Lord Tirupati at Tirumali presides over a major Vaishnavnite shrine in India, and indeed, the world.
The ancient deity here has been worshiped over the millienia by a huge number of saints, including Shri Vallabh.
Shri Vallabh's ancestors had a very old association with the shrine and Lord Tirupati was the tutilary deity of the family. Shri Vallbh's father infact gave up his earthly body at Tirupati. The family was on a trip to visit their ancestral land in south India, when Shri Lakshman Bhatt decided to visit Tirumali before going to see his extended family. After performing seva of the Lord, Lakshman Bhatt became overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lord and his soul merged with the Lord at Tirumali.
After his cremation, Shri Vallabh stayed on for while. He also recited Srimada Bhagvatam to the Lord Tirupati on the banks of the Swami Pushkarini lake. Blessed by the Lord, Shri Vallabh carried on his trip to see the rest of his extended family. He decided to embark on the first of his three trips across India. He later went on to be honoured as the greatest Vaishnava Acharya by Krishnadeva Raya of the VijayaNagar empire.
Description of the image of the Lord at Tirupati :- (from the web)
Shri Sitapati then describes the image: [Sitapati: 16]About height :-
"...The Lord's image is in Sthanaka or standing pose. The Lord is standing on a high lotus pedestal. The height of the Lord has never been recorded, but cannot be less than nine feet from the tip of the 'mukutam' i.e., the crown to the bottom of the lotus pedestal as can be seen clearly on a Friday when 'abhishekam' is done after removing all the gold 'kavachas' etc. ornamenting this figure. The priest performing the worship, about five feet tall, standing on a stool two and a half feet high is not able to perform 'abhishekam' on the Lord's mukuta without assistance from a priest standing behind the idol. Keeping in view this fact and that the pedestal on which the Lord stands is itself below the floor in the sanctum sanctorium, the Lord stands is itself below the floor in the sanctum sanctorium, the Lord's figure from tip of the crown to the vase of the lotus pedestal, must measure between nine and ten feet". About the beauty :-
"The image is perfection personified, and it would not be incorrect to say is the most handsome and perfectly featured idol of India." About the material :-
"According to tradition, the idol is a manifestation of the Lord in Saligram Sila.... The idol of the Lord is liberally anointed frequently with civet or 'punugu' oil; this application of oil makes the idol dark in colour and does not enable us to make an accurate assessment of the material of the image. The material of the idol could be granite or the red igneous rock..." About the eyes :-
"...The Lord's majestic beauty is best seen at the time of the Friday Abhishekam when the jewels and other paraphernalia do not cover our view of Him in His celestial glory. It is at this time that we see the eyes of the Lord in the 'sama drishti pose' showering divine grace... The eyes neither look up nor downwards, but straight into devotees' eyes (as laid down in Sukraniti)..." About the face :-
"The face is beaming with joy and wears a smile. An aura of meditation and abundant love is the constant atmosphere around the Lord, wearing a mukuta or crown which is more than 20 inches high." About the hair :-
"The Lord's figure is richly adorned with flowing locks of hair or jata juta and some of these locks of curly hair rest on his shoulders." About the mouth and nose :-
"The nose is delicately carved and is neither prominent nor flat. The mouth of the Lord is also exquisitely shaped. According to Pratima Mana Lakshanam the mouth should be made slightly smiling, pleasant and possessed of all good signs. One should absolutely avoid the construction of the mouth which is passionate, impetuous, wrathful, sour, bitter, or circular. ... The chin and the ears are carved proportionately. The ears wear beautiful ear ornaments..." About the body :-
"The chest of the Lord is magnificent in cut and size and should, if measured, be between 36 to 40 inches in width, while the waist would be between 24 to 27 inches. The neck is conch like and the body in the posture of a lion and exquisitely shaped. The belly is also beautifully modeled." About the arms :-
"The Lord's image has four arms, the upper two being carved to hold the chakram and the conch; the chakram and the conch are not integral parts of the main idol. The upper right arm holds the Sudarshana Chakra; the upper left arm holds the Panchajanya, ... The lower right hand of the Lord is in the Varada hasta pose, while the lower left hand is in the Katyavalambita pose. Actually the fingers of the left hand rest on the left thigh, with the thumb of the hand almost parallel to the waist line..." About posture :-
"While the idol itself is not exactly standing in the tribhang pose, as in the case of Shri Rama idols, the near and below the waist has taken a slight tilt to the left and the knees themselves are bent and open slightly outwards, giving the idols peculiar grace and charm". About Laxmi :-
"Mother Laxmi is carved on the right chest of the Lord in the sitting pose and is an integral part of the mula murthi." About ornaments :-
"The yajnopavitam and a set of four necklaces or ornaments of the neck can also be clearly made out on the idol. The arms have armlets with finger-like projection which appear to be Nagabhushanams or Cobra ornaments. A cobra is also said to be coiled around the Lord's right arm. The figure is depicted as wearing a dhoti from the waist downwards, while the upper portion is not covered by any dress or vastram. The nipples of the Lord on his chest are button like and are prominent. There is however a katibandham or waistband and this waistband is about 2 inches thick." About legs :-
"The legs and feet of the Lord are beautifully shaped, strong and lissome, As indicated earlier, both the knees are bent and open slightly outward, giving the stately figure charm and grace, that words cannot adequately describe. The feet are models of perfection and have ornaments near the anklets." About bow marks :-
"The Lord's image has on the shoulders marks resembling 'scars made by the constant wearing of the bow and a pack of arrows'."
Lord Tirupati's uttsav murits are taken out of the inner sanctum for various festivals and yatras. Lord comes out to swing, ride in a boat, visit parks and other shrines. Sometimes the divine procession goes around the town. These trips allow people and God to interact outside the inner shrine.
Here are some video footages of the Lord being bathed during an abhisheka from 50 years ago !
50 year old film of morning rituals at Tirupati showing the wonderful form of the Lord without the jewels that often hide his divine vigraha.
Friday abhishek of Shri Tirupati, with priests standing on tall step-ladder to bath the tall form of the Lord with all the various panchamritas and waters of sacred places.
Some info on seva rituals
List of sevas in the temple at Tirumala
Wiki page on Tirupati
Bharhma Mahotsav slides
These show all the shringars from Navratri Festival
Please click on the images below to see the Lord Tirupati, his Uttsava Svaroops, and Shri Padmavatiji
© Bhagwat Shah
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