It was my mother’s wish to visit Tirumala during Srivari Brahmotsavam. We have been visiting Tirumala Tirupati Venkateshwara temple quite often since my childhood. But it was only once before with family members taking the pedestrian path to reach the Tirumala hill top from Tirupati foot hills. But when I go with friends and cousins, I prefer to take this pedestrian path since it is as good as any other trekking experience along with a bit of spirituality! The temple of Lord Balaji is located atop one of a range of seven hills – Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The pedestrian path covers only 2 of these hills and the distance to be covered is around 9 kms.
This post is all about taking pedestrian path to reach the hilltop from Alipiri. I plan to cover the amenities provided by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for such pedestrian pilgrims. Hope this will help when you plan to visit the temple next time :). Tirupati city is well connected with all forms of transport modes via road, train and flights. If your wish is to take the pedestrian path, you should reach a place called ‘Alipiri’ – which is the starting point, well connected by local transport from airport, railway station and bus stations. If you are driving on your own, you can park your vehicle at Alipiri and proceed towards entrance point towards the steps. At the very beginning itself you have a free luggage carry counter operated by TTD. In this counter, you may opt to drop your belongings in locked baggage that you wish not to carry while taking the pedestrian path. Ensure to carry only wallet, camera, water bottles and any other valuables if you feel necessary with you. The luggage will reach Tirumala in less than 2 hours usually and the same can be collected by the pilgrims once they reach the hilltop upon producing the receipt obtained while depositing the luggage. Walking will usually take 2 to 4 hrs depending on your fitness.
I would suggest you start taking the pedestrian path without any foot ware since this entire place is considered holy and sacred. There is an advantage in going barefoot here. Most of the path is made of long stone slabs which are firmly cemented. When you walk on such stone slabs with not so smooth and flat surface, your feet will experience the acupressure treatment in all the pressure points there. There by it rejuvenates all those parts of your body which are controlled by the pressure points in your feet. Climbing the initial 1000 steps would be a real testing time if you aren’t regular at exercising. These initial steps are very steep and you can always relax for a while by looking at the beauty around! There are so many variety of trees through out the either sides of pedestrian way. You can take the support of railings to halt and proceed. Most of the path is covered with concrete roof, so you need not worry about sunlight or rains. TTD has done a great job by making this path so easy to keep going.
There are a number of statues of lord in various incarnations all through out at regular distance. Also, there is potable water supply and toilets in the way at convenient distances all along. Once you reach a place called ‘Namala Konda’, TTD has set up a separate darshan registration facility. They take your biometrics and give you darshan tickets. Forget not to collect the tickets as this facility is set up specifically for pedestrian pilgrims and you don’t need to wait in the compartments too long unlike others. This wasn’t there before and the TTD seem to have started giving priority for pedestrians. ‘Namala Konda’ is very much visible with brightly illuminated florescent lights in the night from most of the places in Tirupati city and nearby villages/highways. Once you are at this elevated place, forget not to see the full view of the Tirupati city. Soon after this, there are many shopkeepers who sell refreshments including snacks and light tiffin at a nominal cost. If you are too tired, take a break for sometime here and then proceed. From this point onwards the walk would be much more easier for next 6+ kms since the path is more or less flat and you wouldn’t feel the steepness.
On the way there are many interesting places amidst the forest range. Few to name include the deer park and the tall statue of Hanuman. If you wish, you can feed the deers with carrots! On our way we were able to spot many cats, rats and bhors. Also there is a stretch of forest which has Red Sandalwood trees. Keep an eye on both the sides of the pedestrian path for the information on some of the wild animals that have been spotted in this forest range. Often you will see a bunch of security guards through out the pedestrian path to ensure safety of the pilgrims. Right now they allow pedestrian pilgrims to take this path between 4am and 12am, it remains closed for the remaining 4 hours in a day. To enjoy the nature better and to avoid day time temperature, I suggest you to start the walk either in the early morning around 5 or in the evening after 6. Most preferred time would be morning as you get to enjoy the nature better in the early day light. After walking a couple of kilometers from the Hanuman staute, another ticket checkpoint is set up. There you need to show your earlier obtained darshan tickets and get it stamped with officials. If you don’t have this stamping, you will not be entertained for the special darshan being offered for pedestrians.
From this point onwards, the pedestrian path converges with the descending vehicles road path. This is for about a kilometer. The scene of the nature and forest area from this point is picturesque! I would suggest you spend few minutes here before heading for the final steep hill of steps. This is really exhaustive and be prepared to climb another 1000 steps and that is it! You are done with a walk of 9 kms and 3550 steps. Head on to collect your luggage from the counter and then to free amenities complex to get hair tonsured if you wish and then for bathing. Don’t expect this complex to be very clean since so many thousands of people use it on a daily basis. You have an option to either safeguard your luggage in this complex or near the queue complex where you enter into the darshan compartments. There is a free bus to drop you at ‘Vaikuntam Queue Complex 2’ where the final leg of journey towards ‘Ananda Nilayam’ (God’s sanctum sanctorum). Before getting into this queue, better safeguard your mobiles, camera or any other electronic equipments with lockers provided by TTD only just before entering any of the queue complexes. This is a must for everyone’s security.
From here on you will be let into compartment #13 or 14. You may have to wait for a max of 2 hours in these compartments before getting into the moving queue to reach ‘Ananda Nilayam’. Free Laddu prasadam tickets (One per head) will be given in the queue itself. Collect prasadam in exchange of these tickets after darshan. Upon coming out of the temple, collect all your belongings from luggage/mobile counters. If you are still energetic, feel free to take the pedestrian path else you have the buses plying every 2 minutes to get back to ‘Alipiri’ I am planning to write separate articles on various other temples in Tirumala and Tirupati with the help of my friend Chakri. More to follow soon.