Tonsuring my baby’s head: Tirupati
Ever since from childhood heard about Tirupati but never had a chance till date or never understood why people use to grumble till they had darshan. May be god wanted me to experience the same. Few days back Santanu suddenly decided to visit before his upcoming hectic weeks at office. So it was kind of planned-unplanned trip. Why unplanned knowingly was....we didn't had any ticket in hands before starting the journey nor we had any references to make use of. As planned, we were to start early morning at 5 but when we woke up to the alarm ring I could hear tiny shards of crystals falling from the sky against leaves, trees and windows. I woke Santanu- he looked at the time, then towards the window and back to clock. The clock said it was 4.15am but it was dark outside. Bed was warm and comfortable so he puts again the alarm back for 5.00am. This time we both jumped out of bed with the alarm ring. We kept our things packed last night only so last minute final touch up was left with packing which Santanu did; while I got dressed up and fed Aarush in his sleep. By 6.00 we were at our parking lot.
The route that we took for Tirupati was Bangalore – Kolar –Mulbagilu - Palamneru - Chittoor – Tirupati. Road till Kolar is not that excellent as of ongoing construction. Because of which we missed Woody's restaurant and moreover my son was in deep sleep. So decided to make a stop at Cafe-Coffee Day for restroom. Foods are highly pricey but excellent in terms of neatness. Still Aarush was sleeping blissfully and we didn’t wanted to disturb him as when he is in sleep its good for driving by accelerating. Took one take away coffee for Santanu from cafe-coffee day and we were on our way. After 10 we stopped at BANS restaurant near Chittoor had our breakfast there; (prices were reasonable and very neat place) and were back at road. Landscapes are really worth seeing particularly on sunny day but unfortunately weather was bad that day. On way at Palamneru check post one police man stopped us seeing our Maharashtra number plate car and asked for 100 rs as we were going to Tirupati...strange! Was that we were going for fun or honeymoon that he thought so? We declined saying give us a receipt for the same or leave us. We reached Tirupati around 11.00am. Tirupati, is the temple town in Chittor District of Andhra Pradesh, located in the foothills of Tirumala. And Tirumala is famous for the shrine Lord Venkateshwara.
Santanu decided to go to Tirumala to get the tickets for darshan first and later look for hotel at foothill. So we straight away went towards hill after scanning our baggage and paying toll of Rs 20.Road is one way and really superb to drive through with scenic beauty around .It took 25 min. to reach there. Till this point every thing went smoothly now actual part starts that how and where to get ticket with less wait time in queue for darshan. Best part is nobody knows exactly; everyone will say something different. Through internet study we knew that Vaikuntam Queue Complex- (is a series of inter-connected halls that leads to the main temple) will give ticket of Rs. 300 for (Seeghra Darshan) fast darshan but actuality is that you get into queue immediately without knowing when you can see lord while if you buy tickets of Rs. 50 and Rs. 100 it is given according to availability of ticket on that particular day with no guarantee on time spent on queue. So one person there told us to go to Vijaya bank for fast darshan. Then we drove back near to bus stand where Vijaya bank is after searching here n there. The people near counter have hardly any time to explain about anything. Its like you buy ticket or get lost kind of. Anyways at counter he said he has ticket for same evening nothing for Sunday morning. We wanted for Sunday early morning so that after shower we can pay our obeisance as it was our 7th anniversary. As of man proposes and god disposes, we bought ticket blindly for that evening of 1000 bucks without understanding any head or tail. This time biometrics (finger printing and photo) were taken to eliminate the involvement of middlemen, I believe.
On getting tickets on hand we saw it was written Sahasra Deepalankarana Seva at kovulu mandapam infront of temple at 5.30 pm with 5 small laddus free. And maximum no. of people allowed for this is 5. Now we started looking for temple as it was already 2.30 PM and at tirumala for everything there is a big line be it for ticket counter, ladoo counter, tonsure, restroom etc. We crossed on the way Ram Bagicha Guest House(aka RBGH), maths, kalyan mandapam etc then also could not figure out where the temple is as of misty weather. Then we asked one person who guided us to Ram Bagicha entrance and told to ask there. At Ram bagicha on asking security personnel he told us to go to building next to Ram Bagicha- 3. Till then we were not sure whether we were in temple premises or not as temple's gold overlaid gopuram was not visible because of rain. The crowd, queue all together makes the rains a harrowing experience. Moreover in our ado we forgot to take our umbrella. On asking same person about head tonsuring he said it’s done just at side downstairs of Rambagicha. I had a strong belief that tonsuring being so famous that must be done with some mantra ucharan but in actuality nothing like that. With Rs. 10 coupon we got one barber to get Aarrush's head tonsured. There hands are so experienced that they did it in few minutes while my son kept crying frantically. Thereafter barber was again asking for more money which we denied.
