Trip to Tirumala, Tirupati and Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh

One of our memorable short trips was made recently to Tirupati and Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. Both the places have high religious significance in Hinduism. Here’s the details of how you can plan to travel to these beautiful places.

The best time to visit the two places is the month of September to January. According to my preferences, September would be the best month as during this time of the year, monsoon has just subsided leaving the near semi-arid forest lush green with a bright sunlight to compliment the beauty of the nature in here. July-August is the Monsoon period which can make your travel unpredictable and dependent on the heavy Monsoon rains. These places are located near to the Tropic of Cancer and hence experience harsh summer heat from March to June. Temperature during winter months of November to February are not very convincingly cool as you still experience the heat of the bright sun and lack of rain make the surroundings too dry.
1. Tirumala, Tirupati:

||Om Shri Venkateshaya Namah|| Tirupati(Wikipedia) is the connecting city to the abode of Swami Venkateshwara (Wikipedia) at Tirumala (Wikipedia) which is approximately 21 KMs from Tirupati. I would like to give a detailed account of the travel so that this blog can help you plan your travel to these places and help you go through an extremely enchanting experience of the Darshana of our beloved Deity.

Darshan: Majority of visitors book a Special Entry Darshan (Seeghra Darshan) Ticket which costs Rs.300. You may book this ticket, which will ensure a relatively quicker Darshan, on the spot at any of the ticket booking counters at Tirupati OR it’s better to book it online. Special Entry Darshan tickets are available online up to three months in advance. You may visit the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) website to book the tickets- http://www.tirumala.org/SpecialEntryDarshan.aspx The Special Entry Darshan ticket will allow you to collect two TTD patented Laddoos per ticket as prasad. It usually takes 3-4 hours of wait time for Special Entry Darshan. Remember, you need to show print-out of the online ticket booking along with the original ID Card that you would use to book the online ticket. Your Darshan can be declined if you fail to comply.
You may take a cab or TTD Bus from Tirupati to reach Tirumala Hilltop. Once you are at the nodal point to queue for darshan you may deposit your footwear, luggage and mobile phones at the starting point of the queue which can be collected after the Darshan. Your belongings will be safely transported to the exit point for collection.

Pilgrims’ belongings being transported uphill to Tirumala from Tirupati under strict GPS surveillance and under the protection of Digital locks

Sarva Darshan is a free Darshan queue where you don’t require any ticket. However, the queue is apparently longer and you would need more time to spend in the queue waiting for your turn for Darshan.

Divya Darshan tickets are meant for pilgrims who opt to walk from Tirupati to Tirumala for Darshan.

There are two places from where you can start your foot journey- Alipiri Mettu and Srivari Mettu. Alipiri Mettu is older and longer between the two path. Alipiri Mettu is 9 KMs long with 3550 steps and includes long stretches of road and Srivari Mettu is comparatively shorter distance uphill with 2.1 Kms which has 2388 steps. Divya Darshan tickets are issued at the start or mid-way the journey. You may deposit your luggage and footwear at the start of the journey at Tirupati and can collect them from Tirumala after the Darshan. A detailed account of the Divya Darshan can be found on this link- https://gotirupati.com/by-walk-to-tirumala-hills/

Special Darshan for Differently-abled and aged: Special queues are available for differently-abled and aged persons that are considerably shorter and ensure faster darshan.
Travel: Tirupati is well-connected by road, rail and air with majority of the Indian cities.
i. By train: Tirupati is well connected by trains from majority of the Indian cities. You may check availability of trains on https://www.irctc.co.in/nget/train-search or any other online train ticket booking portal. The Indian Railway Station code for Tirupati station is TPTY.
ii. By Road: If you wish to enjoy a drive to Tirupati, you may take a flight to Chennai and take an AC bus to Tirupati which is roughly 3.5 hours drive. Fly to Chennai airport and take the Metro train from inside the airport to Chennai Central metro rail station which is adjacent to CMBT (Chennai Mufassil Bus Terminus) from where you can take an AC/Non-AC Bus to Tirupati. Buses ply every 30 minutes. However, it’s safer to book a ticket online on Redbus.com, Goibibo.com or Abhibus.com
iii. By air: Renigunta airport is an international airport nearest (16 KMs) to Tirupati. You may check its connectivity from your city or travel to Chennai airport. Fly to Chennai airport and take an AC/Non-AC Bus to Tirupati.

