Friday, May 22, 2015

513 Part 4 (NOT Final) of Tirumala Venkateswara, Vitthala , Vireswara भाग ४ तिरुमल श्री वेंकटेश्वर, विठ्ठल (पंधरपूर) और वीरेश्वर భాగం ౪ (ఆఖరు కాదు) శ్రీ వేంకటేశ్వర, విఠ్ఠల, వీరేశ్వర, భక్తవత్సల

Clarification: I am not a Christian Missionary. I am not here to convert people. As a matter of fact, I am against conversion of ignorant people from one religion to another, or from one sub-religion/culture to another sub-religion/culture.   Ours is a pluralist society, where we have to explore truth, within the confines of our limits, without hurting others.

If anybody feels, I have not provided correct information, or made a wrong or biased analyses, they are welcome to correct me by writing comments. I shall reply, to the best of my ability.

ఇంతకు ముందు వ్రాసిన మొదటి మూడు భాగాలకు లింకులు

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4, final part: This post.

The relationship among the names of the deities Venkateswara, Vitthala, Veerabhadra (Veereswara) needs a close investigative study. Vijayanagara kings seem to have encouraged all the three Gods in temple complexes. Lepakshi Vitthal Temple is the best example for this type of combination of Gods.

Tirumala-Tirupati, according to my initial survey, appears to be a pastoral temple, i.e. a temple worshipped by cowherds-shepherds.

We shall take for a sample, this Wikipedia description of the "worship-services (sEvAs) at the temple. Link for those who wish to study the entire webpage: Click

Early in the morning, usually at around 2 AM, The 'sannidhi- golla ' (cowherd) will go to the residence of the archakas on the north side of Swami Pushkarini, the temple tank. The golla escorts the priests who have been allotted the duty in the sanctum sanctorum that day. The archaka would have by that time had his morning bath, completed his nitya-karmas, including worship of his own deity. He will then offer obeisance the key of the sanctum and proceed to the temple holding the key on his head, accompanied by paricharakas, temple paraphernalia and music of drums, bugles and horns. The ' golla ' will be holding a fireband in his hand, and when the priest has reached the main entrance of the temple. The cowherd would go back and bring the Jiyyangar or his representative, the Ekangin to the temple. The Jiyyangar or Ekangi will come carrying on their head a box, which contains one key (duplicate) and seals which establish their administrative right over the temple.

Meantime, the temple administration representative would have come there with one key. The system is triplicate lock system with archaka, Jiyyangar and temple authorities having one key each. The archaka will first symbolically place his key in the hand of the Dvarapalaka on the right of the Bangaru Vakili. The priest will do pranama to dvarapalakas near the Bangaru Vakili. Then he will take the key from the dvarapalaka and seal is broken and the doors of golden vakili will be opened by Sannidhi golla uttering suitable mantras by archakas. The 'golla' will go first in to the Sanctum Santorum and will have first Dharshan, then paricaraka, jeeyar & archaka will go in and a curtain is drawn over the entrance. The golla will light the oil lamps inside the sanctum, while the priests replace the idol of Bhoga Srinivasa who acted as Sayana bera, the idol who slept, the previous night. He would have been ceremonially put to sleep on an ivory bed, with a velvet mattress during Ekantaseva. He will be lifted from that cot and will be taken back to the sanctum to rest near the feet of the Dhruvabera on the left side. That place is known as Kautuka-sthana. The height of the icon gifted by Samarai, the Pallava Princess does not reach even the anklet of the Dhruvabera. But all worship in the sanctum is done to this idol. The cot and the mattress are removed to a room called Sabera, the Lord's closet, on the northern side of the Sanctum opposite the Hundi, after the recitation of Suprabhatam is completed.

Bangaru Vakili is a Telugu word which means 'golden doorway'. Here the two doors are massive and gilt with gold. One should not miss studying these two doors in detail as they depict rare forms of Vishnu, conforming to the Agamas. On one door all the ten avataras (incarnations) of the Lord are depicted. The other door depicts the Para, Vyuha and Vibhava deities viz. Kesava, Narayana, Madhava and so on. Meantime in the Mukha mantapa the devotees for the Suprabhata seva would have assembled. There will be priests outside who will start reciting suprabhatam, stotra, prapatti. Mangalasasana verses composed by Sri Prativadibhayankaram Annan. While inside the Bangaru Vakili the antarala the golla with his fireband (torch) would have lighted all the lamps. The ekangin would have lighted the Brahmakhanda and sara lamps.

The bold lettered word 'golla' = shepherd-cowherd. The above extract clearly shows that the cowherd is given paramount role, in the opening of the temple doors every morning, and in the commencement of the temple schedule. This cannot be without a strong reason.

