Seva in Tirumala
The Tirumala Venkateswara temple (or Sri Venkateswara Swami temple) is a landmark Vaishnavite temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to exist here to save mankind from trails and troubles of Kaliyuga. There are many rituals and festivals performed in the temple round the year as per Vaikhanasa Agama. These rituals and festivals are performed on a daily, weekly and periodic basis. Few of these rituals are also termed as Seva as these are performed by devotees (also called grihasta) on payment. All these rituals are organised by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams which administers the temple.
- 1 Daily rituals
- 2 Weekly rituals
- 3 Annual Sevas
- 4 References
Daily rituals are performed to all the deities in the temple as per Vaikhanasa Agama. Devotees are allowed to view and sometimes perform few of these rituals.
Suprabhata Seva is the first and foremost pre-dawn ritual that is performed to Lord Venkateswara in a day in Tirumala Venkateswara temple. Suprabhatam is a Sanskrit term which means Good Morning. The ritual is performed in Sayana Mantapam inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to wake up Lord Venkateswara from his celestial sleep by singing sacred Sanskrit hymns. Suprabhatam hymns consists of 70 slokas which are divided into four categories which include
- Suprabhatam (Waking the Lord): 29 slokas
- Stotram (Hymns to praise the Lord): 11 slokas
- Prapatti (Surrender to the Lord): 16 slokas
- Mangalasasanam (Prayer to the Lord's Glory): 14 slokas.
Thomala means garland of flowers tied and left from the shoulders(Tho-shoulders mala-garland). Thomala seva is the ritual performed to the Pancha Beramulu, during which the deity is adorned with garlands of flowers and Tulsi leaves. This is performed early in the morning after Suprabhata seva. The garlands are brought by the Jeeyangar (chief pontiff) of Tirumala temple or by the Ekangi(his disciple), led by a lighted torch in a procession to the rhythmic gongs of Jeganta (handy bells)to the temple. Each garland is of specific size and is consigned for specific place on the deity. This seva is performed for 30 minutes.
This is a private seva performed in the sanctum of the temple to the Koluvu Srinivasa idol. It is performed after the Thomala seva in the early hours of the day. There is restricted entry during this seva as some important matters relating to the temple are recited amidst the idol along with the Panchangam or horoscope of the day.
On completion of Thomala Seva, Archana or Sahasranamarchana (1000 name recital) is performed to the main deity Lord Venkateswara amidst chanting of his one thousand names. After the recital, blessings are obtained from the Lord for the whole world as saying the name and gotram of each the ticket holders would make it a lengthy process as there would be about 200 Seva kartas every day. The entire ritual lasts for 30 minutes. Archana is then performed to Vakshasthala Lakshmi Tayar in Ekantam, with a curtain drawn over the sanctum.
Unlike other Vaishnava temples, the Sahasranamam invoked here is not the well known Vishnu Sahasranamam but Sri Venkateswara Sahasaranamam which is unique and recited to the lord only in Tirumala. While the origin date of the seva is not known, an inscription from 1518 A.D. is the earliest recorded instance where Sahasranamarchana is mentioned.
Lord Venkateswara receives the second and third archanas in ekantam later in the day. Archana is an arjita seva on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and is performed in ekantam on other days. Each ticket allows one person and 2 small Laddus are offered as prasadam for this arjita seva.
In Tirumala, the name and gothram of sevakartas are not stated as there are around 1000 people who participate. Instead the Lord's blessings is sought for the welfare of the whole world.
Srivari Kalyanotsavam is performed to the Utsava Murti -Sri Malayappa swami (instead of the main deity) and his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi. The archakas (priests) are consecrated to perform rituals on behalf of the bridegroom. The wedding ceremony is held according to the Vaikhanasa Agama rituals and starts with the Vishwaksena Puja. This is followed by Punya-avahachana and pronouncing the family pedigree of the brides and bridegroom. The idols of the Lord and his brides face each other with a tera (screen) in between them. After the priests perform appropriate homas, the bridegroom and the brides are allowed to see each other at the appropriate auspicious moment when the screen is removed. This is followed by Mangala sutra dharana, Purnahuti and Talambralu and then Lord and his consorts are garlanded.
