The Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati is perhaps India's most popular temple. An astonishing amount of pilgrims visit it -- on average 65,000 people a day.
As you can probably imagine, a crowd that big creates a number of challenges. Yet, in testament to the importance of religion in daily life in India, it doesn't discourage many from making the journey. After all, Hindu scriptures state that it's Lord Venkateswara (a form of Lord Vishnu) who can grant liberation during this dark Kali Yuga.
Nevertheless, I was still surprised to read a recent news report stating that pilgrims must wait 21 hours to get a darshan (viewing) of just one second with the Lord. And, that's only when temple guards and volunteers really push and shove people through!
The situation is made worse by the privileges given to VIPs (politicians, ministers, judges, those who donate more than 1 crore rupees, sports people, celebrities, and industrialists -- anyone with some authority). Twice a day, they're allowed a special darshan, while common pilgrims are held back for up to four hours.
And then, there are the challenges of just getting to the temple, getting heads shaved, and finding somewhere to stay -- all with rampant corruption apparently adding to the cost. It makes a normal pilgrimage very arduous indeed.
Have you been to Tirupati? What was your experience like? Do you think a pilgrimage there is worth it?
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