The head embellished with a gold crown with the front bedecked with a large emerald; which is occasionally replaced with a diamond studded crown and the entire body adorned with ornaments and golden pitambaram, forehead sporting a camphor tilaka almost covering his eyes, with a saffron kasturitilakam at the center, golden makara kundals beautifying his ears, the palm of his raised right arm graced with the sudarshan chakra and the palm of one of his left arms with the holy cone, the fingers of the stretched out right hand pointing towards his feet and the other left hand folded in an akimbo! The feet covered with gold frames and enriched in gold anklets. This might sound like a sculptor’s muse made out to resemble the Gods. But in reality the above describes the swayambhu (self-manifested) idol of Lord Sri Venkateswara; an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, which no human being is known to have installed, inside the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple or Tirupati Temple built on the hills of Tirumala near Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.
It isn’t just the deity enshrined in the Tirumala Venkateswara temple that is bedecked heavily, even the temple itself boasts of the riches. The roof of the monumental tower of the temple; the vimanam is covered in gold. Another golden dome called the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimanam can be seen right above the main deity. When referring to the temple structure one must also mention the Bangaru Vakili or the Golden entrance leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple’s coffers are said to bring in loads of moolah on a daily basis. It is thronged by around 75,000 devotees every day who bring in more than millions of rupees in the form of offerings and donations. It is believed that the collections in the donation pot or the Hundi go as high as 22.5 million INR every day! In addition devotees also offer gold in abundance. Devotees are also known to have their heads tonsured as an offering to God. The total offering amounts to tons of hair, which is sold by the temple trust in the international market, thus bringing in around 6 million dollars to the temple’s financial repository. Some devotees make offerings in kind through rituals like ‘Thulabharam’; where they sit on one pan of a weighing balance and the other side is filled with sugar, jaggery, tulsi leaves, fruits and sometimes gold coins. Pilgrims also pay for being a part of the various sevas performed within the temple precinct, thus adding to the total revenue earned each day.
The magnanimous earnings of this Temple of Seven Hills and the generous adornments on the idol have made the main deity, Lord Sri Venkateswara or Tirupati Balaji, known as the richest God!