Tirumala; the most visited pilgrim center of India …I’ve visited the place four times and climbed the hill two times.
Lord Venkateswara’s temple is atop seven hills ...Saptagiri. There are two ways to reach it. By road, go in a vehicle, what most people prefer. The other one is by foot …the path starts at Tirupati and goes up all the way to Tirumala. I guess the more pious take this route. The tradition is that one has to climb bare foot, carry their belongings which includes offerings to the Lord above on their head and chant his name till the darshan. It’s a belief that one needs to go through hardships to see God.
It was dad’s suggestion to go by foot …Roopa and I agreed to join. My interest was in climbing the hill, it was a new found passion then which I still cherish. We started early and weather was on our side …cloudy or raining and cool. The climb got interesting, the breeze stronger as we went higher and higher. From few points we could see the first gateway up above. The climb looked daunting but we were determined. The steps were wet with rain water and this helped our feet stay cool. We reached the first gateway …it was a wonderful feeling to be high above in the clouds. I think we had some snacks. From here the path was almost in one level for some time and then started climbing up again slowly …very slowly. At one point the foot path and road intersected and ran parallel for a short distance. This is the only part of the path without overhead shelter. The last bit was one real steep climb, the steepest in the entire stretch …my lungs ached and I got cramps in my leg. The trouble was worth every bit, we made it to the top. Dad's words still echo in my ears; Roopa, you proved your mettle.
We bought special Darshan tickets, joined the line of pilgrims and waited nearly 18 hours to see get our chance to get a glimpse of the Lord adorned with gold jewelry studded with diamonds. A sight every one has to see once.