I now find that there are many photographs of our visits to Tirupati; though I have not carried a camera during every trip. I initially thought that I will post two articles on Tiruapti along with some selected photographs but now it looks like there will be more posts on ‘Pilgrimage to Tirupati’. I am constantly encouraged to post as many photographs as possible in my blog; by my son and nephew who are abroad and several relatives and friends.
In photographs I have posted on 18th April and today and perhaps in the next two or three posts you will find a number of family members tonsured. Offering hair to Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy at Tirumala is a very ancient tradition. There are various reasons mentioned behind this tradition. One purpose of tonsuring is said to show ones devotion to God by shaving their heads clean and by doing so it also enabled these people to free themselves from their past sins and continue on with purer lives. Another version is that hair is a symbolic offering to God, representing a real sacrifice of beauty; in return for God’s blessings. Yet another reason given is that it would efface the ego of the individual and appease God with this sacrifice. However to many devotees it simply is a must tradition at Tirumala to seek blessings of God and more commonly as a ritual of vow-fulfillment, devotees pray God asking for blessings and favors and on fulfillment of wishes offer their hair at Tirumala. Offering hair at Vaishnava Temples is a common tradition but at Tirumala it is a very significant one with thousands of devotees queuing up for the tonsure every day at the ‘Kalyana Katta’.
Similarly devotees seek God’s blessings and intervention to sort out their problems and grant wishes and in return vow to climb the seven hills, a steep trek of 14 Kms. on the seven hills to Tirumala and / or offer money or jewellery at the sacred ‘Hundi’ of the Temple. ‘Hundi’ is a huge white-colored collection bag placed at the Temple to receive the offerings from the devotees. My wife and sons have offered their hair at Tirumala a number of times as you can see in the photographs. And they have also trekked the hills to reach the Temple. My eldest son Srikanth has done this five times so far, my wife two times and my youngest son Srinath once. Last year the ‘Hundi’ received close to Rupees 440 Crores that is Rupees 4.4 Billion! Apart from this the Hundi also netted several quintals of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious articles! This perhaps makes the Temple the richest in the world! Certainly the richest in India! And most benevolent and powerful one for the devotees!