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God Balaji

Hinduism identifies one supreme being – Brahman – the eternal origin who is the foundation and reason for all existence. Various Hindu communities are known to worship different deities, but these are just diverse means of venerating the Ultimate.

Hindus acknowledge three main Gods. They are the Hindu Triad, also referred to as Tridev - Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva, the Destroyer. Their female counterparts are Saraswati, consort of Lord Brahma, Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu and Parvati, the spouse of Lord Shiva.

The three chief Hindu Gods are also known to materialize in different avatars. One such form would be Lord Balaji (also called Shri Venkateswara) – a manifestation of Lord Vishnu. He is the reigning god of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, housed in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Who is Lord Balaji or Venkateswara?

Lord Balaji is believed to be an avatar of the Hindu god, Shri Vishnu. Devotees may worship him with different names like Venkateswara, Tirupati Timmappa or Govinda. The deity changed into a granite stone idol for it was his wish to be on the sacred Seven Hills for the emancipation of humankind. His two consorts – Goddess Lakshmi and Princess Padmavati, also converted into stone idols, to demonstrate their devotion to their spouse and to be with him forever. Goddess Lakshmi leans on the left side of his chest while Padmavati Devi is on his right.

Millions of devotees visit Tirupati to seek the blessings of Lord Balaji. His divinity, charm and aura help in drawing numerous worshippers from all walks of life and across the globe. Occasionally devotees have to wait the entire day but they will ultimately be given the honor of witnessing the gracious Lord’s presence and recite his name with utmost sincerity.

The challenging and laborious wait disappears the instant worshippers get to catch a sight of the beautiful idol positioned in the sanctum sanctorum. The Darshan may only be for a few seconds given the massive crowd but devotees are grateful to the chance offered to them and feel blessed to be privileged enough to behold his grace.

 

Origin of Lord Balaji in Hindu Scriptures

Lord Balaji is believed to be one of the most powerful Hindu deities mentioned in the Puranas. Also referred to as Shri Venkateswara, the word ‘Venkata’ refers to ‘destroyer of sins’ as per the Brahmanda and Bhavishyottara Puranas. It is derived from the Sanskrit words – vem (sins) and kata (power of immunity). When it comes to actual translation, Venkateswara means ‘Lord of Venkata’. The term is a merger of the two words Venkata (name of a hill in Andhra Pradesh) and isvara (Lord).

Sri Venkatesa Mahatyam is cited in Varaha Purana. Adi Varaha is believed to have manifested himself alongside the western bank of Swami Pushkarini, while Sriman-Narayan as Venkateswara came to live on the southern bank of the Swami Pushkarini, as per the Varaha Purana.

 

Lord Balaji in Hindu Iconography

Lord Balaji is depicted with a tilakam on his forehead, Chakra/Disc on the right shoulder, and Shankh/Conch on the left shoulder. You will find that the deity is portrayed with Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and Sridevi (Goddess of Wealth) at the heart. The left hand is showcased in receiving pose and the right hand is depicted in bestowing posture. Both the hands are adorned with ‘adiseshu’ (snake and coins) and are a metaphor for prosperity swarming in at the feet. Lord Balaji is decorated with an assortment of ornaments.

The idol of Lord Balaji is black and is approximately eight feet in height and is drenched in precious ornaments. The shrine is an incredible representation of Dravidian art and style. The deity is known to stand for goodness; the disc is believed to annihilate evil while the conch is assumed to produce the cosmic sound that puts an end to ignorance.

Legends surrounding Lord Balaji

It is believed that before the advent of Kaliyuga, the Rishis led by Rishi Kashyapa decided to conduct a yagna on the banks of the Ganga. When the sages were unable to respond to Narada for the reasons for performing the yagna and to which God they wished to honor, they approached Sage Bhigru who was believed to denote the opulence of God and was one of the Saptarishis. To directly assess prior to reaching a solution, he visited the abode of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and then finally Lord Vishnu. But he was not noticed by either of the deities. By now, the furious sage kicked Vishnu on the chest to get his attention. The sage realized his folly when Vishnu got hold of the sage’s legs and gently pressed the extra eye, present in the sole of Bhigru’s foot, believed to stand for the sage’s egotism. The sage begged for forgiveness. He went back to the other sages to inform them that Lord Vishnu deserved the honor of reverence. But Goddess Lakshmi was upset with Bhigru’s disrespect and left Vaikunta for Kara Virpur (now referred to as Kolhapur).

Lord Vishnu was distraught after Lakshmi’s departure. He began meditating without food or sleep for his wife’s return. The Gods were concerned about the situation and both Brahma and Shiva disguised themselves as a cow and a calf. The Sun God Surya asked Goddess Lakshmi to take the avatar of a cowherdess and sell them to the ruler of the Chola country. The cows that the King bought were grazing on the Venkata hills. Lord Brahma, who was disguised as a cow, started feeding Vishnu on the anthill.

Since the cow was not offering any milk in the palace, the Queen was upset and chided the cow herder. Puzzled, he observed the cow emptying its udder over the anthill. Angered, he took an ax and tried to kill the cow. Lord Vishnu emerged from the anthill and saved the cow’s life by receiving the blow instead. A furious Lord Vishnu cursed the shepherd to die instantly. He died with the same ax which he used to try and kill an innocent cow and calf which helped him in quenching his thirst. Lord Vishnu cursed the king to become an Asura because of the servant’s misdeed. After pleading for pardon, the kind deity stated that the ruler would be reborn as Akash Raja and that he would wed his daughter in his next birth.