Probable reason:

Ramanuja Vaishnavas might have taken possession of the temple, with the decree of Vijayanagara King Bukka Raya (See my post on Part 2), the pact called "Bukka Raya Pact" (Telugu: Bukka raya Sandhi).

Vijayanagara kings themselves had a pastoral cowherd/shepherd origin. They might have had a Yadava origin. Or a Kuruba/golla/kuruma origin. The shepherds/cowherds of Tirupati-Bellari-Rayachur-Pandharpur area (in other words the river valleys of Krishna, Tungabhadra, Bhima) have worshipped Veerabhadra an incarnation of Lord Shiva (also called Veereswara, Beerappa, Biroba, to some extent Khandoba).

The gradual transformation of the cowherds/shepherds/boyas-palegars of the area from Siva worship to VishNu worship, to keep in line with the Hoyasala and Vijayanagara Kings, is itself a great saga of evolution of sub-religions in South India.

Vijayanagara Kings realised that there was an imperative need to combine Shiva and Vishnu, so as to fight against the invading Delhi Sultans, Bahamanies and Moghuls. Vijayanagar King's Name "Harihara Raya" is one example of this desire. Vijayanagara kings protected Sravana Belagola Bahubali, provided general protection to jains, and seem to have obtained an exchange of Tirumala Temple from Jains, for use by Ramanuja and his Jiyyars.

In the process, the two handed, one hand on hip, idol of Beerappa (Virabhadra) of the cowherds, was not allowed to be disturbed. The cowherds were also given a due recognition of their sacrifice of their temple, by being made "sannidhi golla" person to open the temple everyday.

But for the probable instruction of Vijayanagara Kings, the priests might have replaced the two-handed Viroba idol with a new four-handed conch-disc wielding VishNu, without serpant ornaments. There might not have been a need to cover the third eye of Veerabhadra with large white marks of VishNu on the forehead of Venkateswara. The Priests and the Jiyyars might have minimised the participation of gollas, in the daily morning opening ceremonies of the temple.

The use of chants of "Govinda" (Cowherd or Cow-protector, an invocation to Lord Krishna), also might have been an addition emphasise the importance given to the cowherds. Of course, there is a woven story of Srinivasa being given cow's milk when he was biding time in a snake-pit-hill. But that story does not stand reason.

These were my initial thoughts, even now they predominate my thinking.

In the quotation given above, the temple services give excess importance to "Jiyyars", whereas the temple reflects a pluralist integrated picture of four or more traditions Buddha-Jaina-cowherd-Saiva-Vaikhanasa VaishNava-Pancharatra (Ramanuja-Jiyyar) VaishNava.

Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa are two participants in this multi-cultural temple, but they cannot try to obliterate others gradually.  Govt. of Andhra Pradesh ought try to maintain a delicate balance among these multi-cultures.  Instead, it seems to be  more interested in making TTD a political azylum for post-seekers and even liquor merchants!

Government should concentrate more on making the Temple accessible to everybody right from the poorest-of-the-poor in the society to the rex. We see the Governor of Andhra Pradesh visiting the temple more than 38 times, some times more than twice a day, resulting in unavoidable inconvenience to the ordinary pilgrims.

The Vitthala temple complex at Lepakshi (Anantapuram District), to the best of my knowledge, contains all the three Gods, in the same premises, or in the surroundings. The temple was said to have been built by a lieutenant of Vijayanagara Kings. He was originally said to be a Veerappa (Birappa or Biroba) devotee, who had to change to Vitthala-Krishna wing, without parting with his pastoral god "Veerappa".

Question: What may be the difference among idols of Shri Venkateswara, Veerabhadra, Veereswara, Viroba and Vitthal (Panduranga)?

Ans: Shri Venkateswara idol at Tirumala is apparently not having four hands. But Veerabhadra idols all over India, mostly have four hands, in line with the Indian formal Gods, having more than two hands (they have to kill enemies). Veereswara seems to be midway between Veerabhadra and Viroba (Biroba). Viroba, Biroba and Vitthala (Pandu Ranga of Pandharpur) have two hands only. This is because, they are pastoral Gods of cowherds.

I still had a hunch that the idol of the mulavar (main deity) of Lord Shri Venkateswara, might not have been the original idol(s) worshipped by Jains, Buddhists, Veerabhadra Saivaites, local cowherds, and the Beerappa-Biroba of Karnataka-Maharashtra right upto the Vitthala of Pandharpur.  It might have been substituted by a VaishNava idol during the Bukka period itself.

