Daddy Diaries 8 – The Turels in Tirupati

A visit to the temple town of Tirupati gives this doctor an intimate look at the grandeur of religion and the power of faith.

“Have you heard of Tirupati?” I asked my daughters, after my wife and I returned from a visit to the holy town. “It’s that place from where everyone comes back bald, na?” they answered in unison. I was very impressed at the association. “Why didn’t you go bald?” the older one asked. “He has very little to offer in that department,” the younger one retorted, tapping the vertex of my head.

“You cannot come to Tirupati and not visit the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, the abode of Lord Balaji,” a swami patient of mine told me when he heard of my plans to visit the city. “I can’t stand in line, Swamiji,” I pleaded, trying my hardest to not sound South Bombay-ish. “Don’t worry, doctor ji: with the blessings of the almighty, everything will be arranged for you,” he assured. “Please keep yourself free on the first half of Saturday morning,” he signed off.

A car picked us up from the ashram we were residing in and drove us 30 minutes to the bottom of the hill. “Most famous temple in the world this is!” the driver told us in ‘Teluguan’ English. “Why is it so famous?” I asked. “Whatever you wish for comes true,” he told us. “One lakh people take darshan here every day,” he added. That’s the world population of the entire Parsi community, I thought to myself. “And two crore rupees is donated to the temple daily,” he said proudly. My uncle, who was travelling with us, told me that his boss used to take suitcases of money to donate. “Lord Balaji was a 10% legal partner in his firm!” he said.

“Do you know anyone as famous as this Lord?” I asked my daughters. “Of course,” they chimed in eagerly, in sync. “Taylor Swift! She has more than 500 million followers on Instagram, and she makes 1 million dollars a day,” they rattled off facts whose validity I could not check. That’s about Rs. 8.5 crores a day; four times wealthier than the Lord on a daily basis, I pondered. “And she makes wishes come true,” they added. “Maybe she should have a temple,” I suggested. “Arizona’s Swift City is like a place of worship for all Swifties, dadda,” they educated me.

We met Swamiji at the bottom of the hill on which the temple is situated and he whisked us through a VIP drive-through. After a scenic winding route laden with pretty flowers, we reached the temple city of Tirumala, a fortress in its own right. Men in unform armed with guns paraded each of the entrance gates. We were driven straight to one of the residence quarters. “There are four families of head priests,” Swamiji said, as he introduced us to one of them. “He is the one who dresses up the deity every day,” he proudly announced, as they were related. The priest placed a red tilak on our foreheads and we were served traditional breakfast in the dining hall. We kept our mobile phones away, removed our socks, adorned our dhotis, and made the march with the sun darting its rays on the tar.

“There are several queuing systems that don’t allow for one to understand the magnitude of the crowds, but IIT Madras is responsible for these smooth passageways to greet the almighty,” Swamiji gave us some trivia. We were sitting in a room that was screening a live puja going on in another part of the temple ground, where they marry the Lord Balaji and his wife, Padmavathi (an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi), on a daily basis. “Bhagwaan ko bhi itna torture karte hai?” I asked Swamiji, who insisted that I should come again at the age of 60 to get remarried. “To the same woman or a different one?” I asked with a poker face, while Swamiji turned his head to my wife for confirmation. Luckily, it was time to change rooms and get into a fast-moving line that meandered from one part of the complex to another, until we entered the four walls of the main temple precinct with a gold-plated tower atop it.

Loud chants of Govinda, Govinda, Govinda – which, I found out later, was another name for the Lord – kept the line moving, as security guards made sure no one loitered around. The loud emphasis on the first syllable of the name made me wonder if it was just a strategic chant to keep people go, go, going on. We got a glimpse of the idol decorated in jewels in a dark room faintly illuminated by a few diyas that added to the mysticism. The head priest whisked us into the sanctum sanctorum where we were allowed to wait a few minutes before being ensconced in chants of Go, Go, Govinda once again, which took us back into the line. We were done in an hour. “Why are the Lord’s eyes always covered?” I asked, referring to the white mark over the idol’s forehead that covered his eyes. “Devotees cannot look directly into the eyes of the Lord, as he radiates cosmic energy, which mortals cannot handle,” Swamiji explained. Some others say that he doesn’t want to discriminate who he is granting his wishes to; he grants them unconditionally. We were offered delicious lunch and expressed our gratitude for this experience.

We drove down the hill to meet Padmavathi, the Lord’s wife. Why they have different temples a few miles apart is confusing. If gods cannot live together as a married couple, how can one blame us mortals? We paid our respects there too, as this is required to be done to complete the circuit. We ended the evening with filter coffee at a local jaunt outside the mandir and strolled along shops selling temple paraphernalia.

“Someday, we’ll see all the places of worship in the world,” I told my kids. “We’ll start with Swift City in America!” they said unanimously. “We’ll start with Udwada,” I gave them a stern look. “We haven’t been this year and it’s time to go!” I reminded them.

This Navroze, may whatever you wish for be yours. As long as someone else isn’t wishing for the exact same thing – because then, you’ll have to share it. May the gods you believe in grant you serenity, wisdom, courage, and compassion. May you always be healthy and mostly be happy.

