On Sunday (November 14, 2010) I visited two of my favorite temples in Chennai – The Satyanarayana Temple and the Chennai branch of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, both located at T.Nagar, Chennai’s marketing hub.
The Satyanarayana Temple is one of its kind in Chennai. The presiding deity is Lord Satyanarayana. The other deities are Lord Hanuman, Lord Venkateswara, Lord Narasimha (The Lion God), Goddess Mahalakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Lord Hayagriva (the God of Learning), Andal (The devotee who later merged with the God), Lord Rama with his family and Sudarshana. I visited this temple after almost 6 months to thank him for blessing me with a child (my girl).
I then visited the Chennai Branch of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) and sought the blessings of the Lord Balaji, with his consort (Goddess Padmavathi). I suppose it was God’s calling and I decided to make a visit to Tirupati (the richest Hindu temple) the next day (November 15, 2010).
The day started with a rude wake up at 4.00 AM as I had to reach the boarding point at 5.00 PM. I bathed, refreshed and reached my boarding point at T.Nagar in 15, a record of sorts as you travel faster by foot in the area (which is incidentally the heart of Chennai’s marketing activity). Normally you travel this area by foot in 30 minutes and by vehicle in an hour (four times that time during peak festive season).
For the uninitiated, Chennai is located in the southern most state of Tamil Nadu, while Tirupati is located in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
I boarded the Tempo Traveller along with 11 others (excluding driver). One set of 6 passengers, comprising two families (husband, wife and son) were from the Indian state of Rajasthan who have come on a tour down south India and the second family of 5 members were from Chennai, who were going on a family function. One of their relatives’ child hair was being offered, as it is their family deity.
I was seated next to the driver. The previous day (Sunday night) I had watched EPL and went to bed at 00.30 hours happy to see our main rivals Chelsea trailing 0-2 at home to Sunderland (I support Manchester United in the EPL, Barcelona at La Liga and Brazil in the international level). I, therefore, had plans to catch up with my lost sleep.
Right from the moment I boarded the bus and the journey started, I daresay sleep was the last thing on the moment. It was drizzling a bit. But the thing that shook me up was the way the vehicle was being driven.
I remembered the Priest and driver joke, where the driver goes to Heaven and the Priest is stranded in Hell. I certainly support the Driver for his claim to Heaven, after seeing my driver. He struck the fear of God and I chanted all the prayers that came to my mind.
There are a few common factors in the culturally diverse country of India – passion for cricket, craze for film and sports personalities, rash driving, lack of cleanliness and orderliness.
The vehicle was being driven across the National Highways NH 205 (which connects Chennai in Tamil Nadu with Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh). The speed limit shown was 40 kms. When I saw the speedometer (as I was sitting opposite the driver), it showed a mere 90 kms. It was not that our driver was rash, others were driving faster almost 100 kms on either side of the road.
There were a couple of sad things that I saw during the course of my journey – one a dog having been hit by a speeding vehicle and bled to death, its orphan puppy running aimlessly across the road. In another incident I saw a pup crushed, only body remains and its sibling sitting next to it.
In several areas across the 152 kms stretch, only one big vehicle and a two vehicle could pass. But all the vehicles were jostling and claiming I am right by honking and riding fast. In almost 3 places, my blood froze and heart skipped a beat. The driver on either side were rushing as if to hit and run or straight forward collision, was the option.
There are a few things I prefer during my road-rail travel – the greenery and the beautifully lined trees, the opportunity to interact with fellow passengers and learn about them and good sleep.
Sleep was deprived in the first half of the journey. However, when I turned back, I saw fellow passengers dozing off peacefully, unaware of the risk of the drive. How I envied them! I enjoyed the greenery and saw countryside life at its most beautiful and colourful.
After almost 3 hours of drive, we reached Tirupati (the lower part) where we had our breakfast. After the breakfast our guide joined us for the journey and I was given a break from directly witnessing the perils of driving. I moved the last seat on the vehicle.
The second half of the onward journey was spent interacting with fellow passengers from Chennai and enjoying the natural scenery, which was breathtaking. Tirupati, is located on the Seven Hills and the climate was wonderful for a drive – cool, drizzling a bit. The mist surrounding the hills only enhanced the natural beauty. The second part of 25 kms passed through deep curves, blind turns and hairpin bends. But from the way the vehicle was jerking I fathomed that the driver was riding at double the prescribed speed limit.
Once we reached Tirupati, we waited for the South Indian family to complete tonsuring the head of the child of their relative. This hour’s delay set our program back by 3-4 hours. We entered into the cage, where we waited our turn to book the ticket and have the Seegra Darshan. The queue started moving slowly. Our cage of almost 200 was easily the most unruly. The cages of pilgrims on either side were quite orderly and well behaved. We were given free food inside the cage which helped as we had our dinner only at 7.30 PM. The funny thing was while we in the Rs.300 ticket waited for 4 hours and the Rs.50 ticket pilgrims waited for 6-7 hours, the devotees who paid nothing waited only for an hour.
We had a darshan of Lord Balaji by 4.30 PM for a span of 10 seconds. I certainly considered myself lucky to be in the presence of the Lord for the normal duration is 2-3 seconds. As it was raining steadily, we awaited our turn to collect our sample of the world famous Tirupati Laddoos. We then returned to our bus and started on our return journey.
We reached the lower Tirupati by 8.00 PM, had our dinner and went to Tiruchanur to seek the blessings of Goddess Padmavathi, the consort of Lord Balaji. The darshan here was faster and better, finished in almost a jiffy (5-10 minutes).
We started back to Chennai, which was mostly passed off peacefully and I reached home by 00.30 hours the next day (November 16, 2010).
On reaching home, I was informed that the new job which was pending was through and I was expected to join in a day or two.
I have known my friends and relatives, who planned meticulously for months together but still could not make the trip to Tirupati, unless the Lord himself desires. I agree with this view point. My desire and plan was put into action and I was able to seek the blessings of the Divine Lord in a matter of 1-2 days. Recently one of my friends who had completed his interview successfully was waiting for joining the new job. After his trip to Tirupati, things moved at a feverish pace and he joined as soon as he returned.
“Man proposes, God disposes”. This is true of all religions. God is the Supreme Power and however, much science and technology advances, we cannot match his power and will. We cannot stop death, can postpone it for sometime only.
I kept the title of this article on two counts: One, because of the way the vehicle was driven on all sides, I spent more time thinking about God and seeking his pardon and blessings. Two, the darshan itself was wonderful and well wait the pain and trouble.
http://www.tirumala.org provides you all the information about Tirupati.