Lord Venkateshwara

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Divya Mangala Swaroopam
Divya Mangala Swaroopam

Venkateshwara (Sanskrit वॆन्कटॆष्वरा , Telugu వెంకటేశ్వరుడు , వెంకన్న ), also known as Venkatachalapathy or Srinivasa, is the supreme God believed to be a form of the Hindu Deity Lord Vishnu. Lord Venkateshwara means supreme God who destroys the sins of the people in this material world ('ven+kata+eshwara=sins+destroyer+supremegod'). He appeared in this yuga kali yuga for saving the people who have fallen deeply and are deluded in three modes of material nature. He is Vishnu, who is transcendental to the material energy, Vishnu does not have direct contact with material people, and therefore yogis carry out severe penances to have a vision of Vishnu's lotus feet. Howevere, in the kali yuga people have fallen to the point that they have even lost themselves due to ignorance in bodily consciousness. Lord Vishnu out of love towards his devotees therefore incarnated as Venkateshwara.

Adi Sankaracharya came to Tirumala and placed sri chakra at the lotus feet of Lord Venkateshwara and sung the famous song "Bhaja Govindam". So Lord Venkateshwara is the supreme God of this Kali yuga.

Lord Venkateshwara has His holy abode in the Venkatam hills (the hills are more often referred to as ThiruVenkatam) near Tirupathi. Thus, the main temple of Lord Venkateshwara is the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple. The Tirumala temple, where He is the presiding deity, is believed to be the richest of all the Hindu temples in the world. The temple is in southern India Andhra Pradesh in Chittoor district. It is around 120 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The presence of seven hills influenced alternate names for the deity: Edu kondala vadu in Telugu and as Elumalaiyan in Tamil both of which mean "Lord of the Seven Hills".

He is also known as Maal, ThiruMaal, Manivannan, Balaji (though this is a more recent name), Srinivasa, Venkatesha, Venkatanatha, Thiruvengadam Udaiyaan, Tiruvengadattaan and by many other names. He is also worshiped with the name Tirupati Thimmappa all over Karnataka by traditionally Shiva-worshipping communities. In Hinduism, Venkateshwara (also spelled as Venkateshwer or Venkatachalapathi) is a much-worshipped form of Vishnu. He is also known as Balaji or Lord Venkateshwara. He is also worshiped with the name Tirupati Thimmappa all over Karnataka by traditionally Shiva worshipping communities.

Vishnu, in the form of Venkateshwara, is much worshipped at Tirupati temple. Venkateshwara is the presiding deity at the Tirumala temple complex, believed to be the richest of all the Hindu shrines in the world. The temple is situated in southern Andhra Pradesh in Chittoor district. It is around 120 km away from Chennai. The presence of seven hills influenced alternate names for the deity: Edu kondala vadu in Telugu and as Elumalaiyan in Tamil both of which mean Lord of the Seven Hills.

[edit] The legend

Sthala Puranam (literal meaning: the legend of the place) recounts the particular legend associated with ancient Hindu temples. Accordingly, the legend of Venkateswara's Avatara (incarnation) is believed to be as follows:

Sage Bhrugu, who according to Hindu mythology is believed to have an extra eye in the sole of his foot, once visited Sri Maha Vishnu. At that time, Vishnu was in a private meeting with his consort, Goddess Lakshmi, and failed to immediately receive and honour the sage. The sage felt humiliated and angry, and kicked Lord Vishnu in the chest. Vishnu did not react and remained silent. Lord Vishnu's chest is believed to be the abode of Goddess Lakshmi. The Goddess felt highly insulted at the sage's misdemeanour and Lord Vishnu's silence at the act. She left Vaikunta, the heavenly abode of Vishnu and Lakshmi.

Lord Vishnu, in an attempt to pacify the sage, got hold of legs of the sage and started to press them gently in a way that was comforting to the sage. During this act, he squished the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrugu's foot. The extra eye is believed to represent the sage's egotism. The sage then realised his grave mistake and apologized to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had then incarnated Himself as Venkateswara and came to earth in search of Lakshmi, who had taken birth as Princess Alamelu (Padmavati) in the household of Akasa Raju. The princess's father agreed to give his daughter's hand in marriage to Venkateswara if he provided proof of his wealth. Towards this end, Venkateswara obtained a heavy loan from Kubera, a god (yaksha) who is considered, accordingly to Hindu mythology, as the treasurer of the virtuous wealth in the Universe. Princess Padmavati and Lord Venkateswara were then wed.

Lord Vishnu, in the form of Venkateswara, and his consort are believed to have enshrined themselves at Tirumala Tirupati for the benefit of mankind. This phenomenon is called swayambhu loosely translated to mean "self-existent and established on earth of one's own accord, without any external cause".

Lord Venkateswara's temple is at the top of the seven hills in the place called Tirumala. The temple of the Lakshmi, in the form of Princess Padmavati, is located at the foot of the seven hills at Tirupati, in a town called Tiruchanur also popularly known as Chinna Tirupati, meaning Little Tirupati.

[edit] Socio-cultural history

Over millennia, many saints had visited the shrine and offered worship to Lord Venkateswara. Notable among them is Sri Ramanujacharya, who is believed to have installed chakra and conch on the deity after a dispute. The Venkateswara Suprabhatam, being the morning recital of prayers and songs of awakening, is believed to have been written and sung by one of Ramanuja's disciples who visited the temple with his Guru.

Traditionally Kurubas build temples on top of the mountains and worshiped the Almighty. As Venkateshwara has strong following from the Backward Castes who are traditionally shiva worshipers in south India. Venkateswara has big Dalit following also. This famous temple must have lot of history. This worshiping Venkateswara as Vishnu may be most recent, as Vaishnava priests control the temple.

There is Govindaraya Vishnu temple in the Tirupati town down below the hills with Vishnu in Yoga Nidra with Sridevi and Bhoodevi next to him.

Several composers composed beautiful keertanas about Lord Venkateshwara, most notable amongst them being Tyagaraja and Annamacharya. Annamacharya is a legendary devotee of Lord Venkateswara and composed songs almost exclusively about the deity.

[edit] Notable Venkateswara Temples outside of India

There are many famous temples dedicated primarily to Lord Venkateswara that are outside of India. These include those in Nairobi, Kenya; Sydney (Helensburgh), Melbourne (Carrum Downs) Australia; Singapore; Pittsburgh (Penn Hills), Pennsylvania; Malibu (Calabasas), California; Atlanta (Riverdale), Georgia; Chicago (Aurora), Illinois; and Bridgewater, New Jersey. This list is not exhaustive, and there are many temples that have statues of Lord Venkateswara, however these are the major ones outside of India. Based on the fact that Venkateswara agreed upon with Lord Kubera, monetary donations know no limit at temples where a statue of Venkateswara can be found.

Lord Venkateswara is also known as Maha Ketarie and Maha Parmasree.

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