Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trip to Tirupati-Tirumala in March 2012 - Vishesha Seva

We had planned a sudden trip to Tirupati-Tirumala in late March 2012. Our plan was to drive to Tirumala on 25th March, Sunday, visit the temple the same day, stay there overnight and drive back early on 26th March, Monday. However, we had heard that (23rd March being Ugadi), the weekend will be very crowded. We had also not planned/booked accommodation there in advance. In spite of this, this trip turned out to be a really good one! 

We took the normal route -> Bangalore Old Madras Road (NH5) - Hoskote -> Kolar -> Mulbagal -> Palamaner -> Chittoor bye pass -> Puttalapattu -> Tirupati -> Tirumala. 

Sunday, 25th March 2012
We started early Sunday morning, 5.30AM. We had decided to stop only once for breakfast. So around 8AM (when our daughter woke up), we stopped somewhere beyond Palamaner, at a place called Priyadarshini (or something like that). We had some decent breakfast - idly, pongal and coffee and then proceeded towards Tirupati. We reached Tirupati around 10.30 AM. 

Just before the Security checkpoint at Tirupati (before we start the uphill drive), a TTD staff asked us for a lift, since he had just missed his shuttle. Just to ensure that he was really a TTD staff, we asked him to show an ID,which he did. He got us quickly through the security check, helping us load our luggage onto the scanner and then putting it back into our car.

While we were driving up, we got our first shock. The TTD person told us that the crowd was really too much and it was taking people 7-8 hours of waiting in the queue. Also, the normal accommodation was going to be impossible to get. However, he called up somebody and found that we could get tickets to a Special Seva (Vishesha Seva) Monday morning. Also, he suggested that we go to the "Padmavathy Enquiry Office" to book our accommodation (these start at Rs. 1000 per night), rather than the normal ones. This advice turned out good for us.

Once at Tirumala, we drove to the Vijaya Bank counter, where we purchased Vishesha Seva tickets (Rs 600/head) for Monday morning. We discovered that, to enter the temple using the Seva tickets, we had to were traditional dresses - Male: Veshti + Angavastram, Female: Saree. So we purchased these from the local market. After a bit of searching for accomodation at the different Mutts in Tirumala (all of them were full), we went to the Padmavathi Enquiry office and booked a room (Rs 1000 per night+Rs. 1000 Refundable deposit) at the Sripadadam Guest House. After lunch and some rest, we roamed around the town and the garden.

Monday, 26th March 2012
We woke up early, since the time mentioned was 6.30AM and the staff had asked us to arrive at the Vaikuntam Q Complex - 2 by 6 AM. We entered through the "Supatham" entry. This is also the same entry for parents with infants. After the initial checking and scanning, we were made to wait at (what I call) "the cage" till about 7.15 AM. We were then taken to the place where the "Seva" happens. This is adjacent to the main temple itself. This is a nice big hall where we were asked to sit, leaving some space in the middle. At around 7.30 AM, with the accompaniment of music, the "Utsava Vigraham" is brought and placed in the hall. There is an elaborate puja performed here. All these are visible without any difficulty. Here's a description of the Seva on the official site

After the Seva is completed, we are taken directly in the Central temple area. The usual confusion happens here, there is a free-for-all entry here, and the usual "Jaragandi-Jaragandi" and pushing-pulling by the staff. But overall, a very good "Darshan". We were out of the temple complex after collecting the "Prasadam", by 9.30AM. 

We packed up our stuff from the room, picked up the refund of Rs.1000, had some heavy breakfast and started for Bangalore, by 11.30AM. The downhill drive was slow, since traffic was allowed two-way. Drove back non-stop except for a coffee and we were home by 5 PM. A great trip all-in-all!