Indira S. Somani, journalist, PhD


On Monday, I went to Tirupati to see the Sri Venkateswara Temple.  I’ve always wanted to come here, but I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t realize it was this beautiful drive up the Tirumala Hill to get to the temple.  Once we got my ticket, I didn’t have to wait in line for hours for my darshan.  I was in a VIP line that moved quickly, and my darshan was at 8pm.  But like everyone else, I only had a second to look at Lord Venkateswara.  Once you stand in front of the idol, the temple staff pushes you along to keep the line moving.  There are a number of armed officers with machine guns in the surroundings, since the gold idol is worth a lot of money.  The spot for hundi is outside the worship area in a big white sheet, shaped like a canister that hangs from the ceiling.  I’m told that the temple can easily collect at least 1 crore ($188,000 with$1=53 rupees)/day during festival season.  There were also a number of men, women and children walking around with balled heads, as I soon learned that the temple was a place where people shaved their heads once a wish had been fulfilled.   Apparently the hair is shipped to the U.S. or Japan for wigs to be made.  A special thanks to our family friends, Dr. and Mrs. Reddy, who made this possible for me.

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