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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tirupati to Tirumala drive

Tirupati is the town located at the base of Tirumala or Seven Hills which is the abode of Lord Venkateswara or Venkatachalapathi or Balaji as he is known in North India. We left the TTD Guest House Vishnu Nivasam - Tirupati  at 6.00 am. We embarked in a Toyota Innova seven seater station wagon.In a short while we reached the Sapthagiri check post which is the entry point to the ghat road for Tirumala. Pilgrims are asked to disembark while the car undergoes a thorough check. Baggage undergoes screening and pilgrims subjected to body check. Vehicles have a pay a toll fee depending on the classification of the vehicle. The fee receipt is computer issued and reflects the Registration number of the vehicle and the time of departure. To avoid over speeding and rash driving vehicles are timed when they report to Tirumala check post. If they have clocked in before 28 minutes the drivers are penalized and the vehicle confiscated. Such a rule has a sobering effect on all drivers and they make sure that do not complete the 15 Kms ascent up the ghat road in less than 28 minutes. A most brilliant and innovative rule. The drive was cool comfortable and picturesque.  Once we reached Tirumala we drove straight to "Sarangi" restaurant for break fast of idli/vada/dosa and coffee.All picture credits to Samsung Galaxy Smartphone :)
Clicked at 6.am at Vishnu Nivasam before departure for Tirumala - wife and son in the middle flanked by my friend and his wife. Yours truly was clicking the picture.
Sunrise at Tirupati
Sapthagiri Checkpost
One must be careful to carry sufficient fuel in the tank
Massive well equipped and fully computerized check post
Toll Rates
View of Sapthagiri Hills from Checkpost
Breakfast point

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gandhi Ji in Tirumala

Saw this person fully covered in silver paint and standing still like a statue, while driving upto Sri Vari Padam in Tirumala. Very innovative but challenging way to earn his daily bread. He was standing on a pile of stones for a better elevation.Wonder what would have been Mahatma Gandhi's feelings had been alive to see this? I actually saluted the guy and he acknowledged with a nod of his head.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Indian Giant Squirrel at Tirumala

During our peregrinations at Tirumala we visited Sri Vari Padam and chanced upon a pair of Indian Giant Squirrels. I was very fortunate to have been in a position to click some pictures of this rare sighting. The squirrel also didn't mind me clicking and were languorously perched on the branches of a tree.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vishnu Nivasam - Tirupati

From the Railway Station we walked across to Vishnu Nivasam a massive and magnificent TTD Guest House.It is possible to do e-booking of rooms here, provided you have already e-booked for darshan at Tirumala.However quota for e-booking of rooms is very limited hence we had to request a local person to come personally and do the booking. Vishnu Nivasam offers a choice of non-a/c room @ Rs.300, a/c room @ Rs.800 and deluxe rooms @ Rs.1500. We had opted for a/c room. The room is neat and clean provided with 2 beds with fresh linen,2 single sofas, a one ton split a/c,attached bathroom with a hot water geyser but no provision of towels,soap or shampoo/conditioner or TV. Drinking alcohol,smoking and consuming non-vegetarian food is strictly prohibited and their are sign boards all over the complex in every floor proclaiming this.
Since Tirupati is a high security risk zone, there is strict security check when you enter Vishnu Nivasam.Your baggage is screened and pilgrims are subjected to a body search.There is a huge expansive hall on the ground floor. On one side are the rooms booking and allotment counter. As and when rooms are vacated by pilgrims a sign board displays a room vacancy chart. Vacant rooms are allotted to those who are physically present and standing in queue.Generally you find there is a large influx of pilgrims coming into the complex in a continuous stream, many of them not needing a room, but only some shelter for a short period of time, before they proceed with their onward journey. The ground floor was teeming with such transit pilgrims and common toilets and bath areas are provided for their convenience.
There is also a canteen (Govindam) run by IRCTC on the ground floor whereas there is a TTD dining hall on the second floor providing free meals for pilgrims - morning afternoon and night. Apart from this free medical facility is provided to pilgrims who are sick or indisposed.There is a cloak room facility where you can deposit you baggage for safe keeping. They also provide an amazingly unbelievable facility for pilgrims proceeding uphill on foot. They collect your baggage at the complex and then deliver the same to you at Tirumala after a specified time.
The complex has 6 floors with 2 lifts operating throughout the day with pleasant faced and courteous lift men some of them physically challenged,performing their duties tirelessly.Each floor has close to 100 rooms and a total capacity of 600 rooms. Rooms are allotted for minimum two persons only. However there is no limitation on the number of persons staying in a room.Single persons will not be allotted a room though.Each floor has huge corridors which are frequently swept clean and maintained in sparkling condition.The corridors are designed in such a manner that they are well ventilated and receive plenty of natural lighting. Each floor is provided with fire extinguishers and sand buckets at strategic locations and also garbage bins for litter collection.
From our 6th floor corridor we had a vantage view point of the magnificent gopuram of the Govindaswamy Temple as well as the Lotus Tank. APRTC buses ply frequently from Tirupati to Tirumala and you have a bus leaving almost every 10 minutes or so. A one way ticket costs you Rs.45 adult/Rs.23 children while a return ticket costs Rs.82. You can board the bus right outside the entrance gate of this complex.
On the whole a very impressive complex with superb facilities for pilgrims - probably unparalleled anywhere else in India.
Complex entrance where baggage screening and security check take place
Another view of the classy and  magnificent complex
Pilgrims rest and relaxation area
IRCTC's Food Court
Sparkling well illuminated well maintained corridors
View of the Gopuram and water tank of Govindarajaswamy Temple
Bus Ready to depart fro Tirumala

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tirupati Railway Station

 Here are some pictures of Tirupati Railway Station.Inside the station is quite neat and clean. For the convenience of pilgrims there is an escalator for up travel to reach the over bridge.However for descending you have to take a flight of stairs. The station has two attractively designed entrances - both carry signboards welcoming passengers in English,Hindi & Telugu.The signs of Sanku (conch shell) and Chakram (wheel) which represent Maha Vishnu are beautifully embellished on the front facade. Pre-paid taxis/auto rikshas are available at the entrance and you find sign boards indicating distances of various temples/guest houses from the station.The most astonishing feature is an over bridge connecting the station directly to the massive pilgrim centre across the road - Vishnu Nivas. This bridge is almost ready but not yet functional.Right opposite the station are numerous eateries dishing out both South Indian as well as North Indian/Punjabi cuisine.There are regular bus services to ferry pilgrims to Tirumalai,17 Kms up the hills, where people flock to visit and pray at the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Venkatachalapati or Lord Balaji as He is known in North India.
Over bridge across the road

Travel to Tirupati

Traveled from Coimbatore to Tirupati by Kovai-Tirupati express on 17th March'2015.Dilapidated coach & ramshackle seats notwithstanding the journey was comfortable.The air conditioning was quite effective and charging sockets were available to the delight of Smartphone users.We had carried packed food - sandwiches for breakfast and lemon/curd rice for lunch - yummy.Dep:6.00 am/Arr:1.40 pm.Do not know why coaches condemned from premium trains are relegated to subsidiary routes like this one.Chittoor station looked neat and sparkling though.These pictures were clicked at Chittoor station: