Saint of seven hills

Revered by millions of devotees as the abode of Lord Vishnu himself who incarnated here on these holy hills for the benefit of mankind, Venkatadri or Vengadam as it is known, has been in existence for well over thousand years, attracting pilgrims.  With all the distractions of a pilgrim centre with its thousands of devout worshippers jostling for a fleeting few seconds of prayer in front of the divine image illuminated by the flickering oil lamps in the sanctum, all the pricks and pettiness of mundane existence recede into the background, while an ethereal peace and calmness take over the senses.

The 15th century saw the advent of another divine being, born solely to serve the Lord and sing his glories with a fervour spurting out of the depths of his heart. Saint Annamacharya is regarded as an incarnation of Lord Venkateshwara himself, born to devout parents who yearned for progeny. The sacred seven hills of Venkatachala drew the young Annamayya into their mystical folds, where he settled down at the feet of his chosen deity, doing what he loved most, serving the Lord in various ways. This unstinted devotion and total surrender found an outlet in poetry. Annamayya gave a whole new dimension to devotional poetry, with his rich and vivid imagery, with all the literary embellishments as also deep philosophical truths. Composing around 30,000 songs called ‘Sankirtanas’, not all of which are extant today, he has created a spiritual corpus that yields treasures.

 “When overwhelmed by adversity, when in distress, when everything seems lost, don’t despair. Take refuge at Venkateshwara’s feet”. So goes the refrain of one song. “What is the use of riches if you are not charitable? Of what use is learning if there is no peace of mind? What is the use of outward piety if there is no true devotion? Surrender yourself to Venkateshwara, for, it is only his grace that can lift you out of earthly worries” is the import of another. “All names are but the names of that one being. All mantras are the praises of that Lord. Seek refuge in him, the one who manifests himself as this universe, the one without a beginning and without an end,” goes yet another. Even today, Tirumala sees the recitation of these gems of ‘Tallapaka Annamacharya’, who illuminates the highway of spiritual with the light of his magnificent compositions.

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