There is no counting the number of temples in the vicinity of Tirupati, but the TTD maintains some of them, and they also run buses to these temples in an attempt to popularize them. While some are just small temples about which not much information is available, some of them are really beautiful and worth a visit. We took the TTD bus to make a visit to all these temples in a day. It happened to be Diwali, so we had the added satisfaction of spending the festival in a memorable manner. Here are the temples we visited.
- Tallapakka Chennakesava Swamy Temple
Karvetinagaram, located about 48 Km from Tirupati, traces its origins back to the era of the Chalukyas, who had their capital at Narayanavanam. At some point, a forest was cleared and their new capital (Nagaram) was built here. Since the capital was built by cutting down a forest, this place came to be known as ‘Kadu vetti Nagaram’ (kadu means forest and vetti means cutting down; in Tamil). Over the years, the name has been corrupted to Karvetinagaram.
Today, the highlight of this small town is the Venugopalaswamy Temple, maintained by the TTD. The deity here is Venugopalaswamy – a form of Lord Krishna. He is seen here, standing in front of a cow, holding a flute in his hands and a pot of butter at his feet. Interestingly, he is accompanied by his wives Rukmini and Satyabhama. This is interesting because this form of the Lord is connected with his childhood antics, and he is usually depicted alone, or at the most with Radha by his side. Rukmini and Satyabhama appear in the later stages of his life, and usually have no place in such a depiction!
Distance from Tirupati: 48 Km
Nearest Railway Station: Puttur (A.P): 15 Km
Temple Timings: 06:00AM to 11:00AM and 4:00PM to 8:00PM
Narayanavanam was the erstwhile capital of the Chalukya kings. But before that, it was also the capital of Akasa Raja, the father of Padmavati. It is believed that the temple is the location of the marriage of Srinivasa and Padmavati. It is Akasa Raja who is believed to have built both, this temple as well as the original Tirumala temple to commemorate the divine marriage.
The main deity here is Kalyana Venkatramana Swamy and there is a separate shrine for Padmavati. Outside her shrine is a huge milling stone which is believed to have been used for preparing turmeric paste for the divine marriage. The temple is a beautiful one, clean and peaceful. Unfortunately, like all temples, cameras are not allowed inside.
Location: Narayanavanam is about 35 Km from Tirupati and 95 Km from Chennai on the Tirupati Chennai Road.
Nearest Railway station: Puttur (A.P): 5 Km
Contact Number: +91-08574 -31417
The Kariya Manikyaswami temple at Nagari, 51 Kms from Tirupati is also one maintained by the TTD. This temple enshrines Lord Vishnu as Kariya Manickya Swami. He is believed to have killed a crocodile and liberated the elephant Gajendra here.
We did not visit this temple for some reason, but it is normally included in the bus tour, so I am mentioning it.
The Annapoorna Sametha Sri Kasi Vishwanatha Swamy temple is located at Bugga Agraharam near Nagari. This is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva as Kashi Vishwanatha Swami and his consort, Annapoorna, who serves everyone food. The temple also has a shrine to Prayaga Madhava Swamy accompanied by Bhudevi and Sridevi. Thus, this temple enshrines all the deities one would see on a pilgrimage to Kasi and Allahabad!
This is a small, but nice temple, maintained by the TTD. The temple is situated on the banks of the Kusasthali River. The word Kusa refers to the sacred Darbha grass which is believed to have been introduced to this area by the sage Agasthya during his southern sojourn. The legends link the temple to the sage too, but unfortunately, I have not been able to get any details yet. This temple interestingly has two idols of Annapoorna – one in black stone in the inner sanctum and one in marble in the outer sanctum. I was curious and tried to find out more about this, especially since marble idols are rare in South Indian temples, but unfortunately neither our conductor cum guide, nor any of the priests could give me a satisfactory answer!
Interestingly, this area is also of interest to the Archaeological department, for prehistoric caves, paintings and implements have been found in the vicinity.
Location: This temple is about 56 Km from Tirupati and about 5 Km from Nagari, on the Nagalapuram route.
Nagalapuram is certainly one of the most interesting temples we visited on this trip. The importance of this temple is the fact that this is the only temple dedicated to the Lord in his first avatar (incarnation) as Matsya, the great fish.
The main deity is Veda Narayana Perumal, since He is believed to have rescued the Vedas from the demon Somakudu. He is in a standing posture, his fish-like tail clearly visible, flanked by Sridevi and Bhudevi, and in one of his hands holds the Sudarshana Chakra ready to be let loose. There are other sub shrines too, one dedicated to the goddess as Vedavalli, as well as shrines dedicated to Lord Rama as well as Hanuman.
An interesting thing about this temple is the Surya Puja celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni (Phalguni – mid-March to mid-April). The festival is celebrated over 3 days. During these three days, the sun's rays fall on the main deity between 1800 hrs and 1815 hrs. On the first day, they fall on the feet, on the second - on the chest and on the third - on the forehead, depicting worship by the Sun God himself.
