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Holy branch

Kavitha Srinivasa 

Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati has many devotees in Bangalore. So his temple trust has built the god a home in the city. Kavitha Srinivasa pays a visit.

Every time Vijay Mallya buys a new aeroplane for his Kingfisher Airlines he sends it to take a flying circuit of the Tirumala Temple at Tirupati in Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh, to seek the blessings of Lord Venkateswara. Aviation is a risky business and Mallya wants to leave nothing to chance. He need not burn expensive jet fuel to send his planes to Tirupati, which is 248 km from Bangalore, now that Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has set up premises in the city.

Tirupati is visited by 60,000 devotees every day, which makes it one of the most visited places of pilgrimage in the world. Many devotees come from Bangalore, hence the new centre in Bangalore. This is the first temple of the TTD Trust outside Andhra Pradesh. The temple came about because, says P Shyamaraju, the president of the trust’s local advisory committee, the number of devotees in Bangalore booking e-tickets for the various services at Tirupati has significantly increased over time. It was decided to offer the same services at a replica of the Tirupati temple in Vyalikaval, a suburb of Bangalore.

And it has worked well, so far. All the slots for Kalyanotsavam (a weekly prayer to celebrate the marriage of Lord Venkateswara with goddesses Sridevi and Bhudevi, auspicious for couples) at the temple are booked till November. For the forthcoming Vaikunta Ekadashi (a day when prayers offered to Lord Venkateswara “ensure that the gates to heaven will stay open when the soul leaves the physical body”), which falls on January 5, 2012, the temple is expected to attract 150,000 pilgrims. About 100,000 devotees are expected to visit the temple on January 1. Every Saturday, considered auspicious for the deity, the temple sells over 10,000 laddus that are transported from Tirupati. (The grant of Geographical Indicator status to the Tirupati laddu in 2009 was controversial, as some believers felt it amounted to commercialisation of religion.)

Given the size of the response, it is no surprise that the hundi (cash box) collection here is about Rs 15 lakh every month — small when compared to the Rs 2.25 crore a day in Tirupati, but not insignificant. The temple now gets 5,000 devotees a day.

The spiritual, historical and architectural significance of Tirupati has been recreated in Bangalore. Spread over 41,000 sq ft, the temple was built under the guidance of the temple architects and sthapatis or sculptors of Tirupati, according to the Agama Shastra (a norm followed during the making of deities, consecrating it and performing puja). “The temple has been constructed at the cost of Rs 12 crore in less than two years and carries forth the spirit of Tirupati. The idols which are stone replicas of those in Tirupati have been sculpted at their Shilpa Kendra,” says T Murali

Krishna, in-charge of the information wing of the temple, while offering a tour of the temple.

Unlike many temples that are honeycombed with passages, the proportions are well laid out here.

A pair of elephants carved from stone greets you at the entrance of the stairway. The shrines of Ganesha Swamy Varu and Sita Rama Lakshmana on the left side and those of Anjaneya Swamy Varu and Radha Krishna on the right punctuate the ascent.

As women are not customarily allowed into the potu or kitchen, a hurried tour through the basement kitchen suggests a place frozen in time. The kitchen may be new, but it takes one back to the era of all-manual operations in temple kitchens. This is where anna (rice) prasadam is made. It is offered first to the deity and then distributed to devotees. The compact kitchen springs into action early in the morning, and two cooks make 18-20 kg of rice preparations through the day. The food has a distinct aroma, marked by the absence of vegetables, red chillies, curry leaves and sunflower oil. Instead, most preparations are garnished with fresh ghee, except for puliyogare which is tempered with gingelly oil.

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First Published: Sat, September 10 2011. 00:48 IST