Religion and faith in Andhra Pradesh

Worshipping Vishnu and his avatars

Culture

February 14, 2019

/ By / Andhra Pradesh



img_7361

The way Lord Vishnu is worshiped in south India is unlike the northern part of the country

One of the most revered gods in Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu occupies a much more grander space in south India than he does in the north and in the state of Andhra Pradesh, he is worshipped in unique avatars and figures.

The city of Tirupati in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is one of the holiest cities in India. Modern in its outlook, with all the cement and steel buildings around, it also has some of India’s most  ancient temples in its nook and corners.

One of these temples is about 5,000 year old temple of Sri Venkateswara Swamy, which is also one of the most revered temples in India and the most visited temple in the world.

The city of Tirupati reverberates a deeply rooted religious spirit. Although the temple of Sri Venkateswara is atop a hill, on the flats is another temple, associated with the God’s elder brother.

img_7326

Wall ornaments depicting Lord Venkateswara 

In a local market on Gandhi road here, at the end of which the temple is, posters, idols and other trinkets depicting Lord Venkateswara pack the narrow lane. There are also books being sold, which tell the tale of the world’s richest god. The holy one is everywhere around here. There are his symbols on walls and images even on the jewels people are adorning.

Although, in India, there are 330 billion gods and goddesses who are worshiped by a populace of 1.3 billion, the faith of people in Tirupati and rather in the state of Andhra Pradesh and indeed in southern India, seems to be centred towards Lord Vishnu- one of the three most supreme divine figures in Hindu mythology and believed to be the organiser of the universe.

Although the beliefs of Hindu mythology remain same anywhere, local folklore varies in the northern and southern parts of the country, most likely due to the oral tradition of storytelling that mends bits here and there, or did so thousands of years ago.

In south India, people’s faith in Vishnu comes across to be grander than that in north India. He is not just in Tirumala in Tirupati, where he is believed to have self manifested, he is also in ancient caves such as in Undavalli in the historic city of Vijayawada.

A rare reclining statue of Vishnu

img_e6935

A rare reclining statue of Lord Vishnu

In the monolithic, rock cut Undavalli caves rests a rare idol of Lord Vishnu. This is said to be second only to another reclining statue of Vishnu in Padmanabhaswamy temple in the city of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

While the statue in Padmanabhaswamy remains a more revered one, perhaps due to the treasures of the temple, which is also one of the richest temples of India; it is not as easily accessible to people as the statue in Undavalli caves.

img_6785

The Undavalli caves

The statue in Padmanabhaswamy remains heavily guarded, with visitors not even allowed to take a picture- the reason why you would not find images of the statute or even of Lord Venkateswara on the internet. The same is not true for the reclining figure in Undavalli caves, which remains largely unknown and thus easily approachable and withering at the edges.

Resting in the anantha-sayanam posture (in the eternal sleep), these reclining statues of Vishnu are rare and thus attract devotees.

As we explore the ancient caves in Vijayawada, which were initially the resting place for Buddhist monks, we are left imaging the faith the many kingdoms had in Vishnu and how they transformed the shelter caves into an abode of the Holy One Himself.

Similar Articles

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

2 COMMENTS

  1. Insightful read on the various religious places (Tirupathi) and temples in Andhra Pradesh. Interesting pointers on the gods – Lord Vishnu and Venkateswara as well..

    1. Avatar Surbhi Kapila says:

      Hi, Thanks! Glad you found it insightful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *