Lord Sri Vekateshwara or Sri Balaji temple is situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati. Sri Venkateshwara is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a Hindu God. This is one of the richest and most visited temple in the world.
People believe that Sri Balaji Darshan here at Tirumala brings good things in life. Hence many people go for Darshan if they are suffering from something, if they are going to start something new in their life or to pray for general well being. As it is one of the most visited temple, you can expect a huge crowd even on regular days.
I visited Tirupati in early December 2018 for a wedding. We were bunch of friends attending the wedding from Banaglore and other areas. We planned for Sri Balaji Darshan as well. Hence we booked our special entry Darshan ticket online by paying Rs. 300 per person, a month before. Our time slot for Darshan was 1 PM. Temple located in Tirumala Hills is about 90 mins drive from Tirupati town which you can reach by train or bus. We reached the temple entrance around 11:45 am and finished the formalities of showing the ticket (printing of online booking) and our ID (Adhaar Card) and started going in the queue.
Phone, camera or any digital device including pen drive is not allowed inside the temple. So we left our phones as well as chapples in the vehicle itself. You can take a locker to keep your belongings there, if you can leave it in your own vehicle you may do so.
The queue can move systematically, it is designed and organized well. However people are still going to rush and push you around. Every now and then the queue is stopped and you are made to wait. When the queue resumes moving, people unnecessarily tend to push you further. So even if you book in advance, be ready for this. We were 10+ in our group, we really had to make an effort to stay together and get our Darshan together. Plan in advance where to meet in case if you are split in the queue. As you are not going to have phone with you and the temple complex is very huge, it will be difficult to find each other in case if you are not able to stay together until Darshan is done.
Like I said above we started around 11:45 am, we had our Darshan exactly at 1 PM. Now when I say Darshan, believe me it is going to be a very quick glance of Sri Balaji. You are going to be just continuing to move in the queue and having a very quick glance of the deity on the way. You will not be allowed to stand, watch or have any prayer there right in-front of the deity. When you come out, look for people looking at the top of the golden tower
and praying. There you can see ‘Vimana Venkateshwara’ decorated in special silver and gold. It is believed that Darshana of this is equivalent to the darshana of main deity. Hence you can have some peaceful time here and offer your prayers to Lord Balaji.
Once our Darshan and prayers to Vimana Venkateshwara is also done we exited and moved to collect our laddus, 2 laddus are included as part of your ticket. Here we had to wait some time as none of the counters were open, may be out for lunch. Finally we got our laddus and came out happily.
So even with advance booking, we took one hour for Darshan and about an hour again for collecting laddu. ‘Sarva Darshan’ is the free darshan, going to take much more longer and waiting in the queue. Some Pilgrims also take the trekking route where you go up number of steps to reach the darshana area. Temple is clean and all facilities like drinking water, washroom and sitting area if you need to take a break is all provided. I believe there is anna prasadam, milk, coffee and tea are provided free of cost for the waiting pilgrims. Like I mentioned before, your group may be split in the queue, so it is very important to plan in advance where to re-group after the darshan. Some places you can think of are ‘Vimana Venkateshwara’, Puskarini Tank, a water tank close to the main temple, or laddu counters. Temple is huge, it is crowded and you have no phones with you, hence plan well in advance!
Next day we visited SriKalahasti, one of the famous Shiva temple as well. This is again an hour to hour and a half drive from Tirupati town. This is a nice temple as well. Same no phone, camera rules here too. Temple wasn’t as crowded, but I am sure on certain special days there will be crowd here too. Hence plan accordingly.
Online booking requires planning in advance a month or more. But it is worth it. Please do so if you can. Also plan to visit during the colder months, November to March. It gets very hot here. There is a dress code for visiting the temple. For men, dhoti or pyjamas with upper cloth. I have seen men in the line with regular pant/shirts too. For women, dress code is saree or half-saree with blouse or chudidar with pyjama and duppata.
Go have a Darshan of Lord Balaji and pray for the well being of yourself and every one. Let readers know the other details of your visit.