Category Archives: Tirupati

Akasha Ganga of Tirumala!

Tirumala Nambi was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He was also known as Sri Sailapurna. He was highly learned in all the scriptures and was one of the Gurus of Sri Ramanujacharya, apart from being his maternal uncle. It was he who introduced the Ramayana and elaborated the concept of “sharanagati” (surrender) to Ramanujacharya. 
He offered his services to the Lord of the seven hills by bringing water every day from Pushkarini which is about eight kilometres down the hills for the Lord’s abhisheka. Even though he was quite old, regardless of that, every day all alone he would trek down the forest without any fear of wild animals and carry a pitcher of water for the abhisheka. The seva is known as “teertha kainkaryam“. The Lord was happy with his unique and devoted service and decided to bless and help him. 

One day when Nambi was carrying water from Pushkarini up the hill, the Lord came to him in the guise of a hunter-boy. The boy stopped Nambi enroute and said, “Thatha (grandpa) I am very thirsty, please give me some water to drink”. Nambi was struck by the charm of the boy but politely refused to give him water. He said that he was carrying water for the Lord’s abhisheka daily without any break and he did not want any hurdles to the seva. Also Nambi told the boy that if he gave him water he would have to go down all the way to collect it again and that was not possible because he was too old. On the other hand, the boy was young enough to run down to Pushkarini and drink as much water as he wanted. 

Thus, having told the hunter-boy, Nambi started walking uphill. The boy slowly walked behind Nambi and hurled a stone at the pot of water. The pot cracked and all the water flowed out which the boy delightfully drank. Nambi was very sad. He would have to walk back, pick up another pot and then carry the water for the Lord. He was too exhausted and expressed his helplessness. The boy smiled and told Nambi that he did not have to go all the way down to collect the water for the Lord but right there very close to the temple he would provide an alternative for him. As Nambi stood and watched in surprise, the divine hunter-boy released an arrow from his bow. It struck the top of the cliff where they were standing and lo! water started to gush down from the top of the cliff. Nambi knew that this was no ordinary hunter-boy, but the Lord himself come down to help him. He prayed to the Lord to reveal his true form. The Lord stood in front of Nambi in all his pristine glory and told Nambi that this water-fall would be known as “Akasha Ganga” and henceforth the waters from Akasha Ganga would be used for the abhisheka. 

Nambi continued his “teertha kainkaryam” and also introduced other forms of seva like thomala seva, tirumanjanam, vedaparayanam, mantrapushpa kainkaryam etc., for the Lord which earned for him the title “Acharya Purusha” of the temple. Since the Lord had addressed him as “thatha” he is also known as “Thathacharya”. Even to this day, it is the privilege of the descendants of Tirumala Nambi to offer all these sevas started by him to Lord Venkateshwara.

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King Kulashekara

Kulashekara Alwar and Lord Venkateshwara

King Kulashekara belonged to the Chera dynasty. Being a very powerful warrior he soon had the Pandya and Chola regions also under his control. He was a very virtuous and just king and endeared himself to his subjects. He was spiritually inclined and was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Lord Vishnu’s padukas adorned King Kulashekara’s crown known as Cheramudi. He longed to visit Srirangam and he also urged people of his kingdom to visit the holy city of Srirangam. As a reminder, every day there would be an announcement of a yatra to Srirangam on the streets of his kingdom. Knowing the king’s strong spiritual roots, the ministers used to arrange for kirtans and readings of the Ramayana in the palace and thus prevented the king from undertaking the pilgrimage to Srirangam. 

However, the king started spending more time with the Vaishnava saints and devotees. This irked the ministers and therefore they devised a plan to stop the holy men from coming to the palace. They hid some of the ornaments of the royal deity worshipped by the king and told him that the ornaments had been stolen. They charged the vaishnava devotees of theft. Kulashekar refused to believe that the Lord’s devotees had stolen the ornaments. He decided to go through a test on behalf of the vaishnavites and prove that there were innocent. He asked for a vessel with a poisonous cobra inside it. The king put his hand into the vessel and proclaimed to everyone present that if the vaishnavites were innocent, nothing would happen to him. Sure enough he retrieved his hand from the vessel safely. The poisonous cobra had not harmed him in the least. The ministers were stunned and shocked and revealed the truth to the king. 