This seva is not performed on important festivals like Srivari Brahmotsavam, Pavitrotsavam, Pushpayagam, etc., and on the days of solar and lunar eclipses. The duration of the seva is about one hour.
The practice of Kalyanotsavam started in 1536 AD when Tallapaka Tirumala Ayyangar conceived the idea of celebrating the marriage festival of Lord Malayappa swami and the ceremony was conducted over five days in the Tirumamani mandapam.
This seva starts exactly at 12:00 pm and ends up at 1:00 pm followed by darshan. More than 500 couples take part in this seva.
Dolotsavam is performed in the Addala Meda (Mirror Hall) as it is popularly known. The hall is in Aina Mahal (Addala Mantapam) opposite Ranganayaka mantapam where Arjita Brahmotsavam is performed. The Aina Mahal consists of mirrors on four walls and a central stage with the provision for an Unjal (Swing). Sri Malayappa Swami, Sridevi and Bhudevi are seated in the unjal (Swing) and the deities are swung to the accompaniment of Veda parayanam (Veda recitation) and mangalavadyam (traditional music).
Each ticket holder is given 2 small laddus for this seva. At the conclusion of the seva, the ticket holders are also sent for the darshan of the main deity in the sanctum sanctorum.
Arjita Brahmotsavam is performed daily and is the abridged version of the Brahmotsavam event. The seva is performed in the Vaibhavotsava Mantapam where the vahanams (vehicles of the lord) are kept throughout the year. In the seva, Sri Malayappa Swami is seated on Garuda Vahanam, Hanumanta Vahanam and Peddasesha Vahanam in that order and offered worship. This seva is conducted after the Dolotsavam is completed.
Each ticket allows 1 person to participate in the seva. Ticket holders would earlier get Vastra Bahumanam (traditional clothes as gift) but this practice is now discontinued. But you receive 2 small laddus for this seva. At the conclusion of this seva, the ticket holders are permitted to have the darshan of the main deity in the sanctum.
Arjita Vasanthotsavam is conducted daily as an abridged version of the Vasanthotsavam. The seva is conducted in the Vaibhavotsava Mantapam. The seva is offered to Sri Malayappa swami and His consorts - Sridevi and Bhudevi. The seva begins with perfumeries and scents applied to the deities. The veda pandits chant Purusha Suktam, Narayana Suktam, Shri Suktam and Bhu Suktam. Abhishekam (sacred bath) is performed to the Lord and his consorts with sacred water, milk, curd, honey and turmeric. Next, sandal paste is applied to Sri Malayappa Swami and his consorts,they are garlanded with Tulsi malas and are offered some upacharas. At the conclusion of the Seva, a perforated plate(Sahasradhara Patram) is held on top of the deities and water is poured, creating a shower.
The ticket holders are given 2 small laddus as prasadam for this arjita seva. The duration of the seva is about twenty minutes to half an hour. At the conclusion of the seva, the ticket holders are permitted to have the darshan of the main deity in the sanctum.
Sahasra Deepalankarana Seva
Sahasra Deepalankarana (1000 Diyas decoration) seva is the only daily seva that is performed outside the temple. The seva is performed in the Kolimi Mantapam located on the south eastern corner of the Srivari temple at 1700 hrs every day. Sri Malayappa swami along with Sridevi and Bhudevi are taken out in procession where one thousand wick lamps are lit. The lord is seated in a unjal (swing) in the midst of the lamps and Annamayya Sankirtanas and vedic hymns are sung to the newly wed God and Goddesses. On occasions, group dance (typically from Karnataka, though not restricted) is also held. As a recent practice, after the Sahasra Deepalankarana seva, the Lord and his consorts are taken on a procession along the 4 streets surrounding the temple, before taking them inside the temple complex.
The ticket holders are given 2 small laddus for this seva. At the conclusion of this seva, the ticket holders are permitted to have the darshan of the main deity in the sanctum sanctorum. The duration of the seva is 20-30 minutes.
