 🙂
We started at about 5AM from our room, took an auto to drop us at Srivari Mettu for Rs. 250. Please negotiate if you can to get better deals. The locals told us about a temple where Lord Venketeswara got married called Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy temple in Srinivasa Mangapuram. Its is said that the first puja (prayer ritual performed by Hindus) is performed in this temple and then followed by the Tirumala Temple. It’s very good for married people (new&old) to visit and seek blessings for obvious reasons :D.
We had a wonderful darshan at about 0530AM in Srinivasa Mangapuram and proceeded in the same auto the Srivari Mettu. After the auto guy dropped us at Srivari Mettu, we started walking at 6AM, the weather was just fantastic! We took good amount of breaks, enjoyed the fresh air and chanted his name all along and managed to climb up in one and half hours.
Once we reached the Tirumala Hills, we headed straight to the ‘Luggage room’ to leave our backpack and mobile phones and got into our queue which leads us to a huge (cage sort of) room. Please note that mobile phones are strictly not allowed within the temple premises.
In this huge room, we were asked to collect the Tirupati Laddoo prasadam (Sacred food) tickets and wait for the gates to be open to get into another queue which will directly take us to the Sanctum Sanctorum. Those who want to buy additional laddoos can buy tickets here. You can choose to either buy 2 or 4, and we chose 4 each for Rs. 70. Those who climbed up got one extra, so that took our tally to 5 🙂
While we were waiting inside this huge room, they started serving milk, to our heart’s content. Our gates opened by around 9AM and so we missed the breakfast – which really didn’t matter as we were excited to finally see Him.
Get ready for nudges from all ends as you walk through this queue which is the most frustrating but at the same time a very usual phenomenon in Tirumala. After standing for long in this queue, having friendly chatter with strangers and trying not to get squished by people, we finally got to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The feeling one gets once as he/she enters the room is an experience each one can narrate differently. As it was really crowded, we headed over to the prasadam counter(usually variety rice like Sambar or curd rice) and walked to the Laddoo counters to collect our share. We finished all this by 11:15AM.
We collected our backpacks and mobile phones which was stored safely by the temple authorities. Not many people know that there are other places to visit in Tirumala Hills. Once we took our luggage, we began exploring the other side of Tirupati.
Share your experiences if you have seen these places too 🙂