Fri Nov 28 17:22:12 UTC 1997

At 01:25 PM 11/28/97 GMT, Geoffrey Samuel wrote:
>In one of the Crystal Mirror volumes on Indian Buddhist history (ed
>Tarthang Tulku), Potalaka is identified with Tirupati (i.e. the famous
>Venkatesvara temple and pilgrimage site) in southern A.P., on the basis of
>Ahir's Buddhism in S India - unfortunately I don't have the Crystal Mirror
>volume here, and haven't yet had a chance to look at Ahir. It's an
>intriguing identification, to say the least, especially since the
>Venkatesvara deity was, according to legend, only conclusively determined
>to be Vishnu by Ramanuja - I have no idea whether the iconography of the
>image is consonant with its having been Avalokitesvara beforehand? But as I
>say I haven't looked at Ahir and I don't know what arguments he uses to
>support the identification, given that I gather this site was referred to
>as Venkata from quite early on.
>Of course, the name "Potala" for the Dalai Lama's palace at Lhasa is a
>secondary derivation, based on the identification of the Dalai Lama with
>Avalokitesvara. For the Tibetans, the "original" Potala(ka) was the hilltop
>palace of Avalokitesvara in S India (or wherever), not the building at
>Lhasa. Perhaps the same is true for the Chinese island of Pu-to.
>Geoffrey Samuel
>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
>*                                                                       *
>*  Geoffrey Samuel                                                      *
>* (until 12/97) Department of Religious Studies                   OM    *
>* Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG, UK                     MA    *
>* Email: G.B.Samuel at lancaster.ac.uk                               NI    *
>* Fax: +44-1524-847039                                            PAD   *
>*                                                                 ME    *
>* (from 1/98) Department of Sociology and Anthropology            HUM   *
>* University of Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia                    HRIH  *
>* Email: sogbs at cc.newcastle.edu                                         *
>* Fax: +61-2-4921 6902                                                  *
>*                                                                       *
>* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The mountain on which the sacred shrine is situated is called Tirumala =
Sri mala = auspicious mountain.

There are seven hills which the pilgrims used to climb by strenuous path.
Now, ofcourse, no more nescessary because you can drive up. But even today
people who make a vow to climb by foot and those who cannot afford the bus
fare go by foot.

Contrary to the Hindu custom of keeping a zikha when shaving the head, at
Tirupati pilgrims shave their heads completely like buddhist bhikkus. Very
few orthodox brahmins do this showing that they do not approve of it but
are just allowing the custom to go on.

The name VEnkaTEzwara reminds of MahEzwara in the anecdote of GandavyUha.

Northerns and MahArASTrians call the deity `bAlAji'. This is perhaps because
the deity was identified as the Godess bAlAtripurasundari atleast for
sometime. The ceremonial bath of the idol (abhiSEka) on friday supports this
view. Friday is a special day for devotees of dEvi.

The prolific composer of devotional songs `sankIrtanAs' on the deity
annamAchArya of the 15th century says that the deity is worshipped as
viSNu,  parabrahma, ziva, Adibhairava and Zakti. This means that people
did not accept rAmAnujA's identification of the idol as that of viSNu
even after hundreds of years.

The idol is said to be at the center of the sanctum sanctorum. This is a
zaiva custom. The deity is at the back of the sanctum sanctorum in vaiSNava

Finally it is the richest temple in India if not in the whole world.

The temple of Lord venkaTESwara presents many an enigma.



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