Some videos are available on the U-tube, claiming to show the bathing and dressing of the Original deity of Tirumala Venkateswara, saying that they were extracted from a Video released by TTD in 1970's. Initially, I was suspicious that they were made by fly-by-night operators to maximise views and visitors, and thought that they might have been amply tampered with to suit their needs. Yet, I wanted to have a look at them, howsoever, restitched they may be. I selected a very short video of one minute, as my mobile net connection cannot endure the strain of receiving larger streams.

I am giving a link to one such video. But I am not recommending it as a perfect evidence for our readers or asking them to believe whatever the video purported to show. Click

This black & white video seems to have three stages. 1. While water was being poured on the idol. It appeared to me like Murugan / or a female Goddess idol. Though the conch and disc were visible in bright white color, I felt that it was a silver/gold plated silver attachment, which might not have been removed, or which might have been fixed on two small bulges on the stone idol.

2. The second stage frames contain an added white cotton garment covering the waist, chest across from left to right. There is also a white crown. The lean, downward stretched hands didn't apparently contain any serpant jewels. The lean person looked like a male religious preacher.

3. Then, the frames move quickly into the third vision, a black and white image of the God with all decorations. Suddenly, the idol becomes tall, head also becomes bigger.

It became very difficult for me to make any meaningful deduction as to whether it was Jain / Buddhist / Murugan / Devi / Veerabhadra / cowherd pastoral God / VaishNavaite.

Bewildered, then I went for another Google search of images of God's idols in India, for any idol which closely resemble the idol of Tirumala Venkateswara mulavar (principal deity). At last, I could fall upon a Vishnu Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, with name "Bhaktavatsalam Perumal Temple". Here is the website which contains a photo of the idol in Bhaktavatasalam Perumal. Click

I owe my sincere thanks to Mr. Jaideep Prabhu, who uploaded the photo, together with an explanatory note, about architecture and the sculpture of the temple -- for giving me a temporary respite from the inner turmoil I am going through about Shri Venkateswara.

The Bhaktavatsala perumal's idol is very lean, hands almost similar to the position of hands of Lord Venkateswara in the video. The only difference seems to be Conch and Disc. The Madurai idol has the conch & disc., while Venkateswara's idol does not appear to have. A perusal of the videos in circulation on the U Tube show one lean image of Lord with a cotton garment with no garlands, gold chains, numerous ornaments studded with gems, etc. This Video, and the  BhaktaVatsala Perumal's image by and large agree.

One thing has become clear from the above comparison. The current Venkateswara idol prima facie belongs to the VaishNava culture, in spite of not having conch and Disc. The idol might have been brought from Srirangam / Madurai area by Shri Ramanuja to Tirupati, in an incomplete stage of completion by a sculpture of South Tamil Nadu, owing to some urgency and compulsion. More evidence is needed to support this hypothesis, but we may not rule it down altogether at this stage. The prior existing idols/deities belonging to Jain /Buddhist / Saiva-Veerabhadra-Veereswara / Viroba-Biroba-Vitthala / cowherd cultures might have been moved to some other temples nearby, and smaller temples might have been built there.

Will Marxism (in your fantasy "Complete Socialism") close all temples, if Complete Socialism is implemented?

Ans: It is an ideal situation, and ideal solution.   But it will not happen, because people are gullible. People live on desires, ambitions and even greed. People live on apprehensions, fears, sometimes extending upto panick.

First,   people need a paradigm shift in their intellect (mEdha and buddhi) and analytical powers (viSlEshaNA Sakti). Either people have to learn these on their own, or somebody has to assist them, patiently, without forcing them.

Humans behaviors are peculiar, and often inexplicable. People accept many things on their own quite voluntarily without anybody prodding them, provided they believe that by going for a change they will benefit. Purchase of mobile phones, bikes, chudidars in the place of cumbersome sarees, haircuts, shaving, come under this category. (To be continued. Incomplete, as this blog post is becoming very lengthy).

Last but not the least, whether proper or improper, I shall write some personal experiences and views, as conclusive remarks:

ybrao-a-donkey's humble perceptions वैबीराव गधे के विनम्र अनुशीलनाएँ और भावनाएँ వైబీరావు గాడిద వినమ్ర అభిప్రాయాలు

I started this -Part 1 to Part 4- posts on Tirumala Venkateswara, when I had a trigger while thinking about KCR replacing Potti Sriramulu's name for Telugu University with Suravaram Pratapa Reddy's name, as if TRS Government is not going to start any new institution in Telangana in the near future.