 

19 Comments on “Daddy Diaries 8 – The Turels in Tirupati
  • Dr Mahavir Gajani says:

    Superb Darshan 🙏🙏

    Reply
  • Anuradha says:

    Dear Mazda

    I had a good darshan of Lord Balaji through your experience. Thank you

    Reply
  • Mahashweta Biswas says:

    Thanks for taking us thru the journey n your experience at Balaji Temple

    I loved kuchi & meme’s comments along with your humour especially marrying the same woman or someone else at 60😂😂

    Reply
  • Kersi Naushir Daruvala says:

    I think and wish I have Govinda Darshan some time in my life but I don’t know when.
    So help me to make my trip soon.

    Reply
  • Dr Pankaj Parikh says:

    I rarely read what’s app msg stories etc But My Sunday morning starts with reading your experiences and literature on My What’s app Sir You are One of the most Multitalented Neuro and Spine Surgeon
    You are expert not only in your Medical Feild of work but in many other feild of work My all Patient’s operated by You are doing very well I’m always confident that all Neurosurgery are Successful in your Hand
    I am not good in English language so excuse me if any error in expressing myself
    Stay Always Blessed
    Continue your Valuable medical services to Mankind

    Reply
  • Santosh Kumar joshi says:

    Sir, your spiritual inclination is unbelievable, you are amazing in my opinion.

    Reply
  • Jayesh Ravindranath says:

    Dr. Turel, I have just completed a 3 week drive across Gujarat, and having visited a few temples enroute, thanks to the religiosity of my travel partner, I got a 1st hand experience of some big and very popular temples in Gujarat.

    Dwarka, Somnath & some of the Swaminarayan temples.

    What you say is so true, “…the grandeur of religion and the power of faith.”

    Crowds milling to get in, for a barely 2 sec darshan. Being pushed around like cattle. But the power of faith & belief overrides all this.

    And this is what preachers, babas, gurus, mystics, evangelists and politicians prey on, and play on. 😐

    Reply
  • Vipul Shah says:

    Dearest Dr Mazda sir ….,,,

    Very happy to see shift in your writings from OT to Temple Darshan of Lord Balaji …..

    Your jovial expressions are equally good in all your pieces ……..

    Very Lucky being in the Best profession where different patients in various professions & with connections will be happy to help you for Direct Darshan without Queues……

    Keep on writing on all the subjects sir

    Best of Luck & Gid bless sir 🌹

    Reply
  • Rita singh says:

    Good, ur doing ur tirth yatra from now. In old age when people start their journey generally they find it difficult physically not being so fit.Good example for the children too. May.lord Balaji bless us all. 🙏

    Reply
  • Sanjiv says:

    Thank you for giving a lovely reminder and Darshan of the Lord Balaji !! Govinda

    Reply
  • Marzin R Shroff says:

    You didn’t tell us what you wished for, Mazda. At some point later, you can tell us if your wish came true.

    Reply
  • K Sreenivasa Murthy says:

    Dr. Turel,
    Congratulations! You had Darshan of Lord Venkateshwara and Padmavathi Ammal. But there is a belief amongst devotees that Tirupathi Yathra is considered to be complete only when you have Darshan of Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur also. It may not be difficult for you to manage since Kolhapur is in the state of Maharashtra.

    Reply
  • Dr. Rafat Ansari says:

    May Allah bless u fr helping the souls in distress at their time of distress..
    Ur one VIP n shld b treated lyk one wherever u r!!May allah ur wishes too come tru!

    Reply
  • Dr. Rafat Ansari says:

    May all ur wishes too come tru!
    May the Almighty bless the little darlings with the same zest n wisdom that ur blessed wid! Ur a delight to know!

    Reply
  • Thejashree Shankar says:

    Dr. Turel, you explained the journey so well. Glad you liked the pilgrimage, but I would like to tell you something, Goddess Padmavathi and Goddess MahaLakshmi are said to be situated on left and right side of Lord Balaji’s chest. You can see that closely in his photos. Though she is there Padmavathi Temple also but she resides in his heart as well. That indicates omnipresence of the God. Hence, they as couple are together forever

    Reply
  • Atreyee Talapatra says:

    I had a very similar experience. I am not sure of the mystical but the temples in the cities of India engages and gives employment to crores of people.

    Reply
  • Ganesh Neelayavalasa says:

    Lord venkateswara is universal Supreme power .worship him ,ur wishes never un full filled….Chant Govinda Always until ur last breathe

    Reply
  • Setu Ram says:

    Not to be cynical, but faith is now a commodity.
    These same persons who frequent Tirupati and Nathdwara dabble in caste distinctions and other such regressive practices…no god preaches thus
    This is not the norm of course..as in medicine , so in life..First Do No Harm

    Reply
  • Di says:

    Dear Dr. Mazda wish you the same…. May all your dreams come true and may you always be healthy and happy..
    It’s always so good to read the conversations between your daughters and you… Really adorable..
    Who is as famous as the Lord.. Taylor swift lol haha..
    Blessings to your family and you..

    Reply

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