Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is the holiest shrine for hindus located in the hill town Tirumala, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Tirumala is 3200 ft above sea level, and is about 10.33 sq miles in area. Tirumala is the third richest pilgrimage centre in the world after the Vatican and Mecca. Tiru in Telugu means Shri (Laxmi) and Pati denotes husband. So the literal meaning of Tirupati is the husband of Laxmi, i.e. Vishnu. The sacred temple of Maha Vishnu consists of seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name, Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The main temple of Tirumala lies on the seventh hill called Venkatadri, hence the Temple is also known as “The Temple of Seven Hills”. Lord Venkateshwara means supreme God who destroys the sins of the people in this material world ven+kata+eshwara=sins+destroyer+supreme.
There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. It is said that the temple was built by King Thondaiman, Tamil ruler of the ancient Thondaimandalam, after he had a dream of Lord Vishnu. He is said to have built the original Gopuram (tower) and the Prakhara in the 8th century. Kings belonging to the Chola, Pandya and the Pallava Empire were devotees of Lord Venkateswara and they vied with each other in endowing the temple with rich offerings during the Vijayanagar dynasty. According to folk legends, there was a gigantic anthill at Tirupati. An agriculturist heard a voice from the heavens asking him to graze the ants. By chance the local king heard the voice and began supplying milk for the ants himself. His compassion resulted in the liquid uncovering a magnificent idol of Lord Venkateshwara hidden beneath the anthill. According to some evidence the history of the temple dates back almost 2,000 years. In ancient times, a queen called Samavai, belonging to the Pallava dynasty (614 AD), is said to have consecrated the first silver image here. The temple is also mentioned in Sangam poetry (500 BC – 2000 AD).
The Golden habitat of Lord Balaji is the richest temple in the world in terms of donations received and wealth. The temple is visited by Hindus from across the world irrespective of their castes and beliefs.The temple town of Tirupati is well connected to all parts of India by Rail, Road and Air. All Railway Stations in India issue tickets to Tirumala i.e. up to the Hill Temple. There are two ghat roads to Tirumala, one laid in 1944 and the other in 1973. There has been one way traffic since then. Other popular pilgrimage places in Tirupati like Sri Govindrajaswamy Temple, Sri Kapileswaraswami Temple, Akasa Ganga, Goddess Alamelumanga Temple, Sila Thoranam, Chandragiri, Kalahasti, Agastyaswamy Temple, Swami Pushkarni, Sri Vedanarayana Swamy Temple and Horsley Hills.