Lord Sri Venkateswara, also known as Srinivasa, Balaji, and Veṅkaṭachalapati, made Tirumala his abode five thousand years ago. Even before him, it was Lord Varahaswami who had made Tirumala his abode. Since then, many devotees have continued to construct grand entrances on the ramparts of the temple over generations. The temple complex is spread over 16.2 acres of land.
In Tirumala, the East facing Sri Varahaswami temple is located in the North West corner of the temple tank – Swami Pushkarini. As per the temple legend, Lord Srinivasa sought a gift of land from Sri Varahaswami, which he readily granted.
In return, Srinivasa provided him with an agreement deed assuring that he would be paid the first darshan, worship and offerings by all the devotees visiting the temple. This tradition is in practise to this day at Tirumala and Lord Varahaswami continues to receive the age old traditional worship. Even today, all offerings are first made to Lord Varahaswami and then to Lord Sri Venkateswara.
The height of the main entrance has been increased periodically since 13th century. Its present height is fifty feet. This entrance has other names such as ‘Padivaakili’ and ‘Simhadwaram’.In Tamil it is called ‘Periya Thiruvasal’. On either side of this main entrance there are two feet high statues made of alloy metal (Pancha loha). They are Sankanidhi and Padmanidhi who are the guardians of ‘Navanidhi’, the treasure of Lord Sri Venkateswara.
The Maha Dwaram comprises three consecutive entrances – the first is a brass one, while the second is a silver one. The third entrance is a golden one.
These are the two angels guarding the wealth and treasure of Lord Sri Venkateswara. As per the tradition these are installed at the third entrance of the temple. One enters the holy shrine after saluting the first protection threshold – Sankha Nidhi and Padma Nidhi. According to history, these statues were consecrated by Vijayanagara emperor Achyutha Rayalu, the younger brother of Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu.
Abutting the Mahadwara and to its right, there is a high-rise mandapam (Porch). This is called Krishnadevarayalu Mandapam or Pratima Mandapam. This mandapam has been constructed in Vijayanagara architectural style. To the right side of this porch, one can find tall copper statues of the emperor of Vijayanagara kingdom, Sri Krishnadevarayalu and his two consorts, Tirumala Devi and Chinnadevi.
These three statues placed in front of Lord Sri Venkateswara express their devotion to him. It is said that Sri Krishnadevarayalu himself installed these statues on 2nd January 1517 A.D. and then onwards this mandapam has become famous as the Krishnadevarayalu mandapam. Their names are inscribed on the shoulder badges of these statues.
By the left side of the main entrance or Mahadwaram there is a tall copper statue with folded hands. This is the statue of Venkatapatirayalu, the king of Chandragiri. He was a generous king who ruled Chandragiri during 1570s and donated many valuable gifts to the deity.
Twelve feet to the north of Sri Krishnadevarayalu Mandapam, there is a glass porch. Every day at 2 p.m., a service called”Dolotsavam” is performed for the Lord in this glass porch. Historical evidence proves that this seva programme began to be performed in 1831.
Just opposite to the glass porch, there is another high rise mandapam called Ranganayakula Mandapam. Due to the Muslim invasions between 1320 and 1369 A.D., the idols of Lord Ranganadha of Srirangapatnam were shifted to Tirumala for safe keeping. Daily prayers and poojas were offered to him in this Mandapam. After the cessation of the Muslim invasions, these statues were once again shifted back to Srirangam. Yet this place has retained the name of Ranganayakula Mandapam to this day.
This mandapam is said to have been built by the king of Tirupathi, named Ranganadha Yadava Rayalu. It is in this mandapam that Kalyanothsavams were performed for the Lord. However, due to the increase in pilgrim rush, currently daily Kalyanothsavams are performed in Sampangi Pradakshinam.
Ten feet to the south of the flagstaff, there is another stone pillared pavilion called Tirumalaraya Mandapam. This was built by Saluvanarasimharayalu, the emperor of Vijayanagara, to express his gratitude to the Lord for the help extended towards his victories.
All couples begetting children with the blessings of the Lord, offer money in the form of coins, silver, candy and camphor equivalent to the weight of their children, as avowed by them. Even the patients, who are cured of their diseases, express their gratitude similarly. This Tulabharam is arranged in front of the Ranganayakalu Mandapam.
At about hundred feet from the flagstaff, there are three copper statues of devotees, facing the Lord and saluting him with folded hands. One is that of Lala khemaramu, the other is that of his mother Mata Mohana Devi and the third one is that of his wife Pita Bibi. Lala Khemarumu is a kshatriya known as Raja Todaramallu. He courageously protected Tirumala both from the invasions of Muslims and the British during the seventeenth century. The Lord blessed this family and bestowed them with a place in His temple.
Dwajasthambham, -the golden flagstaff is located in the middle of a twenty-pillared square pavilion. To the east of the flagstaff there is an altar and to the northeast, there is granite stone called ‘Kshetrapalakasila’. This pavilion is said to have been constructed in the fifteenth century.
During Brahmotsavams, a flag with Garuda’s imprint is hoisted on this flagstaff for extending an invitation to gods and goddesses (Yaksha, Kinnera and Gandharva), to attend this festival. Those wishing to take pooja material or other things into the sanctum, have to perform circumambulation along dwajasthamba including the Lord whenever he is taken outside or returned to the main temple.
Adjoining the flagstaff is the Bali Peetam or altar. After offering Naivedyam to the Lord and other deities and after exiting through the silver gate, the Prasadam is kept on this altar. It is believed that this food offering is accepted by deities, the angles and the elemental forces.
To the north east corner of the altar, under the flagstaff porch, there is a one and half feet high stone slab. This is called ‘Kshetrapalaka Sila’. It is said that this stone slab marched around the temple for providing security to the Shrine at night.
Priests used to keep the keys of the temple on this stone slab every night after closing the temple and collect them to open the temple in the morning, after saluting it.
On entering the precincts of the temple, one first encounters the circumambulation passage called ‘Sampangi Pradakshinam’. The grand circumambulation passage outside the temple is not considered for this purpose. Therefore ‘Sampangi Pradakshinam’ is considered to be the primary one. Earlier Sampangi flower plants (gold flowers, Michelia Champaka) were grown in this pathway for decorating the Lord and hence, the name.
Four pavilions in the four corners of ‘Sampangi Pradakshinam’ were built by Saluva Narasimha Raya in 1470 A.D. in the names of himself, his wife and his two sons.
Earlier all wedding festivities of the Lord were celebrated at the pavilion in the ‘Vimana Pradakshinam’. With the increase in the number of the devotees attending the events, these festivities started being held for some time in Ranganayaka Mandapam. Now, the celestial wedding is performed in this Kalyanotsava Mandapam.
‘Ugranam’ means Godown. All the pavilions on western side are now being used as store houses. The material used for the Lord’s ‘Puja’ and other rituals is now stored in the North-West corner of the ‘Sampangi Pradakshina’.
As per the legend, Viraja, a sacred river of Vaikuntam flows below the lotus feet of the Lord. The well of water in the temple complex is believed to be a part of that holy river. This well is located in front of the Ugranam or store house. Idols are sculpted on the stones used for the inner walls of this well. Hence this well is called ‘toy well’ or ‘Bommala Baavi’.