Note to the readers: Some words have capital letters in them. This is deliberate. It means while reading it, stretch that letter. This is an attempt by the author to make the reader pronounce the word correctly.
In all major Hindu Mandirs, MahasamprOkshanam (as termed in Sri Vaishnava Mandirs) or Kumbabhishekam (as termed in Shaiva and other Mandirs) is mandated once in 12 years. Tirumala Mandir comes under the Vaikhanasa Agama and there is no such 12-year period mandated in the Vaikhanasa Agama. The Agama says under Vaikanasa Bhrigu, chapter: “PrakErnadhikAram”:
MahAnimittE is understood as: When robbery takes place in the Mandir, when the Vigraha becomes shaky in its Padma Peetam, necessitating Ashtabandhanam (fixing it with a mix of eight herbs), When the Naivedyam, Pujas or ArAdhanAs were stopped for any reason whatsoever etc., then MahaSamprOkshanam must be conducted.
However, even in Tirumala Mandir, the practice of MahasamprOkshanam is done once in 12 years as determined by generations of the Mirasi Archakas for the following reasons:
- To undertake repairs, both minor and major, inside Mandir complex and at times inside GarbhaGriha. I have detailed this in the article starting from 1800.
- The Vigraha, because of the enormous weight of Jewels adorned in His Alankaram, could over period loosen from the Padma Peetam.
- The Tirumanjanam (Abhishekam) of the Salagrama Vigraha on each Friday, over generations, can also make the Vigraha loose in the Padma Peetam, hence would need fresh
- The mixture of 8 herbs used for Ashtabandhana of the Vigraha with the Padma Peetam can weaken naturally over period, hence the Mirasi Archakas decided it fit to renew it once in twelve years as in the other non-Vaikhanasa Agama The period of BAlalayam to Samprokshanam is taken to attend to the other repairs deemed necessary to the Mandir, including the Garbha Gruham.
In any Mandir, the MahasamprOkshanam is a time to rejoice. To gather in great numbers. In anticipation that few drops of the Sacred SamprOkshanaTeertham from the Kumbham, sprinkled from atop the Garbha Griha Gopuram will sanctify their heads.
This year, the MahasamprOkshanam of Tirumala Mandir will be taking place from 11th through 16th August. The Government appointed TTD Board is obviously either ignorant or callous to the History of such SamprOkshanams. They have made an unprecedented decision to close the Mandir for darshan of the Bhaktas from 09th August through 16th August. They have declared that public darshan will resume on the 17th.
This prompted me to research on the MahasampOkshanams done to Tirumala Mandir since the 1800 CE. I list the various renovation works undertaken in the Mandir since 1800s, both minor and major. I am not surprised that NOT ONCE since 1800s, Bhaktas have been denied darshan of the Bhagawan, as has been decided this year by the TTD Board. This is MahaNirbandham.
Now let us briefly see the repair works that necessitated MahasamprOkshanam since 1800s:
1800: The MulavirAt of Bhagawan Srinivasa can be seen holding Sudarshana Chakra and PanchajanyaShanka in the upper right and left hands respectively. The then Hereditary MirasiArchaka, Sriman Srinivasa Dikshitulu spent about 500 Pagodas of gold and had both Hasthamscovered in Gold. (Source: A Symposium on Tirupati Venkateshwara by P.T.Jagannatha Rao, 1952 Published by HH Sri Sri Mahant NarayanadossiVaru,)
General Public was allowed to have darshan of the MulavirAt.
Records are not available till 1907.
1908: During this SamprOkshanam held on 30-09-1908, the sacred dome of Ananda Nilayam was fitted with a new Gold Kalasam. A new golden chain of Goddess Padmavathi Devi was fixed permanently to the SwayambuDruvaBera of Bhagawan Srinivasa. The same was donated by the then officer of Hathiramjee Mutt headed by Mahanth, Sri Prayagdoss ji, named Sri Hathiramjee Adhikari Rama Lakshmana Dasa. On the back of this icon has the beginning letters ‘SrI Ha A rAdA’ inscribed on it.
General public was allowed to have Darshan of the MulavirAt.
1920: Record not available
1934: Minor repairs to the Thoranam around the MoolavirAt.
General Public was allowed to have Darshan of the MulavirAt.
1946: Major repair to Srivari Makara Torana. The wooden Makara Torana was covered with Gold. Two solid copper pillars were installed to lend it support. Minor repairs were done to Goddess Lakshmi Icon in Gold on the right bosom of SrivariMulavirAt.
