How pilgrimmages have changed...
Went on a package tour to Tirupati..can’t help noticing how pilgrimmages have changed. It cost us 1025 for the allegedly a/c bus and accomodation, all courtesy of A P Touris Corpn (AP Tourism, Happy Tourism, according to the incredibly punny message on the back of our bus.) Allegedly a/c, because on the way out, the weather was cool and we didn’t feel it…on Monday morning we realized that only the fan was on and certainly not the compressor; the bus felt stuffy and uncomfortable though bearable, though the driver swore blind the a/c was on.
But the seats on the coach were very comfortable and we reached Puttur, where there was an APTourism motel where we had dinner and we reached Tirupati at 11 pm, where we paid 350 rupees extra to get an a/c room instead of the clean, comfortable, but mosquito-ridden non a/c room, which we got at about 12.30 am.
At 2 am we woke and found hot water in the taps; and at 2.30, bathed and looking suitably devout, we were in the bus which took us the base of the Tirumala hills. Here we transferred to an ordinary bus, after locking and handing over our luggage. This drove us up the winding road to the temple, and the group was ushered in, after we had deposited our cellphones, with no waiting (cf. recent newspaper reports that after waiting more than 90 hours, the darshan of many devotees were cancelled last week,due to the extreme rush.) and were taken in right to the sanctum sanctorum. We got a good view of Sri Balaji for all of 2.5 seconds or so before the workers pushed us physically along the line (they seem to DELIGHT in physically pushing the queue along. They don’t wait for you to move…they take hold and push.) The darshan was at about 6 am. We came out and were taken back to the waiting Volvo bus, where we were reunited with our luggage, and taken after breakfast at yet another Punnami (Telugu for full moon) hotel/restaurant, to the Padmavathi temple at Thirunallar. Then onwards to Kalahasthi, where the ancient temple really captivated both of us, and then lunch back at the Puttur motel, and we returned to Chennai at about 5.30 pm instead of the scheduled 4.30 pm.
The food cost was about Rs.400 all told. We couldn’t get extra laddus, but got two as part of the package deal.
Considering how much “influence” one has to exert to get good darshan at Tirupati, I think this is a good way of going there. But if I don’t go to Tirupati again, I won’t mind….when was the last time anyone strolled in a leisurely way around the Tirupati temple, admiring the sculptures? That’s what I like to do when I visit a temple.I don’t like crowds and I don’t like visiting on auspicious days when temples are the most crowded.