On asking a temple worker at that hall he told one small puja of half an hour will be performed there as of rain and after collecting one silk Uttariyam and blouse piece along with prasadam we need to stand in queue to get glimpse of lord. As it was already 3.30 we decided to feed Aarush with idli just opposite that hall but he strongly denied after 1-2 morsel which we two later finished. And by 4.00 we went to that hall where they made us sit.Best part was since we were before time we got chance to sit in first row. Strangely, one temple worker gave us something to apply in forehead which we took with the thought that we might be only one lacking it but oh my gosh...next moment he asked for money. We declined to give any money. Truly, till this point we were feeling like something fraud going on with us; people keep trying to dupe you. Then mustering enough courage I asked person sitting beside me showing our ticket he told that he has also the same and not to worry we will be able to see lord at last. In the midst of Vedic chanting and singing of Sankirtanas which was live telecasted we were astonish to see priests with three thick chains one large pendant hanging near his belly-button other then ear ring, golden watch strap, wristlet....o ...god real money making place not to be mentioned. A priest with chain and ear ring is quite common there.
After half an hour we rushed along with others for queue; various sign boards indicate the location of the room where pilgrims need to report for their darshan or seva. Outside the room, ticket is checked along with the biometric data provided at the time of ticket purchase. It was 6.15 when we entered this hall we waited for 10 min. I believe this was the last hall of VQC; Once the gates exiting the halls are opened, the devotee joins the actual queue, and from this point in the queue it takes about 60–90 minutes (standing/walking) to reach the sanctum sanctorum and have Darshan. Just before entering the temple, there is a bridge connecting Queue complex to Temple where baggage are scanned for last time. The patience to keep moving step by step, for hours together is ultimate one.All you can see here is the tonsured heads be it male or female and people chanting Gooovinda...Gooovinda. Anyways after moving on endless queue with long wait we reached sanctum sanctorum where people crushed us on from every side which is unexplainable. Near to sanctum felt like stuck in unmoving queue. Even my little son couldn't control his tears he just burst out (out of hunger, claustrophobia, with madness crushing from all sides). At times waiting in a queue felt like God simply refused to see us. On reaching inside officials were pushing devotees to one side before one can have proper sight of lord. Lastly, that momentary glimse of lord arrived where before we could fold our hands we found ourselves at one corner. All the while I felt like asking god only this much fraction of seconds you have for your devotees who are dying to see you.
Literally, I have to struggle with my memories to recollect lord's face. Then with crowd came out saw golden hundi offered our bare minimum dakshinas and then took one round of temple then again formed a queue to collect prasadam chakkera-pongali (sweet pongal) which was hot enough for that cold rainy day. From there followed sign of ladoo counter which is again very commercialized. You need to buy poly bags for rs 2. Then stand in designated queue depending on type of ticket you bought. Thank god our had less queue so got almost instantly. We wanted to buy 2 more extras but couldn't figure out how and where to collect coupons for the same.Well, satisfied with what we had and happy enough that God at least wished to see us in this form without bath and without wasting much time in queue. It was 7.15 pm when we took exit from temple so one hour exactly from the time we were in queue.
Worth visiting without any plan all because of Gods grace may be. We decided to stay that night at Fortune keenness hotel @ Tirupati just opposite the bus stand. Drove down-hill carefully which is again one way. Roads are really good here with a view of city. Although considered to be 4 star but room 116 provided to us had a roof with water dripping due to extra moisture . Other then that rest facilities were A class. Had paid buffet dinner after hot shower and buffet breakfast next day morning was complimentary.
Anyway, happy sort-of-anniversary! we were content from our trip which ended successfully. As of rain decided to return Bangalore before evening so started at 10.00 am. On way this time we made sure to halt at Woody's restaurant and had a quick stop at BANS for restroom. God knows why people want to eat at Woody's. It was buzzing with flies; I am sure if one or 2 fly get in with food I won't be surprised so asked for take away. Moreover we were so stuffed with buffet breakfast that we were hardly hungry enough so had lassi only. And by 4.30 pm we reached our parking lot.