Category Archives: Tirupati

Origin of Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam!

Hasthigirinatha Annan (14th century) was born in a Sri Vaishnava family residing in Kanchipuram whose descendants were the disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya. Annan was the disciple of Nayana Varadacharya, the son of Sri Vedanta Desika. In time he mastered all the branches of knowledge and became an accomplished scholar. During this time, Narasimha Mishra, a great scholar and exponent of Vedanta came to Kanchipuram and challenged Nayana Varadacharya to a debate. The acharya was not inclined towards participating in the debate; but refraining from going would mean accepting defeat. Not knowing what to do, the acharya was in a dilemma. Annan noticed that something was bothering his Guru. He approached his Guru and asked him the reason. Varadacharya told him everything. Annan humbly prostrated to his Guru and asked permission to participate in the debate on his behalf. The Acharya consented. With his profound knowledge and communicative skills, Annan easily won the debate. Guru Nayana Varadacharya heard about his disciple’s stellar performance. Overjoyed, the acharya conferred on him the title: PRATHIVADHI BHAYANKARA (Terror to the Opponent) !! 

Annan continued to offer his services to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. Having heard of the glories of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala, Annan decided to go to Tirumala for the Lord’s darshan. Accompanied by his wife he reached Tirumala. He associated himself with the descendants of Anantazhwar, and engaged himself in the “abhisheka kainkaryam” of Lord Venkateshwara. Daily he brought waters from Akasha Ganga, added fragrant ingredients to the water as per the custom and tradition, and then handed over the water to the purohit for the abhisheka. One day, as he was carrying the waters to the temple, he met a devotee from Sri Rangam. The devotee narrated in length, the glories of the great saint, Manavala Mamunigal, residing in Sri Rangam. Annan was overwhelmed and wanted to hear more of the saint. He lost sense of time and even forgot about the water that he was carrying for the Lord’s abhisheka. On the other hand, the purohit having waited in vain for Annan came searching for him. On seeing Annan engrossed in satsangh, the purohit took the vessel of water from Annan and hastily proceeded to the temple to finish the rituals in the prescribed time. Suddenly, Annan realised that the fragrant ingredients had not been added to the water as was customary. He ran behind the purohit, but by the time he reached the sanctum, the purohit had started the abhisheka. Annan was very unhappy at his own negligence. He silently prayed to the Lord and sought forgiveness for the lapse. Annan heard a divine voice which consoled him saying that the abhisheka waters were exceptionally fragrant, in fact more fragrant than on other days because they carried the divine “fragrance of satsangh!” Indeed, the Lord was more than pleased with the services of Annan. 

Annan realised that this was all because of the glory of the great Manavala Mamuni. Longing to have the darshan and blessings of the saint, he proceeded to Sri Rangam. He became the disciple of Mamunigal and was given the deeksha name, Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Sri Vaishnava Dasan learnt the doctrines of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya from his Guru and devoted himself to the propagation of the Sri Vaishnava Philosophy. Many scholarly works are attributed to Sri Vaishnava Dasan. Since he was a great exponent of Sribhashya, he became known as Sribhashyacharya as well. 

Sri Vaishnava Dasan and Mamunigal undertook a yatra and they finally reached Tirumala. Mamunigal asked his disciple to compose a SUPRABHATAM for Lord Venkateswara. Sri Vaishnava Dasan composed the famous SRI VENKATESWARA SUPRABHATAM which has four sections: Suprabhata (29 verses), Stotra (11 verses), Prapatti (16 verses) and Mangalam (14 verses). The Acharya was immensely pleased with the composition of his disciple and ordained that, all through the year (except in the Margazhi month during which Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai is chanted), every day, early in the morning, the SUPRABHATAM will be recited at the sanctum. The beautiful SUPRABHATAM which consists of the glories of Lord Venkateswara, composed by Sri Vaishnava Dasan are chanted during the opening of the sanctum till date.

श्री पद्मनाभ पुरुषोत्तम वासुदेव 

वैकुण्ठ माधव जनार्धन चक्रपाणे ।

श्री वत्स चिह्न शरणागत पारिजात

श्री वेङ्कटाचलपते तव सुप्रभातम् ॥ (Suprabhata: Verse #22)

विना वेङ्कटेशं न नाथो न नाथः
सदा वेङ्कटेशं स्मरामि स्मरामि ।
हरे वेङ्कटेश प्रसीद प्रसीद
प्रियं वेङ्कटॆश प्रयच्छ प्रयच्छ ॥ (Stotra: Verse #9)

श्रीमन् कृपाजलनिधे कृतसर्वलोक
सर्वज्ञ शक्त नतवत्सल सर्वशेषिन् ।
स्वामिन् सुशील सुल भाश्रित पारिजात
श्रीवेङ्कटेशचरणौ शरणं प्रपद्ये ॥ (Prapatti: Verse #2)

श्रियः कान्ताय कल्याणनिधये निधयेऽर्थिनाम् ।
श्रीवेङ्कट निवासाय श्रीनिवासाय मङ्गलम् ॥ (Mangala: Verse #1)

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Lord Venkateshwara and Karpura on His Chin!