Accommodation: Almost all hotels at Tirupati and all hotels at Tirumala are owned by TTD and you can book your AC/Non-AC accommodation online at https://ttdsevaonline.com/#/accommodationCal Accommodation is available for online booking up to three months in advance. However, mostly accommodation of the first two months are booked within seconds of window opening. Plan in advance to ensure you get an accommodation. In case you fail to get an accommodation, you are most likely to get a challenging time there as private accommodation are nearly non-existent. Remember, you can book a room only for 24 hours and the booking can’t be extended at any cost. You need to carry the printout of the hotel booking and the original ID Card that you had mentioned while making the online booking.

The thumb rule for your bookings would be- First book accommodation. Then book your Darshan tickets and then travel tickets.

2. Srisailam:

||Om Namah Shivaay|| Srisailam or Shri Sailam or Srisaila has one of the highest significance in Hinduism as the uniqueness of this place is that it has one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in the form of Mallikarjun Swamy and one of the 18 Maha-shaktipeetha (Wikipedia) out of 108 Shaktipeethas in the same temple campus. Lord Shiva, here, is called “Mallikarjuna Swamy” and Maa is known as “Brahmaraambika”. You may read more about the Jyotirjinga and Shaktipeeth and their historical significance on this Maa Vaishnavi blog. Srisailam is also famous, among tourists, for it’s proximity to one of the largest forest area and Tiger Reserves of India and one of the most scenic Dams. You may take a look on the magnificence of the dam in this YouTube video.

Darshan: The online page of Srisaila Devasthanam http://www.srisailamonline.com/online-booking.html gives a list of options of Darshans, Abhishekam and Poojas at different time of the day in the mandir parisar. You may pay online over the website for the pooja you intend to do. Moreover, if you are interested in darshan, I believe there’s a provision for free darshan. Special Entry Darshan generally is comparatively quicker and tickets of which can be obtained by cash payment of Rs.300 at the Ticket counter in front of the entrance of the temple. Darshan at the Temple premises is open between 5 AM and 3:30 PM and again from 6 PM till 9 AM everyday. Weekends and Mondays witness heavy rush to the temple.

Travel: Srisailam is located in the heart of fourteenth largest forest of India, Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve (Wikipedia) which has an area of 3,728 Sq. KMs in the Nallamalla Hills of Eastern Ghats in India. Due to it’s location in the rough terrains and tiger reserve, it lacks choice of connectivity with Indian cities in the region.
i. By road: You may avail Super Luxury AC/Non-AC buses from Hyderabad, Vijayawada or Kurnool to reach Srisailam. These buses are operated by APSRTC (Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation and TSRTC (Telangana State Road Transport Corporation). The AC buses are usually fully booked and hence advance online booking of seats is highly recommended. You may get the bus tickets on Redbus.com, Goibibo.com or Abhibus.com.
ii. By train: The nearest railway station is Kurnool and Hyderabad which are about 200 Kms from Srisailam. You need to take a bus or hire a cab from these cities in order to reach Srisailam.
iii. By air: The nearest airport is at Hyderabad which is approximately 200 KMs from Srisailam. You need to take a bus or hire a cab to Srisailam from Hyderabad.

Accommodation: Most of the hotel and lodges are owned and operated by Srisaila Devasthanam trust that claims to make 20% of the total AC/Non-AC rooms available to be booked online on their website http://onlinebooking.srisailamonline.com/Accommodation/ViewAccommodation and are generally available two months in advance. Despite the claims, it’s generally too difficult to find a room at the desired date. In case you are travelling to Srisailam without a hotel booking, you are most likely to find the most challenging situation as the on-the-spot booking is mostly not available when you reach there. It’s better to either be very vigilant for the date for online booking or have someone at Srisailam to help you book the room on your behalf. There are a few Dharmashalas as well in the area. However, it will be a bit difficult for you to find them on your own. You may contact the auto-rickshaw drivers who would oblige you for Rs.100/200 including your ride to the Dharmashala. You may also look for Andhra Pradesh State Tourism website for accommodations at Srisailam. The Temple trust has also made available huge AC/Non-AC Dormitories with bed or with mats that tourists/pilgrims can book. They are subject to availability.

Wish you a safe, comfortable and enjoyable journey!

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