General Public was allowed to have Darshan of the MulavirAt
1958: This was the real major work. The Gold plating of the Ananda Nilayam, atop the GarbhaGriham. Since the work would extend beyond 10 days, the BAlalayam was not through KalAkarshana to Kumbham. A Fig wood replica of the Bhagawan was carved and the BAlalayam was made. The then E. O. of TTD, Sri. C. Anna Rao and the Board decided that the Bhaktas should NOT be put into inconvenience in any manner. Measurements of the Ananda Nilayam were taken. A wooden replica of the Ananda Nilayam was made at Tirupati. Copper plates and its gold plating were done based on this replica. The BAlalayam work commenced on 25-Oct-1957 and completed on 01-November-1957. Pilgrims could have Darshan of the BAlalayam that was made in the Old Kalyanamandapam in the VimAnaPrakAram (Currently the ParakAmani, where Hundi offerings are counted). They were even allowed darshan of the MulavirAt at three specified timings during the day. The MahasamprOkshanam took place from 18th August to 27th August with the MahApratishta on Wednesday, 27th August 1958. Even during this period, Dharma Darshan was allowed to Public between 12 Noon and 3 PM. (Refer: TTD Flyer of 1958 in Picture).
The report titled “Ankurarpanam” is from the TTD Bulletin of 1958 (in Picture). It clearly states that protective measures were taken to protect the MulavirAt from any damages from repairs on the Ananda Nilayam. Thomala, Archana was all done in Ekantam (private) to the MulavirAt. “However, to satisfy their yearning to have a glimpse of that bewitching and inspiring Lord of the Seven Hills, the Pilgrims were afforded the facility of having only a fleeting glance of this Lord three times a day- for no Teertham or SatAri were served to them all these months”. 1957-58 was the time when the biggest maintenance work in the Mandir was undertaken. Even during this period, the public was fortunate to have darshan of the Bhagawan. One can see from the photos of the Ananda Nilayam Gold covering work and from another photo, a large crowd of devotees atop the 1000 pillared Mandapam watching the work in progress, that devotees were allowed to reach Tirumala.
1970: Many may not be aware that surrounding the Lotus feet of the Bhagawan is the Go-Mukham. This was rectangular in shape and was a 20-feet deep well, that leads to Somasutram, the water outlet of the Garbha Gruham. The 20 feet well was filled with Salagrama and herbs and closed. Water from Abhishekam collects through Somasutram into a pond of about 8 feet depth, situated in the Vaikunta PrAkaram, just behind Sri Visvakshena Vigraham. This is cleared every Thursday. One can see it only during Vaikunta Ekadasi when bhaktas are allowed Pradakshina through the Vaikunta Dwaram. Since it is situated inside the Garbha Gruham the entire work of closing it with Salagramam and herbs was done by the Archakas as nobody is allowed to enter the Garbha Gruha for civil or any other work. The Mirasi Archakas get themselves trained before doing such works.
Even during such major work, General Darshan was NOT stopped, though restricted to a few select hours.
1982: A new Dwajasthambam was installed with gold covering. Maha Bali Peetam near the Dwajasthambam was also fitted with new Gold covering. A 5-day Brahmotsavam was conducted post the MahaSamprOkshana. The floor of the Garbha Gruha used to be uneven and zig zag. The Archakas laid the new floor with treated stones and today the surface is flat and even. Archakas trained themselves to complete this work. General Darshan was allowed at specific timings.
1994: The small gap between the SrivariPAdam and the Padma Peetam was filled with Ashtbandhanam Paste. Ananda Nilayam Golden Vimanam was polished using various herbs.
I recall distinctly that in 1994 and in 2006, Sriman. Ramana Dikshitulu, the Pradhana Archaka that the TTD retired compulsorily was on the Ananda Nilayam Vimanam (in 2006 he was performing the role of “YajamAnyam”), sprinkling the sacred SamprOkshanam water from the Kumbham on Bhaktas gathered in Ananda Nilayam PrAkAra. Many Pilgrims had darshan post-SamprOkshanam both in 1994 and2006. During 2006 SamprOkshanam, Jatibandhanam in Gold was done to the Utsava Murthis of Sri. Srivaru, Sri. Malayappaswamy, Sri Devi, Bhudevi, Sri Kodanda Rama Swami, Sita Lakshmana, Sri Krishna Swami, Rukmini Thayar and to Sri Bhashyakar.
General Darshan was not stopped and offered at specific timings.
Recollecting the work done from 1800 till the last SamprOkshanam in 2006, it is very clear that during SamprOkshanam, pilgrims were NOT barred from entering Tirumala or the Mandir or having darshan of the MoolavirAt, though the timings were restricted and were specific.
All the rituals during the period are conducted inside the Old Kalyana Mandapam, which is the current ParakAmani in the Ananda Nilaya PrAkaram. Pilgrims had the darshan of the Bhagawan and while doing PradakshinA, had a glimpse of the Homams conducted in the YAgasAla which is the existing Hundi money counting centre.
