Affiliation Form of Vishnu
Weapon Shankha, Chakra
|Sanskrit transliteration Veṅkaṭēśvara|
|Mantra Om Namo Venkatesaya, Om Namo Narayana|
Venkateswara (IAST: Veṅkaṭēśvara), also known as Śrīnivāsa, Bālājī, Veṅkaṭā,Venkata Ramana and Veṅkaṭācalapati, Govindha is a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Venkateswara's most prominent shrine is the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple located in Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh in Southern India.
Venkateswara literally means "Lord of Venkata". The word is a combination of the words Venkata (the name of a hill in Andhra Pradesh) and isvara ("Lord").
According to the Brahmanda and Bhavishyottara Puranas, the word "Venkata" means "destroyer of sins", deriving from the Sanskrit words vem (sins) and kata (power of immunity).
Origin of shrine
Thirumalai finds mention in Sangam literature, where Sangam landscape was classified into five categories, known as thinais, based on the mood, the season and the land. Tolkappiyam, mentions that each of these thinai had an associated deity and mentions Thirumaal as presiding in Mullai region- the forests.
Tirumala hill is located in the temple town of Tirumala, where Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is located on this hill. The ancient Tamil texts describe the Venkata (hill) as the northernmost part of Tamilakam.
According to the Tirumala sthala Purana, the legend of Venkateswara is as follows:
Once, sages headed by Kashyapa began to perform a fire sacrifice (homa) on the banks of the Ganges. Sage Narada visited them and asked them why they were performing the sacrifice and who is the patron deity of the sacrifice. Unable to answer, the sages approached Sage Bhrigu (who had an extra eye in the sole of his foot) to determine the worthy patron god among the Trimurti, the Hindu trinune gods. Bhrigu first went to Satyaloka, the abode of the god Brahma. At Satyaloka, he found Brahma reciting the four Vedas in praise of Vishnu, with each of his four heads, and attended upon by his consort Saraswati. Brahma did not notice Bhrigu offering obeisance. The angry sage cursed Brahma and left Satyaloka. He then reached Kailash, the abode of the god Shiva. Bhrigu found Shiva deep in meditation with his wife Parvati by his side. Feeling ignored, Bhrigu cursed Shiva too and left for Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu.
At Vaikuntha, Vishnu was resting on the serpent Shesha with his consort Lakshmi in service at his feet. Bhrigu was infuriated and kicked Vishnu on his chest, the place of Lakshmi in Vishnu's body. To pacify the sage, Vishnu held his legs and pressed them gently. He squeezed the extra eye in Bhrigu's foot - the symbol of his egotism. The sage realized his folly and apologized to Vishnu. There upon, Bhrigu concluded that Vishnu was supreme of the Trimurti and informed the sages the same.
Lakshmi was angered by Vishnu's action of placating Bhrigu who had kicked her place in Vishnu's body and thus insulted her. She abandoned her heavenly abode and resided in Karavirapur (Kolhapur) on earth. After her departure, a forlorn Vishnu followed suit and took abode in an ant-hill under a tamarind tree, beside a pushkarini on the Venkata hill, meditating for the return of Lakshmi, without food or sleep.
Taking pity on Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva assumed the forms of a cow and its calf to serve him. Lakshmi in the form of a cowherdess sold the cow and calf to the king of the Chola country. The Chola king sent them to graze on the Venkata Hill along with his herd of cattle. Discovering Vishnu on the ant-hill, the cow provided its milk, and thus fed him. Meanwhile, at the palace, the cow was not yielding any milk, for which the Chola queen chastised the royal cow herder severely. To find out the cause of lack of milk, the cow herder followed the cow secretly and discovered the cow emptying her udder over the ant-hill. Angered by the conduct of the cow, the cow herder flung his axe to harm the cow. However, Vishnu rose from the ant-hill to receive the blow and save the cow. When the cow herder saw Vishnu bleed by the blow of his axe, he fell down and died of shock.
The cow returned to the king, bellowing in fright and with blood stains all over her body. To find out the cause of the cow's terror, the king followed her and found the cow herder lying dead on the ground near the ant-hill. Vishnu rose from the ant-hill and cursed the king to become an Asura (demon) because of the fault of his servant. Upon the king pleading innocence, Vishnu blessed him to be born as Akasa Raja and that the curse would end when Vishnu will be adorned with a crown presented by Akasa Raja at the time of his marriage with Padmavati.
