Recently, when I went to TTD temple in Chennai, I laid my eyes on three books – the 15 volume Mahabharata, the 5 volume Bhagavatam(both an explanation of the main Telugu translations, not the Sanskrit one) and a 600 page book named The Tirumala Temple by Ramesan. The first one is a very famous one and is not that easily available. Since the second one also looked similar, I picked that as well. Coming to the third one. Well, there is no reason as such, but the size of the book is a clear indication that I can dispose off all the small books over the temple history. Only later, I got to know that this book is one of the main references all over the world for whatever is written over Tirumala. It’s a lucky acquisition, as it turns out because by the time I went to the shop again two weeks later, there was only one copy left out of the 20 which were there on the day I bought it.

I am sure that I am going to use the book as a coffee table book and that I am not going to read it cover to cover. Randomly sifting through the pages, I came across the description of the main deity, Lord Venkateswara. Nothing can be more elaborate than that and it is important to note the level of access he had to the information over the idol. The last line is but a proof of that for it is literally impossible for anyone to get access to the statue, that too without the ornaments and decorations. And note the word carved again and again – the author, even though he was a TTD Chairman, he doesn’t believe the idol to be Swayambhu or Self Manifest.

The Lord’s figure is richly adorned with flowing locks of hair or jatajuta and some of these locks of curly hair rest on his shoulders. The nose is delicately carved and is neither prominent nor flat. The mouth of the Lord is also exquisitely shaped. The chin and the ears are carved proportionately. The ears have beautiful ear ornaments. The chest of the Lord is magnificent in cut and size and should, if measured, be between 36 to 40 inches in width while the waist would be between 24 to 27 inches. The neck is conch-like and the body in the posture of a lion and exquisitely shaped. The belly is also beautifully modelled. The Lord’s image has four arms, the upper two being carved to hold the chakram and the conch; the chakram and the conch are not integral parts of the main idol. The upper right arm holds the Sudarshana Chakra; the upper left arm holds the Panchajanya, the conch of Lord Vishnu which is blown by Him in times of war. The lower right hand of the Lord is in the Varada Hasta pose, while the lower left hand is in the Katyavalambita pose. Actually the fingers of the left hand rest on the left thigh, with the thumb of the hand almost parallel to the waist line. While the idol itself is not exactly standing in the tribhanga pose, the body near and below the waist has taken a slight tilt to the left and the knee themselves are bent and open slightly outwards, giving the idol peculiar grace and charm. Mother Lakshmi is carved on the right chest of the Lord in the sitting pose and is an integral part of the mula murthi. The yagnopavitam and a set of four necklaces or ornaments of the neck can also be clearly made out on the idol. The arms have armlets. The figure is depicted as wearing a dhoti from the waist downwards, while the upper portion is not covered by any dress or vastram. The nipples of the Lord on his chest are button-like and are prominent. There is however a katibandham or waist band and this waist band is about 2 inches thick. The legs and feet of the Lord are beautifully shaped, strong and lissome. Both the knees are bent and open slightly outwards, giving the stately figure charm and grace. The feet are models of perfection and have ornaments near the anklets. The Lord’s image has on the shoulders marks resembling ‘scars made by the constant wearing of the bow and a pack of arrows.

And this is but the first of the articles based on the book and many more are going to come in due time.

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