Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Memories of a trip to Tirumula!

A trip to Tirumala Tirupati takes planning. Its not only a place I love visiting but also happens to be my parent's native place. So you can imagine my joy going back there every time. As I child, I remember traveling with parents to grandparents home by train. Getting up early in the morning, packing our breakfast, which mostly would be bread jam cheese. Even though I love this breakfast, eating it in the train has a special attachment. Those days, the trend of eating bread for breakfast was still catching up. But as expected it was already a norm at home. So it wasn't a new thing for us, though our fellow passengers would look at us with a funny expression.

We normally board the Sapthagiri Express which still leaves by 6.20 am. We used to travel by the AC Chair Car and during the season (which by the way is always) its really full! Even though Dad was working for railways, he has to book the tickets much in advance. We used to set alarm to get up early and then after bath, I would get into the ceremony of getting the bread, jam cheese ready. The entire loaf would be spread with either Jam or cheese with cucumber. The typical English breakfast!

The journey starts when we board the train and every time I get this thrill and excitement on hearing the train hooting to start! The entire journey hardly takes more than 3 hrs, still it used to feel so different. Different because we cross the boarders, meet people speaking different language, act differently or that was what I always felt. Most importantly I get to meet all my Aunts, Uncles and cousins. Though our stay at most times has never exceeded more than three days max, it used to be spent shuffles between the different aunt's place for either lunch or dinner. And come back to grand mom's place for sleeping, which usually was on the open terrace.

So even if we were not able to visit the temple, I used to run to the open terrace and look at the Gaali Gopuram. This is visible all over the city and does have a serene effect on the one who looks at it. For us a visit to the temple is a must at least once a year, if not more than that. And Dad used to take care of all the arrangements. From what I remember it wasn't so crowded as it is now. And it used to more of a resort than anything else. The cool weather with the lovely cottages and less crowd. it used to be a trip worth looking forward too.

Years passed, we frequency to the temple city depending on how the dynamic worked at home. After marriage, we got used to traveling by car, which reduced the distance even further. We have been to the place on all festivals. For every festival, the city adorns a different look. I remember visiting it during Vinayaka Chaturti too, but this time its different. Maybe because as grown up you look differently? Whatever the excitement in seeing huge Idols of Ganesh being taken in vans across the villages, entrance of each village had the sign post saying that it was celebrating the day, was surely a sight to enjoy!

When we booked the tickets months ago, it never struck us that it was Ganesh Chaturti. So knowing it, we decided to get back on time for the pooja. We started here by 10 am. On the way I stopped hubby dear for couple of pictures. Normally with the kids around, we don't disturb hubby dear in his driving and normally reach much ahead to our planning. This time round since I was chatting away non stop, we missed catching up with the miles. He finally said either I can talk or he can hit on the road. Well naturally with the scenes changing so rapidly, I left him to his driving.

We reached Tirupati by 1.30 pm, landed at Hotel Bliss for lunch. As always Hubby dear ordered a south Indian Thali, while I ordered Paneer Butter Masala with Butter Naan. He was teasing me that I can never stop myself from ordering these! Well for all that both the dishes were good. While he enjoyed his pappu, I was teasing him that he is no different. I make that pappu at least twice or thrice, still he was eating only that. After spending some 40 mines on lunch. we started for the uphill drive.

The drive from the hotel to Alipiri is about 10 - 15 mins, on the way the roads were quite crowded and it even drizzled for a while. We stopped to capture the waterfall from the mountains. We can see the waterfalls only when there is heavy rains or during the monsoon. After that we moved on to the check post, where every vehicle is checked before climbing the hill. The police does a thorough job of checking the entire car. Depending on your luck, you get this done fast. Since it was a festival the next day, we hardly found traffic movement on the climb.

Before entering, we had a great opportunity to capture the Garuda in his excellence. The entire road was empty and with the drizzling, we could see fog coming out! The beautiful Garuda standing erect looked too awesome! I could also see the Gaali Gopuram, which is en route to the walking path. Years ago, on my only trip by walk, I remember stopping there for a solid 30 minutes for rest. It was still so fresh in mind, the entire 5+ hrs that we took to climb the stairs. The steps from Gaali Gopuram are really too steep. This time round, we stopped to click some pictures too!

