What is special about Tirumala

Shaved bald out of gratitude: hair sacrifice in Tirumala

They meet at the entrance to the temple city of Tirumala: those pilgrims who have just completed the 15-kilometer walk up the holy mountain. And those who are on their way back. Many of them are shaved and have sacrificed the hair of their heads in the temple.

After the strenuous ascent from Tirupati to Tirumala, many pilgrims first take a break. You will spend several days in Tirumala.

You can get lost in the Hindu temple city, it is so big. I join the stream of pilgrims, there is a happy atmosphere.

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Everywhere I see stalls with food and devotional objects, the loudspeakers alternately boom prayer chants and references to free pilgrimage hostels and their prices.

The temple complex in Tirumala ...

How many are there today? An average of 40,000 pilgrims visit Tirumala every day, 100,000 on peak days. You are here to catch a glimpse of Shri Venkateshwara inside the temple.

The incarnation of Vishnu is the most important deity in Tirumala, she is said to have special abilities. Wishes expressed in their presence should come true.

... is the most popular pilgrimage site in the world with 16 million visitors a year.

For this special, but very short, encounter with the stone statue, traditionally dressed pilgrims queue for hours. The barred paths stretch for kilometers through the temple grounds. 50 or 300 rupees can shorten the way through the cages to "darshan" by a few hours.

At the Coconut Hundi, the vows are sealed with a broken coconut.

Long queues have also formed in front of the bathhouse. Inside, hairdressers work in concert with their razors and shave the pilgrims bald. Free. For pilgrims it is a ritual of gratitude. They thank with their hair sacrifice for a wish fulfilled or take a vow.

With over 16 million visitors to the world's most popular pilgrimage site (the number of pilgrims varies depending on the source), there is a huge amount of hair. With their hair donation, the pilgrims also support the work in the temple. The temple hair is cleaned, deloused, sorted and then sold.

Many pilgrims bring their hair as an offering ...

The strands from Tirumala can be found on many a European head, because the hair extension at the local hairdresser's almost certainly comes from an Indian temple. Human hair wigs are also made from Indian hair.

The hair export is good business and an important source of income for the pilgrimage city of Tirumala. According to Wikipedia, the Tirumala Tirupati Temple Foundation makes an annual turnover of 250 million euros with the sale of hair.

... and leave the temple shaven.

My hair stayed on my head when I visited. They are only an inch long, which is definitely not enough for temple hair. In addition, the hair sacrifice in Tirumala is a religious ritual of the Hindus. As I am not a devout Hindu, I observe temple life from a respectful distance.

Most of the temple hair is exported; in Tirupati, traders sell it in front of the Govindarajula Swamivari Gudi Temple.

How is it with you? Would you sacrifice your hair to make a wish come true? By the way, long braids are particularly popular!

Tips for visiting the temple in Tirumala:

  • Tirumala can be reached by bus from the Tirupati bus station (eastern part) and a bus stop opposite the train station. The buses are painted blue and white and labeled “Tirupati”. Fare: 82 rupees for there and back (1 ticket), travel time: around an hour, buses run very frequently. Great view on the adventurous mountain route!
  • As with all holy sites, visitors should wear long trousers and dresses and cover their shoulders when visiting. Visiting Darshan in Venkateshwara Temple is only possible in traditional Indian clothing.
  • Some areas may only be entered barefoot.
  • The Venkateshwara Temple is the largest pilgrimage site in the world. Anyone looking for peace and quiet here will be disappointed.
  • Sometimes the spelling “Tirupathi” is used instead of Tirupati.

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Category: India