The happy lord
source: Times of India, 22 April 2007
[22 Apr, 2007 l 0355 hrs ISTlTIMES NEWS NETWORK]
Despite threats of closure, the 500-year-old Chilkur Balaji temple continues to attract devotees.
As the first rays of the sun hit the Sri Balaji Venkateshwara temple at Chilkur, 25 km from Hyderabad, it sees that the temple is already abuzz with activity.
Enter the courtyard around its sanctum sanctorum, and you find yourself moving with a crowd around the Lord with a sense of urgency yet a studied calm. More than 5,000 such devotees visit the temple on each weekday, and the number goes upto 20,000 on the weekends.
Despite such mass appeal, everything isn't hunky dory with the temple, if the temple's trustee and head archaka's Dr MV Soundararajan's words are anything to go by.
"The Endowments department wants to close down this 500-yearold temple as we have been instrumental in mobilising public voice against an endowments legislature where the government wants to control temple funds. We are asking the government to give temples the right to manage their own funds," he says.
But devotees still remain suspended in a disarming space of faith for the Lord, oblivious to the political dynamics. And why not when "fulfiled wishes" constantly reaffirm their conviction? As Maheshwar Bobbili puts it, "My wife had asked the Lord for a job and even made the customary 11 rounds.
Her wish was fulfiled. She is thanking Venkateshwara by making 108 rounds now." In fact, people who apply for their visas also make a beeline for the temple as they believe that a visit will ensure a positive outcome of their visa application.
Not surprisingly, the Lord is popularly known as the 'Visa God'. The confidence exuded by the believers all around bears testimony to the Lord's wish-fulfiling powers. And if peace is the only thing you long for, the temple's benign air offers that in plenty.
The Chilkur temple is among very few old temples that have Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva residing together. It's a rare coming together of the Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
Sitting near Lord Shiva's shrine, adorned by a shining brass cobra, below an old peepal tree, Pundit Sharma says, according to legends, the place owes its power to a yogi who met God after a severe penance, and he asked God to fulfil people's desires.
The belief that the Lord can be satiated only by love and not worldly offerings has inspired the temple's archakas (worshippers) to keep away from a hundi (donation box) system.
The liberal obeisance to God is also evident in the sign boards all over the temple, asking devotees to keep their eyes open and keep their hands folded while taking the Lord's darshan. "Usually, people close their eyes when before God, but that beats the purpose. You should always keep your eyes open, not to miss a single moment of his sight," says Soundararajan.
The archaka's believe that if temples can bring back the old ways of Vaishnava dharma, which believes in universalism, then it will check religious conversions. "Nearly 60 per cent of the coconut sellers outside the temple are converted Christians.
We have no problems letting worshippers make offerings to the Lord, brought from them. In fact, it's heart warming to see them making a living out a Hindu temple," smiles Soundararajan.