Sri Ramanujacharya, the great exponent of Vishishtadvaita Philosophy entrusted Anantalwar, one of his disciples, with “pushpa kainkaryam” – offering of flowers as a seva daily to Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala. Anantalwar happily accepted and settled down in Tirumala along with his wife. Every day he would collect various types of flowers, make a beautiful garland and offer it to the Lord. Since it was not an easy task collecting the flowers in the hilly area, he decided to cultivate a flower garden. He first decided to dig a well as water-resource for the garden. Considering this as his seva to the Lord, Anantalwar took a vow that he and his wife alone would engage themselves in this task, and would not take the help of any other person. 
Anantalwar started digging the soil, loosening it and filling it into a basket. His wife carried the basket of soil a little distance downhill to empty it. She was pregnant and walking downhill and uphill was not easy for her. Nevertheless, she cheerfully participated in the seva. One day, as Anantalwar was digging the soil, a boy of about twelve years of age came along and offered his help. Alwar politely refused, but the boy insisted. Angrily, Anantalwar asked him to go away and not disturb him. 

The boy went away from there but approached Anantalwar’s wife. He offered his help to her. Not knowing her husband’s vow, she readily agreed. The boy made sure that Anantalwar did not see him helping the lady. After some time, strangely, Anantalwar noticed that his wife was coming back faster to collect the soil! Was she walking too fast? That was not possible. Was someone helping her? He decided to check. As she carried the basket of soil, Anantalwar followed her unnoticed. To his utter dismay, he saw the boy whom he had sent away helping his wife in carrying and disposing the soil.

Anantalwar was furious. This adamant boy had disrupted his tapas. Seeing the angry Anantalwar, the boy started running away. He kept turning back to see if Anantalwar was following him. Sure, Anantalwar ran behind him, but could not catch him. In a fit of rage, he hurled the crowbar which was in his hand at the boy. It struck the boy’s chin. Anantalwar tried to catch him, but he disappeared. 

Next day, when Anantalwar went to the temple, the priests pointed out the Lord’s idol to him. Anantalwar saw the chin of the Lord badly bruised and bleeding. He was shocked. He now realised that the boy who had come to help him and his wife was none other than the Lord himself. The bleeding had to be checked. He looked around and saw “pacha karpura” (edible camphor) in the sanctum. He took a handful of the karpura and applied it to the Lord’s chin. Miracle of miracles! The bleeding stopped. Anantalwar was overwhelmed at the Lord’s grace and compassion and prayed to Lord Venkateswara for forgiveness. The Lord appeared before him. Acknowledging the devotee’s love, the Lord declared that in future, every day, as a part of his alankara, His chin should be adorned with karpura and without it, His alankara would be incomplete!

Since then, Lord Venkateswara’s chin is daily adorned with karpura to remind everyone of His great devotee, Anantalwar. The karpura is later distributed as “prasad”. The crowbar which Anantalwar used can be seen displayed on the wall on the right side as one enters the main entrance of Lord Venkateswara’s temple at Tirumala.

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Akasha Ganga of Tirumala!

Tirumala Nambi was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. He was also known as Sri Sailapurna. He was highly learned in all the scriptures and was one of the Gurus of Sri Ramanujacharya, apart from being his maternal uncle. It was he who introduced the Ramayana and elaborated the concept of “sharanagati” (surrender) to Ramanujacharya. 
He offered his services to the Lord of the seven hills by bringing water every day from Pushkarini which is about eight kilometres down the hills for the Lord’s abhisheka. Even though he was quite old, regardless of that, every day all alone he would trek down the forest without any fear of wild animals and carry a pitcher of water for the abhisheka. The seva is known as “teertha kainkaryam“. The Lord was happy with his unique and devoted service and decided to bless and help him. 

One day when Nambi was carrying water from Pushkarini up the hill, the Lord came to him in the guise of a hunter-boy. The boy stopped Nambi enroute and said, “Thatha (grandpa) I am very thirsty, please give me some water to drink”. Nambi was struck by the charm of the boy but politely refused to give him water. He said that he was carrying water for the Lord’s abhisheka daily without any break and he did not want any hurdles to the seva. Also Nambi told the boy that if he gave him water he would have to go down all the way to collect it again and that was not possible because he was too old. On the other hand, the boy was young enough to run down to Pushkarini and drink as much water as he wanted. 