Thereafter, Vishnu, as Srinivasa, decided to stay in Varaha Kshetra and requested Varaha (the boar avatar of Vishnu) to grant him a site for his stay. Srinivasa ordained that a pilgrimage to his shrine would not be complete unless it is preceded by a bath in the Pushkarini and the worship of Varaha before him. Vishnu built a hermitage and lived there, attended to by Vakula Devi who looked after him like a mother.
A while later, a King named Akasa Raja who belonged to the Lunar race, came to rule over Tondamandalam. The childless Akasa Raja performed a sacrifice to gain an heir. As part of the sacrifice, he was ploughing the fields. The plough struck a lotus, which had an infant girl in it. Upon the advice of a divine voice that the girl would be a harbinger of fortune, the king adopted the girl and named her Padmavati, since she was found in a lotus (padma). The princess grew up into a beautiful maiden and was attended by a host of maids.
One day, Srinivasa, who was hunting, chased a wild elephant in the forests surrounding the Venkata hills. In the elephant's pursuit, he was led into a garden, where Padmavati and her maids were picking flowers. The wild elephant frightened the princess. But the elephant immediately turned around, saluted Srinivasa and disappeared into the forest. Srinivasa, who was following on horse back, saw the frightened maidens, but was repulsed with stones thrown at him by the maids. He returned to the hills in haste, leaving his horse behind. Srinivasa informed Vakula Devi that unless he married Padmavati, he would not be calmed.
Srinivasa then narrated the story of Padmavati’s previous birth as Vedavati and his promise to marry her. After listening to Srinivasa's story, Vakula devi offered to go to Akasa Raja and his queen and arrange for the marriage. On the way, she met the maids of Padmavati and learnt from them that Padmavati was also pining for Srinivasa. Vakula Devi went along with the maid servants to the Queen.
Meanwhile, Akasa Raja and his queen Dharanidevi were anxious about the health of their daughter Padmavati. They learnt about Padmavati's love for Srinivasa. Akasa Raja consulted Brihaspati, the guru of the gods, about the marriage and was informed that the marriage was in the best interest of both the parties. The god of wealth, Kubera lent money to Srinivasa to meet the expenses of the marriage. Srinivasa, along with Brahma and Shiva started the journey to the residence of Akasa Raja on his vahana Garuda. At the palace entrance, Srinivasa was received by Akasha Raja with full honours and was taken in procession on an elephant to the palace. In the presence of all the gods, Srinivasa married Padmavati, thus blessing Akasa Raja. Together, they lived for all eternity while Lakshmi chose to live in his heart forever.
Venkateswara's chief temple is located at the top of the Seven hills in Tirumala, the location of the divine marriage. A kalyana utsavam celebrates the divine marriage. Even today, during the Brahmotsavam at the temple, turmeric, kumkum and a sari are sent from the temple to Alamelu Mangapuram, the abode of Padmavati Devi .
Venkateswara's debt to Kubera
Every year, lakhs of devotees donate a large amount of wealth at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Goddess Lakshmi, also referred as Shri, once had a fight with Lord Vishnu and left Vaikunta. She came and settled on earth in disguise. Lord Vishnu soon arrived on earth searching for Goddess Lakshmi. But He failed to find her and instead settled on Tirumala hills in the form of a forest gatherer and continued the search. During the search, Lord Vishnu met a beautiful girl named Padmavathi who was the daughter of the King of the seven hills in Tirumala. They both fell in love and decided to get married.
The father of Padmavathi asked for a huge bridal price and to pay the money Lord Vishnu took a large loan from Kubera, the Hindu god who is the treasurer of wealth. Kubera gave the loan on the condition that Vishnu cannot return to Vaikunta (heavenly abode) without paying off the debt.
Lord Vishnu resides at Tirumala as Tirupati Venkateswara without returning to Vaikunta until the payment is made. To help him repay his debt, devotees offer him wealth and in return Lord Vishnu fulfills their prayers. An RTI petition was filed by Narasimha Murti, an RTI activist belonging to Bangalore, seeking to know "how much Lord Venkateswara had received from Lord Kubera and how many more years it would take for the devotees to clear this debt". This must have possibly been a creative petition to let the people think twice before donating at the temple.