Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Visiting Tirupathi Venkateshwara

July the 28th 2007, a long standing due to visit Tirupathi got accomplished. It took about 4 Years and 1 Month since the charter got signed, to say Hi to the lord.

Click the photo at the bottom of the this post, to view the pictures that we took during our small 2 day package trip.

The dare-devils who made it all happen were my parents, Souji's parents, Souji's Sister Lavanya and BIL (Harish) along with niece, Sanjana. Include Pooja Vinay, all of 7 months old.

We booked the ITDC Package Tour which is about 1.5K per person. We boarded the Volvo bus in front of a totally unknown and unrepresented building called as 'Swiss Complex' which also houses the ITDC office, right in the middle of Race Course Road. We started at about 9 PM and that's the last we know. About 2 in the morning the guide asks us to get down and get 'Fingerprinted'! Well, thats a way you get authenticated and badged. Gone or the days where you were given a band. Its now Fingerprinting. Talk about Digitization.

From the cozy environs of the Volvo, We came out into Mother Nature who greeted us with torrential rains. There are about 3 counters and since we are from the 'Special' queue, We took Counter No.3. Lucky us !

The counter had a WebCam and a Fingerprinting device fitted onto a State-of-Art Intel 386-AT desktop with a dot matrix printer with Color Monitor!. A Dial-Up modem helped to ensure that information reaches the server (somewhere) and even comes back too!.

Fortunate as we were, and thanks to the rains, there was an interrupted-network breakdown every 2 minutes. And in the same time span, there were about 2 bus loads of people coming in to this terminal to get finger printed. Now you know the situation!. 2 AM in the morning, Torrential Rains, 3 Counters, Network Breakdown, Thousands of people ! By the time we got our fingerprinting done it was about 6:30 in the morning !.

The ITDC tour guys then took us to a very nice hotel (PR Grand Deluxe). The eight of us got 4 rooms which overlooked the Beautiful face of the Tirumala Peaks. The accommodation was excellent.

Later we were taken for local sight seeing to KaalaHasti temple. By 5 PM, we were taken to Tirumala, the Hill abode of Lord Venkateshwara. The guide gave a good 1 hour break for people who wished to get their head tonsured. Our One-on-One with the lord was destined at 9 PM and we were told to be in the queue by 6:30 PM.

Soujanya and Pooja got the benefit of getting into the reservation category (Mother with an infant queue) and that queue was a breeze, was what was told to us. So Souji and Pooja made the best use of it.

Our morning exercise of standing in the queue for 5 hours in rain and at unearthly hours had made us strong enough to bear the next challenge.

So we stood. And we stood and We stood !. At 7.30 PM, I just looked back to see that We were one of the fortunate ones as the tail of our queue could be seen extending to the foothills!. We were elated looking at the positive side of things. The queue gates opened and we started moving. The winding queue took about an hour to reach the dreaded Jail complex. All the way till here, I was seeing myself in a Black and White striped shirt with a jersey number on it and with a Chaddi. Luckily in about 90 minutes, my apprehensions disappeared as we didn't get locked up as there was not "as many" people that day!. By about 10:30 PM, On the horizon, somewhere about 500 ft in front, I could see the Special queue started to merge with the "not so special queue" (Dharmadarshan). All that while, our travel in first class seemed going off the hook. Suddenly, All hell broke lose at exactly at the confluence of the meeting queues. The highly seasoned Security guards, the Scout Boys (or 'Cubs' as they are called), tried best to contain the crowd, but the absolute determination of the people not to be bound to any rules, just took over. '

For the next 15 odd minutes, every one of us lost control of our mobility. The sheer push and pull exerted by the crowd made me understand how small I was in the universe!. The scientific temper in me made me derive and deduce the relationship between Charles' laws, the Boyles' laws and its direct relationship with Newton's laws of motion. I revised the all the chapters on Stress, Strain, Bending Moment, Breaking Point etc. It also taught me humility even as I got bruised all over the body by a few tonsured kids who almost gore me to death in their endeavor to seek the darshan the lord.

In the last leg of the queue, the security guards took over the "push-pull job" from the crowd and the professionals that they were, ensured that we were on our toes. After a couple of minutes, We saw light! and Sound? "Govindaaah Gooooooovinda !!!". The bells started chiming and behold, Lord Venkateshwara in all his glory. I made sure not to close my eyes so that I could get the nanoseconds of darshan of the lord.

After this point, the queue system started to disperse and I could see a sea of people waiting outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, just to ensure if they had their body and soul in one piece.

The outward queue was a breeze compared to the latter and my only craving at this point was, the Ladoos. The Special ticket ensured that each person could get 2 laddoos!.

The ordeal was over in about 5 hours. We met Soujanya and Pooja outside the temple and had a quick grub and boarded the bus back to Tirupathi from Tirumala. On the way back, I was wondering what was this all worth for? Just for a few seconds of darshan, I had to endure a total of 1 day travel, 9 hours of horrendous queues, Torrential rains, Network Breakdowns, Bruises all over my body, Revisiting Physics Laws, Man ! Was it all worth? Just for 3 seconds of darshan? I realised that Probably, it's because of such things, that makes us better understand how complex the universe is and how small we are in comparison and if there was something called a 'god' then how difficult a job he is handling.

All said, we reached our hotel and hit the sack by 12 in the night. By 7 AM we were again ready as we boarded the bus to visit other temples. Darshan of Padmavathi, the wife of Lord Venkateshwara was quite comfortable. The laddoo was also good I must say! The guide stopped briefly for a good breakfast at the Bhimas. Hungry souls that we were, we left no dish untouched and devoured it as if there was no tomorrow.

Next, we visited the Kapilatheertha temple where a beautiful spring falls down the gorge and enters a Kalyani. It also acts as a natural shower for people wishing to take an exotic bath. A few photos were clicked as Pooja was merrily enjoying the scenic location.

Later we visited the Kalyana Venkata Ramana temple. As the name suggests, this is where Padmavathi received her Masters Degree and Venkateshwara lost his Bachelor's! Well, it got a bit monotonous to visit so many temples one after the other.

The return trip to Bangalore started in the noon and we were back in Bangalore by 7 PM.

At the begining of the trip, we were a bit worried as to how Pooja would face the trip, but she was a gem. Never was momment that was dull. All the pains were washed away by her smiles. Amazing to see how Sanjana took such good care of Pooja and kept her and all of us entertained. The trip was really worth remembering.

One thing to note here (inspite of all other challenges we had), is that ITDC had made wonderful arrangements starting with Clean Bus, Good Driver, Super Guide who gave very clear directions on what to do and when to do. Hotel was excellent, gave decent time to have breakfast and lunch and more over, Courteous. All said, I would give about 4/5 for ITDC. A good package to visit Tirupathi. i.e if you dare to !!!

A few photos that we took are posted on the link below. Click and thou shal find.

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