King Kulashekar was very unhappy and disturbed that the Lord’s devotees had been falsely charged with theft. Already a renunciate within, he decided to hand over the kingdom to his son and leave for Srirangam. King Kulashekar was considered as one amongst the Alwars. He composed beautiful verses in praise of the Lord and it is said that the Lord himself used to come and listen to him. Kulashekar Alwar visited all the sacred vaishnava temples. His philosophy was of absolute surrender (saranagati) to the Lord. He never asked the Lord for mukti or liberation. He only longed to be a “servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord”. He was even ready to be born again and again but only as a devotee of the Lord. He was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord of Tirumala, Sri Venkateswara, and cried out to the Lord to make him a stone, a worm, a blade of grass, a fish in the pond of the sacred Tirumala hills! He entreated the Lord, “in Thy sweet remembrance, may the swan of my mind enter RIGHT NOW the cage of Thy lotus feet. At the time of death, which is riddled with pain, and when all the equipments are failing, is it possible for me to remember Thee?” And he prayed to the Lord, “make me a step (threshold) at your sanctum sanctorum so that I can joyously gaze on at your beautiful charming lotus face constantly.” The step or threshold of the sanctum in the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala is known as “Kulashekara Padi” (Kulashekara Step) in honour of this glorious devotee of the Lord.

“I bow down my head to Raja Kulashekara in whose kingdom every day Ranga Yatra (pilgrimage to Srirangam) used to be announced (proclaimed)!”

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The Story of Andal

Andal

Vishnuchittar also known as Periyaazhwar (9th Century) was the first among the twelve prominent Vaishnava Saints of Tamil Nadu born in Srivilliputhur near Madurai. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and has contributed to the philosophical and theological ideas of Vaishnavism. His major contributions include Thirupallandu and Periya Azhwar Thirumozhi.

Vishnuchittar was childless and that worried him. He prayed to God to bless him with a child. One day, when he was walking in his garden, he found a baby girl lying near a Tulasi plant. It is said that Mother Earth (Bhoomi Devi) herself had appeared as a child in answer to his prayers. He brought the child home, named her “Kothai” and brought her up as his own daughter. He would teach her songs and tell stories about Lord Vishnu and His glories. Hence, the little girl grew up in a divine atmosphere of Bhakti. As she grew up, her devotion and love for Sri Hari also grew to such an extent that, she decided she would only get married to the Lord. As the days progressed, her resolve to marry the Lord only strengthened.

Vishnuchittar used to make beautiful flower garlands, take them to the temple and offer them to Lord Ranganatha daily. This was his devoted nitya seva to the Lord. Kothai who considered herself the bride-to-be of the Lord used to take the garland, wear it and admire herself in the mirror and then remove it and place it in the basket to be taken to the temple. Vishnuchittar was unaware of this and used to take the same used garland and offer it to the Lord. Hence for days, the garland worn by Kodhai was being offered to the Lord.

One day, Vishnuchittar saw his daughter wearing the garland made for the Lord and was shocked. How could anyone wear what was meant for the Lord? He was extremely upset and scolded her and told her never to repeat this again. That day there was no garland for the Lord. That night, the Lord came in Periyaazhwar’s dream and told him that he liked the garlands worn by Kothai and henceforth He would only accept garlands worn by her. From then onwards, Kodhai came to be known as “Andal” – one who ruled over the Lord.

Andal’s yearning for the Lord increased day by day and her devotional outpourings are called Thiruppavai and Nacchiaar Thirumozhi. When Vishnuchittar was searching for a suitable groom for “Andal”, she expressed her keen desire to get married to the Lord. He told her that there are 108 Divya Kshetras of Lord Vishnu and she asked him to narrate the glory of the Deity of each Kshetra. She was thrilled to hear about the Lord of Mathura, smiled when she heard about the Lord of Tirumala, happy to hear about Lord of Azhagar Temple (Madurai), but was ecstatic when she heard about the Lord of Srirangam! She choose Lord Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam as her husband.

The father was worried as to how he should proceed. The Lord then appeared in his dream and asked him to bring her to the temple. Simultaneously, the Lord appeared in the dream of the temple priest and asked him to bring Vishnuchittar’s daughter as His bride from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam. The Lord also told the Pandyan king, Vallabhadevan to make arrangements for the wedding. Accordingly, Andal in bridal attire was brought in a pearl palanquin. She reached the temple of Srirangam. As every one around was seeing, she walked into the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha and merged with Him.