The weather so magically changed from being to chill to foggy. along the way I even clicked pictures which reflected on the side mirror. We reached Tirumala by 3.15 or so. Since the Darshan was booked for 3 pm, we went straight to the counter place. The crowd was comparatively less, the next day being the Vinayaka Chaturti. After a long time, we went using the Sudarsanam Token, which on regular days could even take more than 5 hrs for darshan. This time it took about nearly 2+ hrs. It wasn't the usual pushing and pulling experience at all places. Though it normally gets very crowded near the Maha Dwaram.

We mostly go for the Archanantara Darsanam (AAD), which is between 5.30 am to 6.30 am. In this seva, you are sure you can come out by 7 am at the most. When I was kid, I remember going for this and staying in the temple for sometime as they used to issue only about 100 tickets. Now nearly about 2k tickets are sold and it becomes like any other regular darshan. For this we got to report by 3.30 am. So you hardly get to sleep through the night. The cool air that hits you when you go to temple is not something that can match anything!

So I was remembering that when most people were shouting Govinda, Govinda, and you just move on with the crowd. Sometimes you need not even take the efforts, the crowd pushes you ahead! Finally we entered the sanctum sanctorum or the garbha griha, this is where it gets even more difficult and you just move with the crowd. Including the security who makes sure to push all the devotees. Since the mandap is quite high, you get to see the God as you walk towards the entrance. But its all about 2 -3 minutes is all you get. But I remember, as a kid we have had sevas where we have sat in front of the God for some 30 minutes, yet when you come out you will not remember anything later!

As its hard to enter, it also takes time to come out. Entering and exiting is all in batches. On coming out, you are given pasadham, which is normally a small laddo for AAD, while it can be anything from the Ven pongal, Pulihora, Sakkara Pongal or curd rice. Even to get something is a big blessing but the taste surpasses all that you would've ever eaten! Seriously you simply can't recreate that taste at home or anywhere else! Though I was wishing we would be given Pulihora, I was happy I got to taste the Ven pongal. It was simply superb! Finally we came out and I waited while hubby dear went to collect the Laddoos. For each ticket you will get two laddos. Believe me its just not enough.

We started back, on the way stopped to pay a visit to the Coconut offering. We finally came to the rooms, which we got in the Varaha Swamy Guesthouse. The new building is very good and we have stayed in it the last couple of times. Our room was 204 on the first floor. When we climbed up, we were surprised to see mouse holes next to every room and couple of mice running around. I was too shocked to even utter a word. With the heavy lunch, I wanted to skip the dinner, but we anyways went again. So settled for the small joints that are present near the hotel. You can't expect me to order anything other than parotta right!

After that I said I wanted to walk on the Mada streets. The Four Mada streets surround the main temple and are the roads used during the festival time. During the night, its all lighted with serial lamps and very colorful. We sat there for a while, and reluctantly had to leave as it started raining. Lots of shops which is a attractive thing for kids. Finally came back to our room to settle for a much needed sleep. We had planned to have an early start but were really too lazy!

We started the climb down by 7.30 and stopped in many places for the view. The wonderful waterfall in closer view! The view of the city down from the aerial point. There is a Deer park which is also accessible by the walkers. We stopped for a moment at the Gaali Gopuram and saw the long road ahead! And you can't miss the naturally formed Garuda in the mountains! Before even the government put up the notice board, hubby dear used to show it to us every time we visit. Its just too great to be real!

Finally you reach the huge statue of Lord Anjaneya in all his excellence. These pictures are taken during the night, from our previous visits. The way down has more curves than the up hill and takes more concentration. So I stopped disturbing and enjoyed the view.

On the way back we stopped to meet my uncle. And was able to capture these Ganesh Idols that were on the display. The entire city was brimming with its festival preparation and we were hurrying to do our pooja.

We reached home by 11.30 and took the kids for a tour again. Finally returned and made the neivedyam. Had a blissful pooja and only then had time to prepare the lunch. On the while it was a hectic day but finally had a nap and felt it was a fruitful day with so many activities.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

This too shall pass! very true. I don't know exactly when I read this line. But ever since then it has always been back on my minds. Whether one thinks of it at times of happiness or not, at times of distress, this line surely comes to mind.

I remember this being associated to some Chinese fable, some Indian story too. But the latest it being related to seems to be with King Solomon. Whatever, it holds true so much!

I get solace reading these lines at this time, when things are really so hectic at home. With kids being so naughty and pressing for so much attention, I remember Konda growing up and remember this line. I take solace knowing This too shall pass!