70 Ritwiks are selected from Southern States to perform the Homams. Devotees feel blessed by the very sight of such Divya Homams and the vibrations of Veda Mantras. The non-stop recitation of the ChaturVedas, The Mahabharatha, The Srimad Bhagavatha, The Srimad Ramayana, Sri Vishnu Purana are all most soothing to the eyes, ears and the Atma. And this year, TTD has barred you and me to see it happen, to hear it and walk past the YAgasAla during VimAna Pradakshina.
The Mirasi ArchakAs have always encouraged public participation in such Sacred events. Except the rituals that are to be done in EkAntam (private).They would like all who are fortunate to visit, to have the once in a lifetime experience of such vibrations.
The TTD is slowly putting an end to such glorious practices. They have pushed the draconian rule of compulsory retirement of MirasiArchakAs. Unlike the previous Pradhana Mirasi Archakas, the current Pradhana ArchakA is a handpicked appointee of the TTD Board and by extension the TDP Government. And others are contract ArchakAs who owe their employment to TTD. They have been driven to submission and cannot be expected to object the blatant interference of the TTD officials in the Rituals. It has always been idea of TTD officials to take complete control of the Mandir administration, including control on the Rituals. The Mirasi ArchakAs were putting the TTD in its place and were a hindrance to long-term devious designs of the Political Administrators.
This raises certain serious questions in the minds of the public which the TTD and the Government should answer:
- What is the need for a total shut down of the Mandir for the Bhaktas from 9th through 16th? The reason of crowd management does not sound real. Even during PurattAsi Saturdays (Sep/Oct), when there is an unprecedented crowd, many have darshan of Sri Varaha Swamy, Sri Bedi Anjaneya, have Gopura Darshanam and the Darshan of the Ananda Nilayam from outside the mandir and leave. People firmly believe that it is Swamy Venkateshwara who decides if He should give them His Darshan. If they don’t get the darshan, most Bhaktas accept it as their PrAptham and return.
- People are already connecting the TTD’s illogical act of a total shut down to Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s PIL in the SC. Many fear that a major cover-up is taking place.
- People are also talking that there have been 500 holes drilled from the Bangaru Vakili to the Ramulavari Meda leading to the Garbha Gruham. Is there some scientific probing work being undertaken for any hidden treasure? Is there any truth in this?
- It is widely believed that there are hidden treasures in three places in Tirumala. The first one is the 1000-Pillared Mandapam. That was brought down unceremoniously under the pretext of the Master Plan. Apart from losing the magnificent ancient structure, only Bhagawan knows what else was lost forever. The second one was the VakulaMathaPotu, the place where Anna Prasadams and Neivedyam for the Bhagawan is made. Recently, even that has been dug up and flooring and tiles in the walls, The third place is the BangaruVakili to RamulavariMeda leading to GarbhaGruham.
- Is there any connection between this and the decision taken that devotees will not be allowed from 09th through 16th August? It is also talked about widely that many TTD employees inside the Mandir are also getting paid leave. Added to this, many say that the CCTV cameras would be shut off. Will the TTD clarify on these?
- I have detailed the most major renovation work done in the Mandir, where devotees were allowed Darshan of the MulavirAt, restricting the timings. What is that magnificent renovation/repair works that TTD is undertaking in 2018 to warrant such a total closure? What is it that they are going to replace? The Svayambu SAlagrAma Vigraha itself?
- People have started asking why should the road from Alipiri to Tirumala be closed on these days and vehicular traffic be stopped? But how is it that TTD vehicles will be allowed to go up and down unchecked during this period? What is the plan? Don’t we deserve convincing answers, if any?
It is time for our Acharyas to raise these and more important questions to the TTD. They have the stature, the command and the right to demand answers. They also have the obligation to the welfare of the Hindu Samaj, therefore should raise their questions in the Public domain.
The Hindu Samaj also has a distinct responsibility. We have options to write to the E.O. TTD, registering our protest at not being allowed during the MahaSamprokshanam. We can take the Social Media by storm. Write letters to the Media in large numbers. Write to TV Channels, both National and Vernacular, a letter of protest against the TTD’sdecision. And those who live in and around Tirupati, can go in large numbers to the E.O.’s office and ask him some tough questions.
The TTD has the administration in its grip. And now has taken control of the Rituals. The Dhrutarashtra Aalinganam is locked and complete.
They are taking away our Right to Worship. And we haven’t realized it.
(The latest news as I post this is that the CM of AP, Sri Chandrababu Naidu has been forced to intervene because of outrage in the Social Media. One cannot believe that he was not in the loop by the earlier decision of the Board. Now, he appears to have instructed that Darshan for Bhakts should be allowed in restricted timings as in earlier MahAsamprOkshanams. More power to Social Media). As devotees we urge the CM that apart from allowing limited time for Darshan, the events of VedaparAyanam, Homam etc., should be telecast live on SVBC channel continuously for us to have darshan of such rituals.
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