It’s been ten years since I decided that I will avoid the long queues for darshan at Lord Venkateswara’s abode in Tirupati, and instead pray from wherever I am. But last weekend, a bunch of friends planned a visit to Tirupati. I reluctantly agreed to join them because they refused to go on without me. For two of my friends in the group of five, this was the first visit to the temple hill town. They excitedly chalked out the plan to climb the 9-km uphill with a mix of road and 3,500 steps. I backed out and said I would drive up and wait for them at the hilltop.
The climb took them four and a half hours. One, because they took it slow, and two, because it was a very crowded long weekend. They had to zigzag their way to the top. Once atop the hill, we went to enquire about the darshan. It was so crowded that the temple authorities told us to go back the next day and try again. If we went back the next morning and stood in the queue at 3 am, the estimated darshan time would be about 11-12 hours.
Having made the difficult climb, my friends were tired. They wanted to get back to the hotel and rest. Yet, they were all restless with the thought of not having completed the trip. We decided to see the temple from outside. There’s a spot from where one can see the famous golden gopura. We saw that, stood in line for the famous laddu prasada and returned to the hotel late that night. On the drive back downhill, all of us were thinking the same thing – we’ll have to make another trip.
The next morning, we heard that the crowd outside the temple entrance was so heavy that the police had to resort to lathicharge to bring things under control. Though the news was disturbing, we felt assured that we made the right decision by turning back. And then, the reasoning started. One friend said: “I think God didn’t want us to visit when the crowd was this bad. So he sent us back.”
Another said: “It was our destiny to make the uphill climb, and that was the actual darshan.” The others in the group agreed that we did the right thing. All this while, the attempt was to find a soothing explanation as to why the trip didn’t go as planned.
Why do we give so much importance to darshan, if we also believe that God is everywhere? Believers are of the opinion that darshan is a two-way process. It is an exchange between God and the devotee. Darshan is not just about seeing the deity, but also about the deity seeing the devotee and entering into a spiritual, deeply personal exchange in which the deity reveals its true personality to the devotee.
That exchange of energy takes devotion to an all new level, wherein the devotee is energized by some of the power of the deity. It is believed that when this exchange takes place between the deity and the devotee, all limits are crushed and the spiritual love takes on new meaning. The fascinating concept explains that the darshan process opens up the pathway for the devotee and deity to enter into a conversation.Given that my group is filled with believers, another trip to Tirupati has now become inevitable.