Bhoomi Devi who came as Andal is worshiped in Srivilliputhur. Even to this day for Tirupati Brahmotsavam, garlands worn by Andal in Srivilliputhur temple are sent to Lord Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati. These traditional garlands are made of tulasi, sevanthi and sampangi flowers. These garlands are worn by Lord Venkateshwara during the Garuda seva procession.

When emotion of devotion increases, the devotee's personality and the Infinite nature of the Lord of his heart become one-----and this is the Essence of the Experience-Supreme - Swami Chinmayananda

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Bhavaji who played “Game of Dice” with the Lord!

hathiram-bhavaji

Bhavaji was a saint from North India. He was a great devotee of Lord Rama. He once came on a pilgrimage to Tirumala (Tirupati). The quiet and serene atmosphere of the Tirumala Hills was so captivating that he decided to stay there. He made a small kutia for himself and daily used to visit Lord Venkateswara temple, stand for hours together in front of the deity in whom he saw the Lord of his heart — Sri Rama. The temple priests got annoyed with his constant presence over there and told him to go away.

Next day and the day after, when he came to the temple, they refused to allow him into the temple. He pleaded for a glimpse of his Lord, but they refused. With a heavy heart he went back to his humble hut and cried his heart out to the Lord. At night, he couldn’t get sleep and to keep himself occupied he started playing the game of dice — he played for both the parties: he on one side and the Lord on the other side! After some time, he fell off to sleep. There in his vision, the Lord appeared asking him to get up and play dice with Him. He woke up and there was the Lord in front of him. His joy knew no bounds! He and the Lord played the game of dice, and the Lord was defeated. When the Lord asked him what he wanted in return, Bhavaji’s request was that every day the Lord should come and play dice with him. The Lord assured him and as promised, the next day Lord came to Bhavaji’s place. They played…..the Lord even rested for a while and Bhavaji sang for Him. This went on for a few days.

One day, after the dice-game, the Lord hurriedly left. The gem studded necklace that the Lord was wearing slipped down unnoticed and got left behind. Bhavaji later saw it, picked it up and kept it safely to give it to the Lord next day. In the meantime, when the priests opened the temple doors in the morning, they found the necklace missing around the Lord’s neck. The temple authorities were informed. The priests who disliked Bhavaji and had denied him entry into the temple suspected him. The search party reached Bhavaji’s place. They enquired and he immediately brought the necklace from inside, saying it got left behind the previous night when the Lord had come to his dwelling to play the dice-game. Nobody was prepared to believe this. Bhavaji was accused of stealing and covering it up with a fictional story.

The matter was taken to Krishnadevaraya, the king of the Vijayanagar Empire. The king saw the innocent face of the Lord’s devotee and suggested a test for him instead of punishment. Bhavaji was locked up in a cell with a huge stack of sugarcane which he had to consume and finish by next day morning. The cell was closed, the guards were posted outside. Bhavaji prayed fervently to Lord Rama and was lost in his contemplation. Lo! A majestic elephant appeared in the cell. Within a few minutes it consumed the entire bulk of sugarcane and woke up Bhavaji from his meditation with a huge trumpet. He was overwhelmed to see his own Lord Rama in the form of an elephant come down to save him. He again and again prostrated to the Lord. The guards heard the elephant’s trumpet and rushed in. The entire bulk of sugarcane had vanished, and they saw an elephant hurriedly leave.

The matter was reported to the king.  Everyone came rushing. They saw an overwhelmed Bhavaji looking at the site where the elephant stood and uttering the words: “Hathi Ram! Hathi Ram!!”. Having heard of what had happened, the king and the priests asked for forgiveness from Bhavaji. Later on, he was made the Chief Priest of Venkateswara temple for many years. Since he was a devotee of Lord Rama who had appeared as Hathi (elephant), he came to be known as “Hathiram Bhavaji”. In the North, Lord Venkateswara is addressed as “Balaji” which is attributed to him. The Hathiramji Mutt was established in his name, and it exists even to this day.  The Mahants of the Mutt used to administer the Tirumala Temple from 1843 to 1932 till the present Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Board was created.

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