Ekanta Seva is the last seva performed to Lord Venkateswara before the temple closes for the day. During this ritual, the garlands adorning the moolavar (main deity) are removed. The previous day's Gaddam Bottu will be replaced by a new one.Bhoga Srinivasa idol is laid on a gold Uyyala in the Sayana Mantapam using silver chains. Milk, fruits, almonds are offered to the Lord. Chandanam is placed at the feet of the main deity after removing the kavacham covering the feet. Chandanam (Sandalwood paste) is also placed on the chest of Bhoga Srinivasa. Since it is believed that Lord Brahma comes to perform prayers to the Lord after the temple doors are closed every night. Chandanam, water and puja materials are left for his usage. Water filled in silver cups are also kept for being consecrated by Lord Brahma and the same is distributed as 'Tirtha' (holy/sacred water) to all pilgrims the next day.
Tarigonda Vengamamba's aarti in a plate inlaid with one of the dasavatarams (10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu) along with pearls bought by Vengamamba's descendent is waved to the Lord. During the entire ceremony, descendants of Tallapaka Annamacharya sing Annamacharya's Jolapata (lullaby). During Dhanurmasa, the idol of Lord Krishna is put to bed in the Uyyala instead of Bhoga Srinivasa.
The Bangaru Vakili is closed and bolted with archakas key followed by Jeeyar's and administrator's keys. The temple authorities scale the door lock. On Varalakshmi Vratam day alone after Ekanta seva a few more rituals are observed.The Vakshasthala Lakshmi Tayar is adorned with a new vastram (traditional clothes) and naivedyam (sacred food) is offered to her with preparations made out of Bengal gram. With this the curtain is drawn to daily sevas and rituals in the temple.
Devotees may or may not be allowed to view this ritual based on the pilgrim rush on that day. The exact date of start of the seva is unknown while records exists of Krishnadeva Raya's wives - Chinnaji Devi and Tirumala Devi presenting golden cups to offer milk to the lord in 1513 A.D.
Vishesha Pooja (Monday)
Every Monday after the second bell, the utsava murthy is brought to the Vasantha Mantapam to receive a 'Chaturdasa Kalasa Thirumanjanam also called Vishesha Pooja. Seven vessels have the following seven materials (dravyas); Gingelly oil, milk, curds, ghee, yellow grains (akshata), darbha and panchagavya and the balance of seven vessels contain suddhodaka (i.e. pure water) with these 14 kalasas, Abhishekam is performed to Malayappa swami and the two consorts. The ritual goes like this. The archaka seeks the utsava vigraha's anjuna followed by Ankurarpana. This is a very simple ritual of merely putting the grains with palikas. As soon as the palikas are ready, agnihoma is started. Then aavahana is done to the kalasas (i.e., invoking the presence of the deities). The sankalpa to those who are sponsoring a particular arjita seva is done and the visesha puja starts with rendering upacharas to God, culminating in offering aarti. As panchasuktas are recited thirumanjanam is done to the utsava vigraha starting with milk, water, curds and sandalwood paste. After the conclusion of abhishekam, aarti is offered and the idol is given a bath with water in the kalasas. Purnahuti is offered so as to herald the conclusion of the homa. Naivedyam is offered to God.
Each ticket entitles 1 people to attend this arjita seva and they are given one big laddu, one vada as prasadam and vastra bahumanam (a silver laced upper garment) and sathari. At the conclusion of the seva, the ticket holders are also sent for the darshan of the main deity in the sanctum sanctorum.
This puja is done normally on Mondays and is not observed when special festivals like Brahmotsavam, Pavitrotsavam etc., take place.
Ashtadala Pada Padmaradhana ( Tuesday )
In this seva the god is worshiped with 108 golden lotus flowers while performing a special archana. Admission for this seva through "vaikuntham complex" . It is Ashtadala - Swarna - Padma - Puja. This special puja is celebrated on Tuesdays after the second bell is over and Jeeyar swamy with the Sri Vaishnavas comes out. The arjita sevakas who paid for the seva are allowed to go and sit in the mandapa between Bangaru Vakili and the Kulasekharapadi. In this puja, the archaka offers these flowers at the holy feet of the Lord with the uttering of each name, during the recitation of Dvadashanamas of the Lord after offering dhoopa and deepa to the main deity. Later archana is offered to Goddess Lakshmi & Padmavati. Then nakshatra aarti is offered first followed by karpoora neerajanam. Then arjita sevakas are given vastra (upper cloth) along with sathari and they are given two big laddus, two vadas as prasadam.
