My sister and brother-in-law, who live in Secunderabad, wanted to visit Chilkur Balaji Temple and asked me whether I wish to join them. As I had heard many good things about the temple, I readily agreed. We all got ready early in the morning on a weekend and boarded a city bus to reach the temple.
The temple is located in a peaceful village, somewhat far away from the disturbing noises and hectic life of the Hyderabad city. After we debarked from the city bus which took us to the village, we just scanned the village skyline in the expectation of finding an imposing temple tower. Not being able to find one, we just followed the other pilgrims to reach the temple precincts.
As we neared the temple, we found many coconut vendors competing with each other to attract the attention of the pilgrims. In their effort to win the larger piece of the business pie, they kept yelling out temptingly low prices only to charge more afterward. We just left the footwear at the stall where we bought the coconuts and started moving towards the holy precincts of the temple. Just before the entrance we were stopped and the plastic bags in which we were carrying the coconuts were taken away to be discarded, and the coconuts were put into eco-friendly carry bags citing the reason that the usage of plastic is banned on the temple precincts. As we were nearing the sanctum of the temple after leaving our valuables in the temple lockers, we heard a priest giving instructions to the incoming devotees on a loud speaker. Being a weekend, we found many devotees thronging the temple and they are all geared up to make 108 circumambulations around the sanctum, as it has been a tradition for the pilgrims who visit the temple for the fulfillment of their wishes. The presiding deity of the temple is famously known as ‘Visa God’ as the devotees believe that if they visit the temple and take vows, their aspirations of getting an abroad assignment or opportunity would be fulfilled.Why the Chilkur Balaji Temple is one of a kind Hindu shrine in South India? Click To Tweet
Being a practicing Hindu and a frequent visitor to temples, I observed many things unique to the Chilkur Balaji Temple. The priest giving instructions to the pilgrims on the dos and don’ts of the behavior expected of them inside the temple is something which I have never seen before in my life. Hinduism, unlike other Abrahamic religions, doesn’t advocate any collectivism and a Hindu, while he is on a visit to a temple, is to a great extent isolated and makes minimum or no interaction at all either with his co-religionists or priests, except when he joins a ‘satsang’. However, in Chilkur temple, the priests who were addressing all the pilgrims were not only helping the pilgrims on keeping their minds focused on God but also trying to remind the devotees of their great Hindu cultural ethos.
As we joined our fellow devotees in the ritual of circumambulating the sanctum, we observed many of them holding pens and papers to account for their ‘Pradakshinas’. It seems that the devotees, to get their wishes fulfilled, have to circumambulate the sanctum 108 times, while repeating the 108 names of Lord Govinda. The priest makes it a point to remind the pilgrims that 108 is the magic number everyone has to reach in order to get their wishes fulfilled. It appears that in this age of precision, accounting for things accurately is not only important in our professional lives but also in our spiritual lives.
The most important thing that has to be taken note of is, we could get the ‘darshan’ of the presiding deity, Lord Balaji, without spending even a single pie. A devotee need not buy any ticket to gain entry into the sanctum to have a ‘darshan’ of the presiding deity. And this practice of giving free access to the sanctum of the temple is in sharp contrast to the other south Indian temples where the pilgrims are required to buy tickets to enter the shrines. Another notable thing about the temple which needs a mention here is the shrine does not have a ‘hundi’ placed in it. All the devotees are treated on par and no special privileges are accorded to anyone. The priests distribute camphor water as ‘teertham’ and some sugar cubes as sanctified food (Prasadam).
After we came out of the temple precincts, we wanted to have breakfast and found Haritha Hotel owned by Telangana Tourism, which is located very nearer to the temple. At the very outset, I suspected that the restaurant, by dint of being owned by the government, may not serve good quality food. My suspicions came true when they served stale and unpalatable breakfast. My brother-in-law vomited to ease his stomach and we all felt very uneasy till we reached home. So Haritha Hotel, owned by Telangana Tourism, played spoilsport in our entire temple visit which is otherwise very purposeful and spiritually enlightening.
All in all the Balaji temple located in Chilkur village is one of a kind Hindu shrine, which every Hindu should feel proud of. We all hope that the ‘secular’ governments, who have scant regard for the feelings of Hindus, would desist from casting their evil eyes on the well-managed temple. Once the temple goes into the hands of the government, it turns into a commercial entity and profit seeking materialists will introduce a multitude of useless and meaningless rituals to maximize their profits.