Pilgrims in the South
After mangal arati, the auspicious morning service-and-chant, a driver by the name of Deva took me for a splashy three hour ride to Tirupati. Before embarking on this monsoon experience I already had under-my-belt my committed sixteen revolutions on my strand of mantra beads. It’s a good feeling starting the day on a spiritual charge.
It is a rather cumbersome drive for a 160 kilometres to Tirupati, the world’s most prosperous temple which honours Balaji, a manifestation of Vishnu. From Chennai to Tirupati pilgrims do walk honoring a special time within the period of caturmasya marking the rainy season. I see literally thousands of pilgrims with umbrella in hand and not bearing an agitated face whatsoever - regardless of the downpour. They are clothed in yellow, Balaji’s colour while the men tuck their yellow dhoti from the ankle up to above the knee in a pancha garb.
The level of faith of these people is quite incredible, going all this distance, on a yearly basis and doing so for a rather brief darshan (viewing of the deity). It is common, even for a poor man, to donate a prized possession to please the deity and aspire for liberation from this world.
Shortly after I arrived, my dear friend Pragosh from Ireland got my attention. We plan as usual, the devotional entertainment for the upcoming Gaura Purnima festival. I also met Radhanath Swami and we spoke about the origin of Balaji to this area. It all began with a kick-start; literally. A sage by the name of Brghu kicked the chest of Vishnu. While Vishnu was tolerant of this (he didn’t take it personally), his consort the Goddess of Fortune (Lakshmi) wasn’t.
I am fortunate to be in such a place of pilgrimage where not only Balaji is the salient personality here but the sacred comraderie is unbeatable.