The much-awaited annual festival has begun at the Tirumala Hills. Thousands of devotees are flocking the hills, some even walking up a distance of 10 km, to be a part of the divine spectacle. If Tyagaraja had witnessed the Brahmotsavam, he would have described it as Bhooloka Vaikuntam. The temple has a hoary past with direct and indirect references in the Vedas and Puranas.
Ramanuja connection: Thousand years ago, saint Ramanuja established the true identity of the Lord. There was a dispute whether the presiding deity was Durga, Shiva, Muruga or Vishnu. Debates were of no use. Ramanuja decided that the insignias of all the deities be placed inside the shrine and leave the choice to the Lord. The next morning when they opened the shrine, the Lord was adorned with the conch, the chakra and all other symbols of Narayana. That is why in the vaazhi thirunamam, Ramanuja is referred as “appanukku sangamum aazhiyum thanthaan vaazhiyae”, making Ramanuja the Acharya of the Lord. He had done samashrayanam for the Lord, who is in the standing posture while Ramanuja is seated in his shrine in the same temple.
Initially, Ramanuja refused to ascend the hills saying Nammazhwar had not done so. The gnani that he was, Thirukkurugur Sadagopan never visited any temple. Srinivasa appeared before him several times when he was in dhyana under the Tamarind tree, and the saint broke into ecstatic verses in Tamil — agalakillen iraiyum endru alarmelmangai urai maarba – Mahalakshmi will never be away from the holy chest of Srinivasa. Ramanuja rendered the mangala shloka of the Sri Bhashya grantha in the presence of the Lord. His refusal to ascend the hills, said the disciples, will lead successive generations to decline the honour of going up the hills for darshan. Ramanuja relented.
The highlight of the nine-day festival is the Garudotsavam on October 1. The Chief Minister carries the Bahumanas on his head and goes around the temple before offering it to the Lord. This tradition was established by Krishnadevaraya.
Andal connection: Thiruppavai is recited everyday . Special mariyadhas including Sesha Vastras are brought from Srivilliputtur for the Garudotsavam.
Ananthazhwar connection: The festival concludes with Shravana theerthavari on the ninth day. The next day, Srinivasa visits the Ananthazhwan garden only to be chased out and he runs backwards (bagh savari). This refers to the episode when Ananthazhwan threw a crowbar at the Lord for interfering in his work of laying the garden. The crowbar is on display at the temple entrance. It hit the Lord on the chin and he began to bleed. The Lord suggested application of the padatuli of the devotees. This is offered even today as sripadarenu to the devotees.
The Chennai-based writer is a Carnatic music connoisseur.