Mythology 20 Feb 2018
In 2016, for the first time in the history of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, the income from offerings by devotees alone, crossed the Rs 1,000 crore mark. The TTD, incidentally, is India’s richest temple, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara. And therein, lies a story.
The story begins with Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha, where his consort, Goddess Lakshmi, rests in repose against his chest. The time, thousands of years ago.
After a misunderstanding with a sage called Brighu, who kicked Lord Vishnu in the chest, an angry Lakshmi forsook her husband and left the heavens for Earth.
A desperate Lord Vishnu followed her to Earth and decided to stay there till she calmed down. Both were reincarnated– Vishnu as Srinivas, Goddess Lakshmi as Padmavati, the daughter of the King of Mountains.
When Srinivas wanted to marry Padmavati, her father refused saying he was penniless (without Lakshmi by his side), and a nod for the wedding could be given only on the condition that he pay a dowry for her hand. Srinivas therefore had no option but to take a very hefty loan from Kubera, the God of Wealth. So Srinivas was given mountains of gold as promised by Kubera.
Srinivas told Kubera that he would be repaid at the end of the Kaliyug. The payment to Kubera, however was the on the interest of donations made to the Srinivas or Lord Venkatesh and the amount of the dowry was so huge that to this day, devotees to Tirupati continue to fill his coffers.
In exchange for the generosity of the devotees, he gives his blessings which can be used to generate more wealth, or break free from the attachment to wealth.
So the devotees give Vishnu wealth and he makes them rich and the cycle continues, making Tirupati the richest Hindu temple in India. The roof of the sanctum sanctorum, for instance, is entirely covered in gold.
More than 1 lakh visitors visit the Tirupati temple every day of the year. On special occasions, like the Brahmotsav, the number can rise to 5 lakh.
But despite all the offerings of wealth by devotees, Vishnu’s debt to Kubera remains, and he cannot return to Vaikuntha, and is trapped forever on Earth.