Thus, having told the hunter-boy, Nambi started walking uphill. The boy slowly walked behind Nambi and hurled a stone at the pot of water. The pot cracked and all the water flowed out which the boy delightfully drank. Nambi was very sad. He would have to walk back, pick up another pot and then carry the water for the Lord. He was too exhausted and expressed his helplessness. The boy smiled and told Nambi that he did not have to go all the way down to collect the water for the Lord but right there very close to the temple he would provide an alternative for him. As Nambi stood and watched in surprise, the divine hunter-boy released an arrow from his bow. It struck the top of the cliff where they were standing and lo! water started to gush down from the top of the cliff. Nambi knew that this was no ordinary hunter-boy, but the Lord himself come down to help him. He prayed to the Lord to reveal his true form. The Lord stood in front of Nambi in all his pristine glory and told Nambi that this water-fall would be known as “Akasha Ganga” and henceforth the waters from Akasha Ganga would be used for the abhisheka. 

Nambi continued his “teertha kainkaryam” and also introduced other forms of seva like thomala seva, tirumanjanam, vedaparayanam, mantrapushpa kainkaryam etc., for the Lord which earned for him the title “Acharya Purusha” of the temple. Since the Lord had addressed him as “thatha” he is also known as “Thathacharya”. Even to this day, it is the privilege of the descendants of Tirumala Nambi to offer all these sevas started by him to Lord Venkateshwara.

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King Kulashekara

Kulashekara Alwar and Lord Venkateshwara

King Kulashekara belonged to the Chera dynasty. Being a very powerful warrior he soon had the Pandya and Chola regions also under his control. He was a very virtuous and just king and endeared himself to his subjects. He was spiritually inclined and was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Lord Vishnu’s padukas adorned King Kulashekara’s crown known as Cheramudi. He longed to visit Srirangam and he also urged people of his kingdom to visit the holy city of Srirangam. As a reminder, every day there would be an announcement of a yatra to Srirangam on the streets of his kingdom. Knowing the king’s strong spiritual roots, the ministers used to arrange for kirtans and readings of the Ramayana in the palace and thus prevented the king from undertaking the pilgrimage to Srirangam. 

However, the king started spending more time with the Vaishnava saints and devotees. This irked the ministers and therefore they devised a plan to stop the holy men from coming to the palace. They hid some of the ornaments of the royal deity worshipped by the king and told him that the ornaments had been stolen. They charged the vaishnava devotees of theft. Kulashekar refused to believe that the Lord’s devotees had stolen the ornaments. He decided to go through a test on behalf of the vaishnavites and prove that there were innocent. He asked for a vessel with a poisonous cobra inside it. The king put his hand into the vessel and proclaimed to everyone present that if the vaishnavites were innocent, nothing would happen to him. Sure enough he retrieved his hand from the vessel safely. The poisonous cobra had not harmed him in the least. The ministers were stunned and shocked and revealed the truth to the king. 

King Kulashekar was very unhappy and disturbed that the Lord’s devotees had been falsely charged with theft. Already a renunciate within, he decided to hand over the kingdom to his son and leave for Srirangam. King Kulashekar was considered as one amongst the Alwars. He composed beautiful verses in praise of the Lord and it is said that the Lord himself used to come and listen to him. Kulashekar Alwar visited all the sacred vaishnava temples. His philosophy was of absolute surrender (saranagati) to the Lord. He never asked the Lord for mukti or liberation. He only longed to be a “servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord”. He was even ready to be born again and again but only as a devotee of the Lord. He was overwhelmed at the darshan of the Lord of Tirumala, Sri Venkateswara, and cried out to the Lord to make him a stone, a worm, a blade of grass, a fish in the pond of the sacred Tirumala hills! He entreated the Lord, “in Thy sweet remembrance, may the swan of my mind enter RIGHT NOW the cage of Thy lotus feet. At the time of death, which is riddled with pain, and when all the equipments are failing, is it possible for me to remember Thee?” And he prayed to the Lord, “make me a step (threshold) at your sanctum sanctorum so that I can joyously gaze on at your beautiful charming lotus face constantly.” The step or threshold of the sanctum in the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala is known as “Kulashekara Padi” (Kulashekara Step) in honour of this glorious devotee of the Lord.

“I bow down my head to Raja Kulashekara in whose kingdom every day Ranga Yatra (pilgrimage to Srirangam) used to be announced (proclaimed)!”

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