At Tirumala Tirupati, the annual festival of the 9-day Brahmotsavam began with the ‘Dhwajarohanam’ ritual yesterday on October 7, Thursday. The 9-day annual festival is celebrated with much fervour and enthusiasm at Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara.
Along with the many initiation rituals, the festival was formally inaugurated in presence of priests and officials of the TTD.
The ‘Dhwaja’ or the flag of Lord Venkateswara with the image of his servant Garuda is hoisted atop the Dhwaja Stambha or flag pole before the Lord’s temple. This ritual is considered a divine invitation to the Gods to come and witness the festivities that are to ensue.
Lord’s servant Garuda goes to the Devaloka to invite Gods like Brahma, Kubera, Indra, Yama, Agni, Vayu and sages like Vishwamitra and Vashishtha to come and attend the festivities.
The next stage of the festival is called Srivari Pedda Sesha Vahana Seva. In this ritual, Lord Venkateswara rides his faithful servant ‘Sesha Naga’ and gives divine Darshan to devotees.
Sesha Naga is depicted as the majestic 7-headed serpent on which Lord Vishnu rests on the Kheer Sagara, maintaining the divine balance in the universe. During the ritual of Srivari Pedda Sesha Vahana Seva, Lord Venkateswara rides on the Sesha Naga, and, accompanied by his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi, ventures out of the temple to give Darshan to devotees.
The 2nd day is marked with the next ritual, called Chinna Sesha Vahana Seva. In this ritual, Lord Venkateswara carries out his procession in his other Vahana, the 5-headed serpent. Later in the evening, the Lord will ride the ‘Hamsa Vahana’ or the Swan vehicle.
Other Vahanas, or divine vehicles used during Brahmotsavam are Hamsa Vahanam, Simha Vahanam, Mutyapu Pandiri Vahanam, Kalpavruksha Vahanam, Sarvabhupala Vahanam, Hanumad Vahanam, Gaja Vahanam, Suryapraha Vahanam, Chandraprabha Vahanam, and Ashwa Vahanam.
Lord Venkateswara’s Brahmotsavam is celebrated every year during the Ashwina month. During Brahmotsavam, the Lord carries out processions in Tirumala riding his divine ‘Vahanas’, to bless devotees with Darshan. It is believed that a Darshan of the Lord’s Brahmotsavam washes away the sins of mortals and they are freed from the cycles of Punarjanma (next birth).
The many rituals and the stages of Brahmotsavam are as follows:
- Aalaya Shuddhi
- Vahana Seva
- Srivari Koluvu
After the different Vahana Sevas, Snapanam is the ritual of bathing, to relieve the Lord of the tiredness after the different Vahana Sevas. Choornabhishekam involves treatment of the Lord and his consorts with different scented oils and sandalwood after the bathing rituals. After Choornabhishekam, the Lord is again taken in a procession and priests offer the sandalwood powder to awaiting devotees.
On the last day of Brahmotsavam, the Lord undergoes Chakrasnanam, the final bathing ritual after a Yagna or holy activity. Devatodwasanam is the ritual where the Lord says farewell to the invited Gods from Devaloka and sees them off. Lord Brahma is offered gratitude by the priests for organising the festivities.
Dhwajavarohanam is the last stage of the festival when the Garuda Dhwaja is lowered, marking the ending of the festivities.
It is notable here that, unlike the Jagannath Rathayatra, where the main wooden idol is taken out, the Utsava Murti (or the festival idol) of Lord Venkateswara is taken out for procession in Brahmotsavam.
The main idol of Lord Venkateswara is fixed (Dhruva). It is an 8 feet stone idol. For festivities and processions and other rituals of the temple, other idols like the Bhoga Beram, Ugra Srinivasa, Utsava Beram, and Koluvu Srinivasa are worshipped as manifestations of Lord Venkateswara.
Due to Covid restrictions, the number of devotees has been limited this year. The processions are carried out only within the temple premises. Usually, Brahmotsavam brings lakhs of devotees from all over the world to Tirumala every year.