Tirupati- Are you Ready to lose your Vanity???


Breathtaking view of Srivari Mettu from Tirumala

Photo of Tirupati- Are you Ready to lose your Vanity??? by Bhargav KVRK

A trip to the temple town of Tirupati is always invigorating and spiritually elevating. One uneasy point in this spiritual odyssey was the concept of tonsuring the head. This was something which I was never comfortable with. How will I look? What people will comment seeing me? I survived a scare, narrowly escaping this ordeal last time when I visited this holy place. Few of my friends were very excited to offer their hair to Lord Venkateshwara and asked me, "Are you joining us?" I gave a reluctant 'no' and tried to explain, "You guys might have some 'mokku' to fulfill, I don't have anything like that." One of my friends quickly quipped, "No mokku, just want to feel my head without hair and want to post it as a special update on the facebook."

Mokku in Telugu, is a promise or vow given to the lord to offer him something, in some cases hair , in return for a favour received from him. In Tirumala, there is a long tradition of tonsuring the head in return for a favour received from the lord. The visit to the abode of seven hills always left a small uneasy question in my mind- Why this reluctance in shaving my head? Google bhagawan gave me some interesting and insightful answers. One particular answer amazed me- Hair adds beauty to one's personality and enhances vanity. Giving up hair is like letting go your ego and attachment to it which I am sure all know is not easy. Hence the inner significance of the ritual of head tonsure is to offer your ego and vanity at His lotus feet.

This explanation appealed to me and with a lot of internal tussle was getting ready for it in the next trip to the seven hills. An opportunity came knocking at my door to visit Tirupati again. I announced my intention to tonsure my head. All sorts of queries and cautious advices followed, "Why, do you have any mokku? Think about it, you will look like Shakal - the villain in Bollywood film Shaan." Another friend interrupted to say, be careful, more often than not hair doesn't grow as you expect, you do it at a great risk. One more friendly advice, “Don't come back for one month till you grow some decent hair."

Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swami Temple (Courtesy: Justdial.com)

Photo of Sri Kalyana Venkateswaraswami Temple (Srinivasamangapuram Temple), Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, India by Bhargav KVRK

In the wee hours of a summer morning, we reached Srinivas Mangapuram had darshan of Kalyana Venkateswara and then took the Srivari Darshana Ratham bus to reach Sri Vari Mettu. These buses ply to all the important places in Tirumala and also in Tirupati.

SriVari Dharma Ratham to take you around

Photo of Tirupati- Are you Ready to lose your Vanity??? by Bhargav KVRK

Starting Point of Sri Vari Mettu pathway to Tirumala

Photo of Srivari mettu starting point, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India by Bhargav KVRK

We set out on foot to the abode of Venkateshwara through the Sri Vari Meetu pathway and reached there when the sun was young. It is a distance of around 3-4 kms all in the form of stairs and took around 45 minutes to reach the top. The view from the top was breathtaking. We climbed little more than 2500 steps. One can also go in buses or their private vehicles from Tirupati to Tirumala a distance of 25 kms by road through a ghat section.

My stomach was churning and my mind was agitating to the thought of tonsure as if I was losing something precious. I tried to pacify my uneasy mind, "What is there, it is not painful, moreover the ordeal will be over in a few minutes?" I asked a couple of passers by for the route to Kalyana katta-the tonsuring center. I clearly heard my heart thump beneath my chest. I had visited this temple town umpteen number of times, but this visit was different. On that D day, my attention was only on those glittering tonsured heads and the expressions on the faces of the natives. Theirs was a gamut of emotions from wonder, disbelief, relief, consternation to reverence when they reluctantly peeped into the glass panes of a shop, tinted glass of a car window, a rear view mirror of a vehicle or a small pocket mirror.

My turn came sooner than expected. I was ushered in, into this assembly line where devotees standing in a neatly formed queues renting the air with chants of Govinda. Govinda. They were going in with full hair and were coming out with clean, shaven and shining heads. I was supplied with one half of the traditional shaving blade and I sincerely followed the line and sat in one corner silently entrusting my head to a barber (or a saint) ready with his act of removing my ego. He grinned at me, which seemed like a devilish smirk, removed the wrapper of this half blade, put it in the razor popularly known as ustra before he got down to business. The head was wetted gently with lukewarm water readying it for this holy sacrifice. In little over two minutes with the deft strokes of his razor he accomplished the task. It was a really close shave by this half blade wonder outperforming all the twin blades and triple blades extant in the market. I realized one thing that day- a haircut takes around half an hour to forty five minutes because it is done very carefully keeping in mind how one looks but tonsuring is a simple no frills affair taking just two minutes. The property that I considered my own for more than three decades and half got detached from me in a trice. Is it teaching any lesson? Am I ready to learn? Hmm..bolstering the ego takes a lot of time but reducing it takes no time.

My Vanity Free existence :-)

Photo of Kalyanakatta, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India by Bhargav KVRK

I came out and tried to see the expressions on the faces of people around me. Shutter-bugs started clicking and one of the enthusiasts showed me my apparent egoless existence. I got a mixed bag of responses- 'You look like a disciple of Adi Shankara, look like one of those of Madhava cult, look like on of those notorious Bollywood villians and so on.

But it was a relief of sorts and a sense of achievement as this was not a two minutes ordeal but something which was going on in my mind for many weeks. Quickly one of the members of the entourage got a cap to put it on my head saying, "It looks odd put it till the hair grows to a decent length." I didn't want to sabotage this new found freedom, declined the offer and said," The whole exercise was undertaken to be indifferent to how I look. Let it be natural."

Swamivari Pushkarini (Courtesy: letsseeindia.com)

Photo of Nitya Pushkarini, Pushkarini Street, Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, India by Bhargav KVRK

We quickly went and took a holy dip in Swami vari Pushkarini and headed for the sacred darshan of the Lord of Seven Hills. The temple precincts reverberated with the chants of Govinda, Govinda!!!

Lord Balaji Temple (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Photo of Bangaru Vakili, Srivari Darshan Path, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India by Bhargav KVRK

It look little more than two hours for the darshan availing the special darshan tickets (If you climb up the hill, a darshan ticket is provided which expedites your darshan). Once I crossed the Dhwajasthambam and beheld the divine sanctum sanctorum, it sent a thrill of joy in the whole body. That being a Friday, we had darshan of the lord without the alankaram (embellishments). The atmosphere in the sanctum sanctorum was ethereal.

Having a fill of His beatific form we proceeded to the Vengamamba Annadanam Center for a sumptous prasadam of the Lord Balaji.

One interesting facet which I found was that irrespective of gender, many offer their hair (ego) to the Lord. So are you all ready to become free of vanity!!! Try tonsuring your head and offering it to Lord Venkateswara when you plan a trip next time!!!