We might have often heard the saying that “you go to a place when the place calls you!”, this was true for me in case of Tirupati. About two years ago, when I had planned the trip to Tirupati with family, viral-fever had appeared as Murphy’s Law and made me cancel my trip. Now after two years, I had got a chance again and my preparations had started well in advance. The first thing about the Tirupati trip is to make sure you can visit the Balaji (Venkateswara) temple located at Tirumala hills. One needs to either book the special entry tickets in advance through online booking or climb the steps uphill(more information on this later) to join the special queue called Divya-Darshana, or simply join the big queue for free darshan(visit) at the entrance of the temple.
Since this was my first visit, Venkatesh helped me with all my FAQs. My tickets for the temple visit was scheduled for 2 PM to accommodate for any unplanned circumstances. Though I could directly go with that ticket, the thought of trying to reach the temple by footsteps had thrilled me. There were two ways to go by steps namely Alipiri and Srivari. The former has about 3550 steps and latter has 2388. Despite having had all the energy and excitement, Srivari Mettu (steps) was my choice for this visit. Based on Venkatesh’s suggestion, I opted to travel by train instead of the bus. This had worked out economically and cost me just ₹450 for travel. The return journey had a confirmed ticket and rest of my days till 9th August went in waiting for the onward ticket to get confirmed from RAC55.
Journey to Tirumala Hills
After all the requests from co-passengers to exchange the seats, I had managed to get a lower-birth and slept peacefully unaware of the total change of plans I need to face the next day. 5 AM in the morning, the phone rang soon after my regular Alarm. It was a wake-up call from my mom who also asked me to skip my plans of going at 2 PM slot. She suggested me to finish the darshan as soon I as complete climbing the steps. There were announcements that the darshan for the next 6 days would be canceled due to some ceremony at the temple. The train was still about 20 KM away from Tirupati and I had to rework on all the plans.
Since I had to visit the temple directly, I had to manage to take bath at the railway station leaving my bag outside without anyone to have an eye on it. Luckily things were safe at the station and even the bathrooms were moderately clean.
The Srivari steps are located in a village called Srinivasamangapuram about 26 KM from Tirupati railway station and can be reached from a direct city bus. The journey was a bit slow and the bus took about an hour to reach. I was at the starting point at around 7:45 AM totally excited to reach the top by foot.
First, few hundred steps went smooth and then the tiredness kicked in. To add to that, the speakers were announcing that the darshan is suspended till 16th August, making me totally confused about what do I do once I reach the top. There were no tickets given for the people climbing footsteps on that day and my only hope was the 2 PM slot I had reserved. It took me about 75 minutes to climb 2388 steps.
There was a sense of accomplishment when I reached the top, thanks to all vendors of water, nimbu-sharbat, fruits who boosted my energy throughout. I had to now choose between either joining the rest of my team members who had arrived from my hometown the previous day or to go ahead and complete darshan from the free darshan (also called as Sarva-darshan) queue.
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
A volunteer there suggested me to go ahead with the Sarva-darshan since there were fewer people that day and asked me to deposit my backpack while I complete the darshan. Thanks to Zingaro, I could stuff all my belonging in a single bag including my footwear. As I went ahead in the queue, I had realized my mistake. The Sarva-darshan depends on the time-slot and mine was allotted for 9 PM. All my belongings including my cell phone were deposited in the luggage counter and the only thing I could possibly do was to exit from the queue and wait in the luggage collection counter for them to arrive. It took about an hour for the luggage to transfer to the collection counter and the volunteer there was kind enough to inform me as soon as they arrived. I had made up my mind to not have any more adventures for the day and to go ahead with the 2 PM slot since the same was still available. I was allowed to enter the queue from the special ticket entry an hour earlier. The time flew quickly as we moved ahead in the queue chanting “Govinda Govinda”. All the stress from the day vanished when I saw the Idol of god Venkateswara. It was a mixed emotion of happiness and relief to be at that moment after two long years of wait. As the saying goes “Right place at the right time”, the darshan was smooth with lesser crowd due to the ceremony in the temple.
Thanks to Kashi Mutt Tirumala, I could have a peaceful stay for two days at a walkable distance from the Venkateswara temple. Nothing can be more exciting than finding homely food in an unknown town while you try to figure out things. There are very few private hotels in Tirumala. The accommodation is provided mostly by Mutts which are managed by various communities. There is also a guest house managed by the Tirumala Temple which can be booked from their official website. Temple had restrictions on carrying mobile phones and I had to capture the moments in my brain instead of a 32GB card in my phone most of the time. There are also strict guidelines on attire to enter the temple.
On the second day evening, we descended from Tirumala to visit Padmavati temple. Goddess Padmavati is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi who was married to Lord Venkateswara. The Padmavati temple is smaller compared to the Venkateswara temple but has the same glory. The visit to Tirumala temple is incomplete without the darshan of Padmavati. We got lucky again due to the lesser crowd and managed to complete the darshan within few minutes.
I bid adieu to my team after we had a quick visit to the temple in Srinivasamangapura where I had started ascending my steps. I was an hour early to the station and waiting for the train was more tiring than climbings the steps to hills. I had finally accomplished the long pending dream.
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