Tirupati town is 704 kms from Hyderabad, 150 kms from Madras via Kalahasti and 250 kms from Bangalore. Tourists can either fly to Tirupati from Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad or go by road as it has a good network of surface transport facilities. There are several places of interest to pilgrims in and around Tirupati. Sri Govindaraja Perumal Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is in the heart of town. There is also a Shiva temple at the foot of the hill going to Tirumala, and a pool called Kapila Theertham which is 3 kms from Tirupati.
There are also shrines of Kothandarama Swamy built by Ramanujacharya in the 12th century and Padmavathiamman (Consort of Lord Venkateshwara)- about 5 kms from the the city at Tiruchanur.
Besides these temples, Tirupati is the seat of the University of Venkateshwara
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The Sri Venkateshwara temple atop the verdant green Tirumala Hills is one of the biggest pilgrim centers of the country. Situated at an altitude of 2800 ft. among 7 hills in the Eastern Ghats, this temple is estimated to be over 2000 years old. The particular hill on which the Balaji temple stands, is referred to, in the Puranas as the glorious mythical Mount Meru and is said to represent seven peaks. Here, Lord Vishnu is worshipped as the Lord of seven hills. Reference is also made to this ancient temple in the Tamil epic "Silappadikaram".
The main temple facing the east, is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture and the Vimana and Dwajasthamba are fully gold plated. This is the third richest pilgrimage centre in the world after the Vatican and Mecca. Lakhs of devotees throng to the temple throughout the year and their belief and faith in this god is stupendous. The annual collections from the votive offerings is ploughed back into various welfare schemes. The specially constituted Devasthanam Board oversees the administration including maintenance of roads from Tirumala to Tirupati, guest houses, cottages, etc.
In the Garba Griha, the 7 ft idol of the Lord is made of granite stone standing majestically on a high lotus pedestal. The crown is 20 ft high and the Shanka and Chakra studded with diamonds on both hands dazzle the eye. Many devotees tonsure their hair here in sacrifice.
One can also visit the Varahaswamy temple, Akashaganga Falls (9 km). >From the wee hours of the morning, people form exceedingly long queues for darshan of the Lord. A provision has been made for special darshan on payment of entrance fee. The Dharma (free) darshan goes on throughout the day, but in between people who do sevas like Kalyanstavam, Thomala seva and many other sevas are given preference.
Konai Water Falls:
The museum here which houses the black granite statue of Buddha is worth visiting. The Kanakadurga temple on the top of the hill, Hazrat Bal mosque and the Prakasam barage attract tourists.
From Vijayawada, there are many interesting places within reasonable distance:-
The Mogalarajapuram (3 kms east of Vijayawada) has some interesting cave temples of the 5th century. The Ardhanareeshwara idol found here is the only one of its kind in South India.
Nearby is the town of Undevilli in Guntur district, where some beautiful cave temples are located. The idol of Vishnu in a reclining form is found in one of the temples.
Bhadrachalam On the banks of the river Godavari, 181 kms away from Vijayawada, stands this famous temple dedicated to Rama. Well-known musicians like Annamacharya have sung in praise and glory of the Lord. This temple is associated with the name of Bhakta Ramdas. As legend goes, he was employed as the Tahshildar of Golconda Durbar, but being a great devotee of Rama, he spent all the revenue collections on renovating the temple. Angered by this, the Tansha of Golconda imprisoned him for twelve years, but motivated by a divine vision of Rama and Lakshmana, the Tansha released Ramdas and gaided him in further improving the temple.
Other interesting tourist spots near Vijayawada are Movva (55 kms), Draksharama and Satyanarayana temples.
Around Machilipatnam, there are some places of tourist interest:-
North west of Machilipatnam visitors are attracted by the old ruins of the stupas.
Further up the coast of Machilipatnam there are five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. These ancient temples are located at Amravati, Samalkot, Bhimavaram, Draksharama and Chebrolu.
The Hindu Saint Raghavendra Swamy, who lived here 300 years ago, attained samadhi in the "Brindavan" (sacred tomb). Hundreds of devotees visit this Brindavan and have great faith in this saint. A large number of journals and books have been published by the devotees about their amazing experiences.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.