Sri Venkateswara Museum, Tirumala
Being a Vaishnavaite, I have been to Tirumala Tirupati for many times to offer my prayers to God Sri Venkateswara there. Almost always I go there with my family – we would’ve pre-booked for a time for our darshan – it being Tirupati it would be crowded and we would’ve stood in the queue for at least a few hours, being tired, the majority decision will be to return to Chennai immediately after – this would leave me no time to see around the hills. A few times when I had the time it would be in the late evenings or early mornings when nothing else, other than the main temple (The Lord Sri Balaji gives darshan here for almost 22 hours a day, 365 days a year) would be open.
Today, I had a few free hours with me in the evening as my darshan was for tomorrow morning. I decided to visit the Sri Venkateswara Museum, Tirumala (திருமலை திருப்பதி தேவஸ்தானம் அருங்காட்சியகம்) run by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). It was worth my time with even my fifteen-year-old son liking the place. I will encourage you to visit the museum with your family the next time you are visiting Tirumala Tirupati.
Please budget an hour or two for the visit to the museum, it is quite massive – spread across two long sections on the ground floor and one large section on the first floor. There is no ticket and entry is free. The museum is open on all days, from morning 8 A.M. to evening 8 P.M – a few years before I remember seeing it open only till evening 5 or 6 P.M., so this change was convenient. There were plenty of items to see – Divinity, Folklore and Mythology on the temple and Vaishnavism, Art (Paintings, Bronze, Sculpture, Wood & more), Geology on the rocks found in this part of India, Variety of palanquins used for transporting the idols of Gods during possessions, Jewelry & Pooja items, Models, Utensils used in ancient times, Musical instruments, Photocopies of the stone inscriptions found inside the temple premises (these exhibits alone run for several hundred metres), Coins from around the world from 10th century till date, and more.
The museum was better than many State Government museums in India, but I wish it was maintained even better and more information was made available in languages other than Telugu, as this is an international tourist destination.