Sahasra Kalasabhishekam (Wednesday)
This is another unique and exquisite Seva offered to The Lord Venkateswara. It is performed every Wednesday Morning starting 6:00 a.m. This special puja is observed before the second bell is over in the morning i.e., after Sattumorai, Bhoga Sreenivasa is brought outside the Bangaru Vakili. The idol is placed facing east. The idol will have sambandha daaramu (Telugu word) i.e., a thin rope will be tied connecting it with the Mulavigraha in the sanctum. This rope will be tied round the feet of Bhoga Srinivasa at this end and the other end will be placed near the Kati Hasta of the Mulavigraha, thus symbolically involving the Mulabera with the pooja and making it obvious that Bhoga Srinivasa is only representing the Mulavar. Then the utsava vigraha (Malayappa Swami) is also brought and placed outside the Bangaru Vakili facing south. It is as if the trio is presiding over the special puja to be commenced. 1008 silver vessels filled with Akashaganga teertham are kept along with 8 more parivara kalasas and one gold vessel filled with water. The devotees who have paid for the seva are seated in the mantapam around 1008 kalasas and sankalpa is done. Then the puja starts with the recitation of Panchasuktas and Pancha-Shanti-Mantras. As these mantras are recited, the archakas perform Snapana Tirumanjanam to the idols viz, Bhoga Srinivasa, Malayapa swami and his two consorts and vishwak sena with water in the 1008 kalasas and the eight pavithra kalasas. Finally the golden vessel with water will be carried by one archaka to the accompaniment of recitation of Vedas and mangala vadyams in a pradakshina manner round the ananda vimana prakaram (outer courtyard) (inner prakaram), round the dhvajasthambha and then taken to Mulasthana (sanctum). Then at the Mulavarsannidhi ekanta - ashtothra - archana is offered to the main deity.
This archana is not open to public but is done behind the curtain drawn at the sanctum. The archakas sprinkle (proksana) the water from the golden vessel (Swarna kalasa) on the feet of the deity then symbolically including the Mulavigraha also in the Sahasrakalasa Abhishekam. The vigrahas near the Bangaru Vakili will be taken back to the sanctum. The second bell rings. Then in the presence of temple officers, Akshataropana ritual will take place in the sanctum i.e., Akshata (holy yellow rice) will be offered at the feet of the main deity. Then the archaka sprinkles some of those grains on his head and then the rest is kept for offering to the temple executives and devotees who take part in the seva. By that time, the curtains will be drawn and the arjitha sponsors have a darshan of the Mulavar. They will be given vastrabahumana, sathari and teertha. One ticket for the Sahasrakalasabishekam allows 6 people to participate with one couple allowed for Sankalpam.
"Prasadam" - 7 Big Laddus, 1/4 kilo each of Sweet Pongal, Pulihora, 7 dosas and 7 vadas.
Tiruppavada Seva (Thursday)
This is performed every Thursday Morning starting around 5:30 a.m. Here is the background.
Starting every early morning of Thursday, the standard famous huge, wide "Naamam" (a decoration with perfumed camphor paste across the forehead for all forms of Vishnu, The Vaishnavaite Hindu God) adorns Sri Venkateswara's forehead covering all but part of His eyes.
Removing this Naamam and bathing the Lord (Abhishekam) and again adorning him with a new wide Naamam on the same day (Friday) was considered too time consuming, given the rush of pilgrims and the time constraint for a Seva.
Therefore, the TTD introduced a new Seva every Thursday morning by the name of "Tiruppavada" (translated, means a divine skirt, or loosely, a veil). A huge mound of cooked Tamarind spiced rice (Pulihora) is poured on a silver tray (Size about 6 ft X 4 ft) and placed directly in front of the Lord such that it is about a couple of feet in front of his steed, Sri Garudalwar, in the foyer area of the temple's sanctum.