Apart from Suravaram Pratapa Reddy's book "Social History of Andhras", I was deeply influenced by Alex Haley's breath-taking hair-rising book "Roots" which had its theme in an African-American trying to trace his origins four centuries back by visiting Africa.

While reading Haley's book "Roots" in 1982 August  on a midday, when a historic full solar eclipse took place, I had an idea that I should also investigate about my ancestors who lived during Vijayanagara period, Srinatha Potana period etc.   In Late Suravaram's book, I could catch hold of a verse of Srinatha, which somewhat gives an impression about my ancestors. About this, I shall write separately. This blog post is becoming lengthy.

As far as relevant to Tirumala Venkateswara and Veerabhadra, Gurappa, we shall discuss now, something autobiographical:--

In our clan (ybrao-a-donkey's clan), every generation, at least one male progeny had name of Venkateswara (or its equivalent), female progeny had name of Padmavathi or Manga tAyAru.

In 1963-64, weddings of my younger paternal uncles took place. Immediately after the ceremony, in the pendal, two of my relatives had God Venkateswara on their bodies (a sort of auto-speaking), and reminded them about performing "Veerabhadra paLLems" and "Gurappa PongaLLu", which was a customary tradition of our clan, during marriages, but ignored by my parental generation.

Immediately, those present there, broke some coconuts to God Venkateswara and God Veerabhadra, lighting some incense sticks, performing some camphor hArati, and pacified the sufferers. Thinking that a mistake was made during the marriage, my grand-father, father and uncles arranged for the Veerabhadra worship and Gurappa worship.

I was studying IX standard at that time.

These Veerabhadra paLLems involved worship of Lord Veerabhadra, with great devotion, the customs including piercing cheeks with knives, tread-ing with nail-bearing footwear, walking on fire etc., singing songs of glory of the God. Gurappa Pongals involved preparation of some special foods for Lord Gurappa, it also involved some bhajan worship procedures. I am unable to recollect.

I was keenly interested in history, during my student days, my mind always revolving around Sri Krishna Deva Raya, Durga Das of Rajasthan, Sambhaji (Sivaji's son), Tanisha et al. What gave me my greatest wonder for several months was, what was the connection between Venkateswara and Veerabhadra. Answer, I could find after about 50 years in 2015.

Another experience
My marriage was held in 1975. No Veerabhadra pallem and Gurappa pongali worship were performed. I was not an atheist at that time, but there were some doubts lingering within my mind, about God and his-her existence. My wife who was a staunch devotee of Sri Venkateswara at that time 1975, and even now in 2015, requested for a visit, with wedding clothes, to Jamalapuram Venkateswara Temple, in Khammam District, Telangana State*, before starting a new life.

In our clan, it is a custom, to make bride and bride grom to "fast" on the night previous to marriage. Our marriage was held at midnight (Night marriages is a bane in A.P.).   Hungry and sleepless, I was very tired. Yet, there was no alternative, we had to go to Jamalapuram.

This place is very near even to Vijayawada on Bza-Kazipet line after Kondapalli Station, we have to alight at Errupalem Station and catch an auto to North-East, 15 km. This temple is on a very small hilluck. We climbed the stairs. As soon as we entered the temple, inexplicably, I had a hysteric-stance, and mumbled something which they could not understand. As usual, they broke a coconut, lighted incense sticks, burnt camphor hArati. I was pacified.

Next few months, I spent on recollecting what could have/might have happened to me on the hillock in Jamalapuram. I came to a conclusion, that as I was physically and mentally tired, some mumbling might have taken place owing to some emotional disequilibrium.

Around 1983, I took my family to Tirupati-Tirumala. By that time, I became an atheist. But my wife wanted tonsuring of my children to take place at Tirumala. As a part of accommodative pluralism, I took them to Tirumala. At that time, when I entered the sanctum sanctorum of Tirumala Venkateswara, I tried to consciously gauge what was happening to me. Nothing was felt. The deity appeared to me like a material object. (In my 1973 circa visit to Tirumala, I had felt some subliminal divine experience). In 1973, 1983 also, TTD staff used to push people in the queue to move ahead, but push not as vigorously as probably in 2015.

Viewed retrospectively, my analyses: In 1973 I had some divine experience because probably I had faith in the deity, probably there was some strong smell of incenses being burnt, there were Govinda Govinda words everywhere around.

Many times I accompanied my wife and children to temples, and used to be present when they prayed God/Goddesses, though I myself did n't pray. I used to watch them, and the priests.

 "My not folding hands" annoyed the priests, and on the advice of my family members, I started acting like a customary devotee, moving my lips with folded hands, take tulasi/bilva water with reverence.