This is a beautiful temple which I would love to visit again, for a more leisurely visit. The bus trip was rather rushed, so I had no time to look at the wonderful pillar carvings and sculptures all over the temple. The Lord’s idol itself was so beautiful that I found it hard to tear my eyes away. Again, I found myself wishing that cameras were allowed inside!
Location: Nagalapuram is about 70Km South East of Tirupati and 90 Km North of Chennai.
Contact Number: +91-08574 -65282
Surutapalli is an interesting temple which depicts Lord Shiva in a reclining posture. Usually, it is Lord Vishnu who is seen reclining, sometimes with his head on Lakshmi’s lap, but here it is Lord Shiva who reclines with his head on Parvati’s lap while the sages and other Gods look on.
The story of the temple is related to the legend of the Devas and Asuras churning the ocean for nectar. When the ocean is churned, it spews out precious things of all kinds, from wealth and precious stones to unique animals and even the Goddess Lakshmi. However, before the nectar emerges, out comes the deadly poison, which is consumed by Lord Shiva to protect everyone. He imbibes the poison, but feels giddy, and lies down for a while with his head on Parvati’s lap. This is what gives the place its name, for suruta – comes from the Tamil word for dizzy, while palli is the word for resting place.
The main sanctum in this temple houses two lingams facing each other – Ramalingeswarar and Valmikeswarar. These are related to another legend about the same place. As the story goes, the sage Valmiki prayed to Lord Rama here and obtained his blessings. When Lord Rama was on his way back from Lanka, he stopped here for a while, and both of them prayed to Lord Shiva, who appeared before them and blessed them. The lingams they prayed to, are known by their names as Ramalingeswarar and Valmikeswarar.
There are many more interesting things about this temple, which deserves a much more leisurely visit than ours. For more details, see the following links:
Distance from Tirupati: 75 Km
Distance from Chennai: 56 Km
Morning: 6:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Evening: 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Morning: 6:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Evening: 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
The Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy temple at Appalayagunta is the only temple around Tirupati where the Lord is shown in ‘Abhaya Hasta posture’, which means that his right hand is raised in a blessing gesture. Normally, Lord Venkateswara is depicted with his left hand on his waist and right hand pointing downwards. It is said that He tells us to look to his feet, pray to him and be humble. It is believed that at Appalayagunta, he blessed the sages who had gathered for his marriage, and hence his hands are in a blessing posture.
The temple, though small, is peaceful and clean. It poured heavily while we were there, so we just had darshan at the main shrine and hurried back to the dry comfort of the bus! From what I have learned after my return, the idol of the wind god – Vayu – in this temple is imposing and is worshipped for relief from chronic diseases.
Location: Appalayagunta is 14 Km from Tirupati and about 10 Km from Tiruchanur.
Information about TTD bus
The TTD runs a bus daily to all these temples. The bus starts from Srinivasam Complex at 8:00AM and returns around 5:00PM.
Cost: Rs. 80 per head; Rs. 40 for children.
More details about the bus can be had from the reception at the Srinivasam Complex. There is no advance reservation, and seating is on a first come first served basis, so on crowded days, there can be quite a rush as well quite a fight to get into the bus! The bus normally seats about 50 people, and standees are not allowed. The conductor doubles up as a guide, though he is not much use, since he knows nothing more than the name of the temple and the deity. He doesn’t even know any of the stories, and can speak only Telugu and some broken Hindi, so having a conversation with him is practically impossible for non-Telugu speaking people! The bus halts at the temple long enough for us to see all the deities, but not long enough for us to enjoy the architecture!
The bus stops for lunch and tea/coffee, and as the conductor repeatedly mentions, we have to pay for the food ourselves! It is difficult to imagine that anyone would want the paltry fare to cover food too, but apparently, people do have such bizarre expectations!!
The bus does have many disadvantages, but there is no discounting the fact that to see so many places at such a cost is virtually impossible otherwise. For one, most of the temples close during the afternoon, but as the bus enters the compound, the priest rushes out to open the temple – something that is done only since the temples are maintained by the TTD and the bus is also run by them! If we visit all these temples by ourselves, it will take much, much longer!
There are many more temples apart from these, also connected to the Tirumala temple, and run by the TTD. However, distance and time considerations prevent them from being included in this tour. For those of you, however, who would like to visit such temples on your own, there is one more temple I would like to mention. I have heard of this, but wasn’t able to visit this time. Maybe another time!
Tallapakka is the birthplace of the saint Annamacharya, who is closely associated with Sri Venkateswara. The temple of Chennakesava is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is believed to be more than a thousand years old. There are lots of interesting things about this temple, and you can read more about it on the following links:
More temples around Tirupati coming up!!