Amidst chanting of Mantras, the previous wide Naamam is peeled off and a thin Naamam is adorned on his forehead just to cover the space between his eyebrows. When this happens, it is believed that the Lord's first gaze after "opening" his eyes (because they were covered by The Naamam) should not fall on mortals, because it has lot of power. Instead, it is made to fall on the mound of "pulihora" directly in front of him, thereby sanctifying it and reducing the intensity of his gaze. The "pulihora" therefore acts like a veil ("Paavada" in Telugu/Tamil) protecting devotees from his powerful gaze.
This new thin Naamam then stays for the entire Thursday, and finally peeled off completely in the early hours of the next morning (Friday) before Abhishekam.
One ticket for the Tiruppavada Seva allows 1 person to participate and begets a full basket of sacred food cooked inside the temple - "Prasadam" - 1 Big Laddu, 1/4Kilo of Pulihora, 1 humongous Jalebi (only cooked for this Seva), 1 dosa, and 1 big Vada and 1 Jalebi Vada.
After the evening upacharas offered to the deities, the moolvirat of Lord Venkateshwara Is decorated with different garlands of flowers from top to toe as if he is wearing a Poolangi (shirt of flowers). The other deities are also decorated with garlands made of exotic flowers and aarti is offered to them.
Abhishekam is a Sanskrit word for the celestial bath that is performed to the main presiding deity in any Hindu temple. As per tradition, in Tirumala, this is performed on the pre-dawn of every Friday. It is performed from morning 3:30 a.m. and may last up to 5:00 a.m. A team of 4–5 priests will perform the Abhishekam based on Vaikhanasa Agama. All bedecked gold and diamond ornaments, clothing, and finery is taken off from the presiding deity except a white loin, and a heavy gold necklace bearing a pendant with Sri Mahalakshmi's seated pose. The abhishekam is performed by priests with water (brought from Akashaganga teertham), milk, punugu-kasturi parimalam(scent), turmeric, sandal paste, etc. During Abhishekam, priests will recite Pancha Suktam - Purusha Suktam, Sri Suktam, Bhoo Suktam, Nila Suktam, and Santhi Vachanam. 
Vasthralakarana Seva (Friday)
This paid seva also known as Melchat Vastram is conducted immediately after conducting Abhishekam on Fridays. The deity of Venkateswara will be adorned with a saree bought and handed over by devotees participating in that seva. The archakas will apply Namam, adorn saree and a few jewels to the deity of Venkateswara and no devotee is allowed to watch this. The devotees participating in Abhishekam and Vastralankarana Seva are allowed for Abhisheka-anantara darshanam with a new saree after offering naivedyam to the Lord.
Nijapada Darshanam (Friday)
Archana anantara darshan on Friday is called Nijapada Darshanam. Normally the Lord's feet are covered with a golden kavacham . But on Friday after performing Abhishekam to Venkateswara, the feet are left without the kavacham during which Nijapada Darshanam is held which allows devotees to see the feet of the Lord. This is a paid service where the devotees are allowed until Kulasekhara padi.
The main annual festival of the Tirumala temple is the Brahmotsavam festival coinciding with the Dussara festival though Brahmotsavam function is carried out twice in the temple (the lesser known of the Brahmotsavam occurs earlier in August–September). Apart from Brahmotsavam, the following functions are conducted every year:
- Padmavati Parinayam
- Abhideyaka Abhishekam
- Pushpa Pallaki
- Koil Alwar Tirumanjanam
- "Thomala seva".
- The Tirumala Temple. Tirumala: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. 1981.
- "Tirumala Archana Seva Complete Guide". Tirumala Tirupati Online. Tirumala Tirupati Online. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- "Tirumala Vasanthotsavam Daily Seva Guide". Tirumala Tirupati Online. Tirumala Tirupati Online. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
- "Tirumala Abhishekam Seva". TTO. TTO. Retrieved 30 May 2019.