India – Day 5 – The barefoot adventure of four tourists and one Lakh* Indian people visiting a temple

Tirupati and Tirumala
Today: 7 km
Total: 190 km
36 degrees Celsius, partly cloudy, partly sunny

Or sub-titled, visiting the Tirumala temple. Today we slept late. We probably did not hear the alarm, because of the constant 90 dB traffic directly in front of our hotel window. This was not the plan, but let’s get up and go to the temple. With our rickshaws and our luggage in our brand new roof racks, we headed for Tirumala, translating as holy hill, a hill village close to Tirupati, with a temple dedicated to the god Venkateswara.

At the entrance road to the village, we were not allowed to continue with our rickshaws. Three wheelers were not allowed. The jokes of having six wheels together didn’t make a difference. So off to the parking area. In the parking area we parked our rickshaws directly behind the security, his desk was a plank on a pile of tires. There just happened to be a taxi driver hanging around at the parking. He would drive us up, wait for us and drive us down again.

Off to the temple. Or not? The driver first brought us to a totally different Hare Krishna temple in Tirupati. It was a nice temple and Armand even got a free book which can help him with day-to-day struggles, like “Can you choose in which animal you will reincarnate?”. He probably looked like he needed it.

After that, we went to the Tirumala temple. At the entrance road there was a security post, to X-ray our luggage and metal detectors and a frisk search. The drive up was nice, we got to see the surrounding area, both nature and a view on Tirupati (3 Lakh* people live there). Next we drop of our shoes, because temples are always visited barefoot.

Next stop were the lockers to stock our day packs. At the first guarded locker we had to show all our electronics, because apparently they were locked somewhere else. After the first surprises of all the electronics we carried (photo cameras, video camera, GoPros, power banks, cell phones and a laptop), and a friendly Indian man hurried to inform us this locker was not safe to store the day packs. So we left again, walked barefoot (hot asphalt!!) to the car and went to the dormitories, where they have real lockers, with a lock. This all took more than one hour. On the way we also copied our passport and visa. Don’t know why, we never used the copy.

Now we are all ready to go to the temple. There seems to be some sort of fast lane for tourists and people that are somehow important for the temple. After showing our passports and buying long cloths we were allowed into the fast lane. We again had to show our passports, fill in a form with personal details, show passports again, pay some money and got to the waiting line. After about an hour and a metal detector and frisk search we almost at the temple. There were separate lines for men and women. Because Mitch was carrying his “man purse” we was pushed into the women line, all shorter than him.

Because there are so much people visiting the temple it’s not a relaxed sight seeing trip. From the moment you get in the waiting line, you are pushed through the waiting line and pushed through the temple by the crowd and security people. Now we know how oranges feel when pressed for juice. Probably that’s the only way to get so much people in the temple each day. As a result everybody gets to see the holy statue for about 30 milliseconds. Most people visit the temple daily or monthly. In the waiting line we met some friendly people, explaining about the temple and pushing is in the correct (faster) waiting lines.

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The temple, made completely of gold, holds a statue of Venkateswara. Venkateswara is one of the many forms of the God Vishnu, the most important God for the Hindu people. Outside the temple was decorated with gods, all over the temple. Venkateswara was silver lined, at the right side of the temple. After visiting the temple we received holy rice, to bless our bodies. We might need this the coming weeks.

After six hours, including the 30 milliseconds to watch the holy statue we arrived back at our rickshaws. Too late to hit the roads, so we found a new hotel in Tirupati.

* 1 Lakh is 100.000 our, as the Indian people write, 1,00,000.

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