We planned to get up early morning by 4 am, but eventually after a long journey the day before we comfortably slept until five and started from the hotel to the Tirumala temple around 6 30am .. Before ascending the hill, the vehicles were checked in the toll gate and the luggages carried were scanned as well and was marked using a nama katti (more like a white chalk) which made us think how did it really matter..
The journey uphill started from the toll gate and it took us close to 45 mins to reach the hill top near the Tirumala temple. The ride along the paves was serene and beautiful, the cold breeze passing through your face made it a refreshing start for the day.. Nature is truly beautiful when taken care of ..
On reaching uphill we dined at the Mathura restaurant for a quick breakfast of steaming Idli, dosa, pongal and vada ( The vada s were crispy and soft - Delicious!)
After getting our quick darshan tickets which costed about Rs.300 per person , at around 8 30 am we headed to join the devotees waiting in the queue .. On joining the queue I was surprised to see people selling breakfast .. juices .. biscuits and lays .. to keep the devotees from starving , for it takes hours to have a peek at Lord Venkatachalapathy. It took us four hours . I remember the last couple of times we were at Tirupathi we had got some special Darshan tickets, in which case we were at the temple either early in the morning at 4 or in the evening at 6 30 and didnt have to wait this long in the queue.
The time waiting in the queue was well spent people watching.. Finally at around 11 30 am we were out of the temple after the darshan and collection of the famous Tirpathi ladu (prasadam).. After spending close to an hour of window shopping along the streets adjoining the temple. We took the journey downhill to reach our hotel, and then on lunch and leave back to Chennai.
On the trip down hill I came across groups of people walking up the hill for the Darshan and heard stories from my parents about the same and how few generations ago people from my native made visit to Tirupathi is Bullock carts and how they exchanged the bullocks with known families mid way and collect their animals back on their return trip.. Interesting I thought, but would have taken them ages to complete the journey .. a mammoth task it would have been.
Looked like there were quite a bit of wild animals in the forests surrounding the temple, which I came to know from the boards placed along the road down hill. We came across a herd of deers fenced and there was a guy selling cucumber and carrots which one can buy to feed the deers .. We got one box of them first , the more I fed the more I wanted to .. so ended up getting another one .. the deers were so friendly .. thinking about them even now brings a smile in my face.
We vacated from our hotel and I had this innate urge to taste some authentic andhra food before heading back home.. After a bit of discussion we decided on dining at Fortune Kences .. This place is not known for its authentic andhra food thou' it had most of the items in its buffet spread.
After a heavy lunch, with my stomach full and even contended heart .. we made our journey back to Chennai :)
I now see Thirumala to be more of a hill station than a pilgrimage spot, it could turn out to be a weekend getaway or a budget holiday for those of them in and around Chennai.