Harmony in the Hills: Alipiri Padala Mandapam – Tirupati’s Hidden Gem

Alipiri Padala Mandapam

Alipiri Padala Mandapam, also known as Alipiri, is a significant location situated at the base of the seven hills in Tirupati, the revered city of Sri Venkateswara Swami, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Alipiri Padala Mandapam serves as one of the two routes for pilgrims to reach Tirumala on foot. For a considerable time, it was the sole route used in modern times, until the restoration and reopening of the original Srivari Mettu, situated about 20 km away, in 2008. While Alipiri involves a longer journey with its 3550 steps, Srivari Mettu is shorter with 2388 steps.

Alipiri also marks the starting point of two roadways that lead to Tirumala through the Seven Hills. This significant role as an entry point has earned it the title “The Gateway to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.” In the past, pilgrims used to ascend all Seven Hills on foot via the stepped path due to the absence of alternative transportation. These pilgrims, often from distant places, would prepare meals, rest, and then proceed with their climb after a period of respite.

As per the temple’s ancient tale, Sri Venkateswara Swamy engages in a daily ritual. After the Ekanta Seva at Tirumala, he embarks on a journey to meet his beloved consort, Padmavathi Devi, in Tiruchanoor. Along this path, which follows the Alipiri footpath route, he deposits his footwear at Alipiri Padalu. This charming narrative gives rise to the name Alipiri Padala Mandapam.

Pilgrims who wish to partake in the Padala Seva, Ekantha Seva, and Abhishekam rituals are required to pay a nominal fee for these sacred services.

Today, the entire stairway has been covered with a protective roof to shield pilgrims from sun and rain, supplemented by ample lighting. Pilgrims who undertake the journey on foot are granted special privileges as a mark of their devotion to the Lord.

The term “Alipiri” derives its meaning from “resting place,” which reflects its historical significance. The Padalamandapam Temple hosts various Vaishnavite festivals, including Vaikuntha Ekadasi and Rathasapthami. Another significant event is the Metlotsavam festival, which occurs once every three months. Organized by the Dasa Sahitya project under the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, this festival involves groups of devotees embarking on a trek to Tirumala while singing spiritual songs.

Several temples enrich the Alipiri Padala Mandapam complex:

  • Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy Temple: This sub-temple within the complex is dedicated to Lord Lakshmi Narayana. It lies to the east of Padala Mandapam, and the temple entrance and deity face westward. A sub-shrine dedicated to Andal is also present.
  • Srivari Padala Mandapam: This temple is devoted to Lord Venkateswara and is a significant stop at Alipiri. The presiding deity is Padala Venkateswara Swamy. Legend has it that after Ekantha Seva at Tirumala, Lord Venkateswara would descend the hill through the Alipiri Steps path to visit his consort Padamavati at Tiruchanur. He would leave his footwear at this spot, giving rise to the name “Padala Mandapam.” Devotees embarking on the Tirumala Yatra from Tirupati start their journey by carrying “Srivari Padukalu” (representations of the Lord’s footwear) on their heads.
  • Sri Vinayaka Swamy Temple: This temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is located along the 2nd Ghat Road between Tirupati and Tirumala. Devotees traveling by road offer prayers here before commencing their journey.

An ancient footpath named Alipiri Metlu starts from Alipiri and leads to Tirumala. Pilgrims fulfilling their vows to Lord Venkateswara undertake this path, covering a distance of 12 km through a total of 3550 steps. The path is adorned with four Gopurams (Temple Towers) and is entirely covered, passing through the seven hills of the Seshachalam range.

To enhance security, a security zone was established in Alipiri in 2009 to screen vehicles and pilgrims entering Tirumala. This measure was implemented to safeguard the hills against potential threats from terrorists and anti-social elements.

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