(First published in esamskriti.com)
Origins of the Temple
THE temple of Sri Venkateswara (Balaji) at Tirumala, Tiupati in Andhra Pradesh is perhaps the most popular of all the Hindu temples in our country. The story goes that Lord Vishnu as Varaha (the boar) decided to make the earth as His abode and Garuda brought down the hill of Vaikuntha to the earth for His residence. Lord Vishnu manifested Himself there as Srinivasa or Venkatesa to stay on the earth for the welfare of the mankind.
To substantiate this story there is a temple for Varahaswamy on the bank of the Pushkarini tank at the left side of the main temple entrance at Tirumala. The image of Lord Balaji at the temple is said to be an Udbhavamurthi (spontaneously manifested) and does not conform to any known Agama traditions. From the early Pallavas, Cholas and Pandyas to the Vijayanagar Emperors and the East India Company of the British in India, almost all the kings and chieftains that ruled the land patronized this temple of Seven Hills.
The Tirumala hills that are presided over by Lord Balaji are comprising of seven peaks or Shikharas which have the following names.
Names of the Seven Hills at Tirumala, Tirupati
These hills in course of time came to be known as Tirumala while the town at the foot of the hills is known as Tirupati. The place where the Lord actually abides in the hills is Venkatachala. It is also called Venkatadri.
Daily Rituals or Sevas
From times immemorial the daily routine of various Pujas or Sevas go on at fixed time schedules. The first Seva of the day starts at 3 am. This is called Venkatesa Suprabhatam or a supplication to wake up The Lord from His Yoga Nidra. The last Seva for the day is called Ekantaseva, which takes place alter 10.30 in the night.
Among all the Sevas offered to the Deity, the Suprabhata Seva is considered very significant and much sought after because it is in the form of singing the Hymn of Morning Salutation to Lord Venkateswara. It is ennobling and soul elevating to hear this hymn being recited by the temple priests. Only after the recitation of this hymn the doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Deity are opened.
By her masterly soulful rendering of this hymn, the late Queen of Music Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi made its devotional stirrings spread throughout the world. One who reads or listens to this hymn of scintillating poetry will find oneself lost in its devotional depths as well as enchanting lyrical and musical values and pronunciation.
This hymn consisting of 70 verses was written in Sanskrit by Prativadi Bhayankara Annan. It consists of four parts as per the details given below.
Details of the Hymn
Morning Prayer waking up The Lord from His Yoga Nidra
Prayer praising and entreating The Lord for protection
Prayer surrendering oneself at the Lord’s Lotus Feet
Prayer praising Him for His glory, auspiciousness and craving for His benediction
Significance of the Hymn
PART – I
In this Part which is called Suprabhatam the first verse is addressed to Rama, the auspicious son of Kausalya. beseeching Him to wake up as the day has dawned and the daily ablutions and rituals are to be performed. Then He is addressed as Govinda. as one who is having Garuda Dhwaja (one who has the Garuda,, the Lord of birds as insignia in His flag) and as the consort of Goddess Lakshmi. The third and fourth verses are addressed to Sri Lakshmi as the consort of the Lord describing Her as the Divine Mother of the Universe whose beauty and qualities of head and heart are beyond words.
Then follows the description of the Lord by several names such as the King of. Seshadri Hills, Vrishabhachala etc. His devotees are calling Him by various names such as Vasudeva, Madhava, Govinda, Janardhana, Chakrapani and await His commands. He is referred to as a granter of boons to His devotees, a supreme friend of the world, the very abode of righteousness, the ocean of mercy for all the worlds and as the One who has a very handsome form wherein Sri Lakshmi sits enthroned. He is referred to as The Lord in ten incarnations (Dasavatara). His other myriad qualities are explained in the prayer stating that all the others like Gods, sages, planets, devotees, scholars, the humblest and the mightiest are all awaiting for His worship with sacred and auspicious puja materials in their hands while the sun is rising in the east and lotus flowers are blossoming in the lakes and all around the sweet sounds of chirping birds fill the air.
This section is concluded with praising the Lord as a bridge to cross the ocean of Samsara and eulogising Him as the quintessence of all knowledge of the Upanishads and a source of joy and bliss to all.
It may be observed that every stanza of the poem in this section ends with the words ‘tava suprabhatam’ meaning thereby “may it be an auspicious dawn to You”. Whoever recites this hymn with devotion in the mornings Sri Venkateswara endows him with excellent knowledge of the Supreme Truth that leads to Salvation.
PART – II
In the next part, ‘Stotram’, the devotee submits himself to the shelter of Venkatesa and states that he sinned heavily violating all limits and hence he seeks His protection, compassion, generosity and mercy. He cries that he knows no other God than Venkateswara on whom he always meditates and begs for his grace and favor. He is prayed as Krishna, Rama and the best among all in the Raghu dynasty. He concludes his solicitation by uttering “I have come from a long distance with an ardent desire to serve at Your Lotus Feet. Grant me the opportunity for a day’s service at Your feet, a reward which you confer on Your devotees for worshipping You daily”. He craves for the pardon of the Lord for all the wrongs committed by him in his ignorance.
PART – III
The third part of this hymn is Prapatti. It starts with offering salutations to Sri Lakshmi, the eternal resident in the bosom of Vishnu and then the devotee goes on offering his surrender to Venkatesa describing elaborately His supremacy over the universe. The gist of this part of the hymn is that Sri Venkateswara will certainly save the devotee who has implicit faith in Him and surrenders himself to Him. The preliminary praise and invocation to Sri Lakshmi implies Her compassionate nature and the devotee’s inner desire for Her mediation and recommendation of him to the Lord.
PART – IV
The last part of this poem is Mangalasasanam by repeating in every stanza the words meaning “May auspiciousness be unto Sri Venkatesa, Sri Srinivasa”. This is a sort of closing offer of salutations and reverential felicitations to The Lord of the Seven Hills describing His extraordinary unblemished glories and exquisite physical form.
He is the ultimate cause of all, the causeless cause and yet easily attainable. He is the essence of all that is pure and the ultimate refuge to the humanity. He is the repository of peace and tranquility in this strife-ridden world. It proclaims that as long as the TIME lasts (practically forever) those who had the darshan of Sri Venkateswara will never be satisfied with His nectarine form (atrupti amruta roopaaya); it suggests that the devotees would wish to stand in His presence for all the time gazing at His handsome and attractive form, mysteriously feeding themselves with Divine Bliss.
After this recital the doors of the sanctum sanctorum are opened by the persons meant for the purpose by tradition and then the general public is allowed entry inside.
Probably this forecast could be the reason for the interminable Que Lines we experience even today on our visits to the temple. Such is the tremendous charm of the beauty of the Lord’s splendid features.
In this way the day’s first prayer called the Suprabhata Seva is being offered to Sri Venkateswara on the Tirumala Hills since the dawn of history..
MAY HIS GRACE BE ALWAYS WITH US?
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