But one unfortunate day, some years back, before the temple's reconstruction, at Annavaram Satyanarayana Swamy Temple, I found a priest at a sub-temple in the premises, putting something in his loin-cloth and moving out in a suspicious manner.   He was sure that others were not watching him.  There were no CC cameras in those days.  But he forgot to remember that, his own employer Lord Annavaram Satyanarayana Swami, was watching him.

From that day, I stopped entering into Temples, even when I accompany my relatives. I take them only upto a certain point and send them inside, wait till they come back.

Around 2012, I was asked by my father to take him to Lord Jamalapuram Venkateswara.   As there was nobody else to take him there, quite unwillingly, I took him there. At the entry ticket purchase counter, when enquired the rate, I was told to pay Rs. 40 for 2 tickets, @Rs.20/- per ticket, which was quite high. Anyway, as I do not go deep into temples, I bought one ticket only and sent my father inside.

The booking clerk there, I do now know why, changed his mind, and said: "I shall allow you to inside freely without buying ticket. Pl. go inside."

I did not want to go FREE, without buying ticket.

Seeing my unwillingness, he said: "Why are you not going? Are you a Christian Missionary?"

Then I said: "God, if at all he exists, is said to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent (भगवान, निर्वचन के अनुसार, अगर रहे तो, वे, सर्वांतर्यामी, सर्व ज्ञानी, स्रव शक्तिशाली, है)(దేవుడు అనేవాడు నిర్వచనం ప్రకారం ఉంటే సర్వాంతర్యామి, సర్వ జ్ఞాని, సర్వ శక్తిశాలి). If I apply my mind, he will appear on the screen of my mind, whether I pray from here, or pray from inside your temple."

To clear his doubt that I might have been a Christian Missionary, I purchased a ticket of Rs. 20/-, and climbed the stairs, and went to join my father.

This time, I saw the idol of the God Venkateswara in an inquisitive manner. There were no divine experiences. If I happen to go to Jamalapuram again, I shall study whether the sculpture of the main deity or other deities, have any resemblances to Veerabhadra. I believe that the principal idol of the temple might have been changed during the renovation (नवीकरण, పునర్ నిర్మాణం) of the temple.

I got the marriages of my sons performed as per Hindu customs, as desired by my sons, with a condition that my part will be very limited, like a guest artist in a film. I did not tell them about the custom of Veerabhadra Pallems and Gurappa Pongalis, in our clan. They went to Tirumala and Jamalapuram many times. To know whether they had divine experiences or not, I believe, is not my business to enquire.

Were these people Saivas? VaishNavas? Jains? Buddhists? Sanatana dharm-ists? Christians? Muslims? They are the most ancient dwellers of the ancient India.

To be re-written correcting errors. संसकरण करने का है। తప్పులు దిద్దుతూ తిరగ వ్రాయాలి.

Links to Previous parts, succeeding parts of this particular subject

Part 1:Click to go to Post 508
Part 2:Click to go to post 511
Part 3:Click to go to post 512
Part 4:Click to go to post 513
Part 5:Click to go to post 584
Part 6:Click to go to post 597
Part 7:
Part 8:
Part 9:
Part 10: (To continue).


  1. This is a fascinating series on the diety of Tirupati. I read on the internet the presentation of gifts by Srikrishna Deva Raya to Lord Venkateswara when he visited Tirupati. A copy of the dedication shown in a photo refers to main diety as Vengalappa. I found this detail interesting.

    Another point I want to make, you have listed possible links the temple might have to different sub-sects/religions - Buddha-Jaina-cowherd-Saiva-Vaikhanasa VaishNava-Pancharatra (Ramanuja-Jiyyar) VaishNava. The present diety is supposed to have a muslim wife - a consort standing next to him. I would like to read your interpretaion of that episode.

    With regards,
    P. Rao

  2. Dear Shri Rao garu: త్వరలో జవాబిస్తాను. మీరు భాగం ౫ చదివారని భావిస్తున్నాను. ఐనా ఎందుకైనా మంచిదని, ఈపోస్టులో పైన భాగం ౫ కి లింకు ఇస్తున్నాను. I shall try to reply to your questions shortly. I have another five parts two write. I hope you have read Part 5 also. However, I am giving links for all the five parts in the above blog post. Thank You. --ybrao-a-donkey.

  3. Thanks for the additional links. And thanks for running a progrressive blog. It is such a rare thing these days. I look forward to reading your future posts. With good wishes.


ఘోరమైన విమర్శలకు కూడ స్వాగతం, జవాబులు ఇవ్వబడతాయి. Harsh Criticism is also welcome.