In his next birth, Lord Vishnu took the form of Srinivasa and was born to a woman called Vakula Devi. It is believed that Lord Krishna offered Yashoda a boon that he will be born to her in Kali Yuga. Vakula Devi is said to be the reincarnation of Yashoda. Srinivasa used to live in the forest. One day, Lord Srinivasa encountered a gorgeous woman – Padmavati, daughter of Akash Raja. Soon, they fell in love and desired to get married, according to the boon of Lord Vishnu to the Chola ruler in the previous birth.

To fulfill the marriage expenses, Srinivasa borrowed money from Kubera and assured to repay the loan with interest till the end of Kali Yuga. After they were wed, Sage Narada notified Lakshmi about the marriage. Furious, the Goddess confronted Lord Vishnu. The conflict between his two spouses steered Srinivasa to convert himself into a stone. Padmavati and Lakshmi are also believed to have turned into stone on either side and Vakula Devi, a garland.

Significance of Lord Balaji

Lord Balaji is believed to stand for the God of Justice. The Namam or the forehead mark represents his blindfold while his two wives who are resting on either side of his chest are thought to be the scales of justice with the sword of justice hanging between. His black-figure symbolizes his representation of Shani or Saturn. The deity is assumed to assess the merits as well as demerits of his worshippers. He is known to bestow rewards as well as order punishments. Through devotion, love, and faith for the Lord, his kindness is summoned which helps to lessen the evil effects of past actions.

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Interesting Anecdotes about Lord Balaji

As per one of the stories, there was a helper boy named Bala. Mistaking him for a thief one day, people were chasing him. They beat him on his head and he started bleeding copiously. He is believed to have sprinted across to the main door of the Tirupati shrine towards the idol of the deity. When the devotees entered the temple, the boy was gone and all one could observe was the bleeding head of the idol. The priests were flabbergasted and placed a cloth on the head to halt the bleeding as they felt the Lord had shielded the boy. The idol then came to be known as Balaji and to this say it is understood that the idol has a white covering on the head.

There is another reason for the white mask that covers Lord Balaji’s eyes. It is thought that the worshippers cannot look at the powerful radiation emerging from the eyes of the deity. This is why the eyes are concealed the majority of the week except for Thursdays, where it is said that the size of the eye is comparatively smaller.

Millions of pilgrims are known to donate a huge amount of wealth at the temple of Balaji at Tirupati. It is believed that Lord Vishnu would live as Balaji there until the loan to Kubera is fully repaid. To assist him in repaying his debt, the worshippers place offerings in the Hundi or the donation box. The deity in return is assumed to fulfill their prayers.

 

Best way to Worship Lord Balaji at Home

If you’re not able to visit Tirupati for Darshan, you can seek Lord Balaji’s blessings by performing puja at home. This puja is typically conducted on a Saturday in the Purattasi month. The worshippers have to take bath early in the morning, present angapradakshinam and then start the puja. Keep an image or an idol of Lord Balaji in the puja area and place the rest of the samagris around the deity in an appropriate manner.

Apply Kumkum on his toes and garland around his neck. The pandit then begins reciting the shlokas from the Vishnu Sahasra Naam. The worshippers need to conduct the puja with utmost sincerity, belief, and faith in the Lord. Once you commence the puja, you need to repeat every line of the mantras after the pandit recites the lines.

How to worship lord Venkateswara & what are the benefits of it?

The purity of your heart is a vital element of puja. It is believed to bring peace to your mind and soul. It helps cleanse your heart from every sin and evil. The Lord is known to bless his worshippers with prosperity. This puja is renowned for filling the lives of the devotees with positivity. The puja assists in achieving spirituality. The worshippers’ thoughts and ideas are filled with clarity, are constructive and steer in self-realization.

Temple at Tirupati

One of the most renowned temples of Lord Balaji is located in the town of Tirupati at the foot of the Tirumala hills in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The main practices of the shrine are hair tonsuring as well as thulabharam which is done by worshippers from all over the globe.

Other Balaji Temples

Almost every state in India has shrines devoted to Lord Balaji. Some of the most popular ones (apart from the Temple at Tirupati) are the Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Delhi, the Balaji Temple at Dausa, Balaji Temple at Pune, Chilkur Balaji Temple in Hyderabad, Tirupati Balaji Temple at Ahmedabad, Balaji Temple in Navi Mumbai and several other famous temples all over India.

There are numerous Lord Balaji temples all over the globe such as Uganda, Australia, UK, USA, Nigeria, Tanzania, and many more.

Festivals Dedicated to Lord Balaji

Brahmotsavam Festival

This festival is one of the most vital festivals observed each year in September and October for nine days. The Utsaya Murtis (procession deities) of Lord Balaji along with his spouses Sridevi and Bhudevi are taken out in colorful processions in varied Vahanams or vehicles around the shrine every morning and evening.

Holy texts are read out every day of the festival. The sacred event commences with the hoisting of the Garuda flag at the Dwajasthambam. The last day is honored grandly as it is the Star birthday of the deity.


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