Archive for the ‘States of South India’ Category

HYDERABAD (5th Largest City in India), the capital city of Andhra Pradesh State (3rd Largest State in India). Population of more than 50 Lacs & Agglomerated area 727 sq. kms on the Deccan Plateau. The capital city of Hyderabad is well connected to most major Indian cities and some overseas. Secunderabad main station is well connected to all cities of the country. Hyderabad is well connected to national and international destinations with both national and international air carriers. Needless to say you can reach anywhere from Hyderabad in no time. Hyderabad is centrally located and exudes a huge potential to be transformed into a transit hub of South Asia.

Tourist Places in Hyderabad


One of the major historical sites worth visiting in the city of Hyderabad is the Charminar. Situated in the heart of the city, Charminar stands at the height of 46 m and is popularly called the Arc de Triomphe of the East.

The monument was built in 1591 AD by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. The history of the monument establishes Charminar as an important symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony. The markets surrounding Charminar are very popular and are frequently visited by tourists from different parts of the country.

Char Kaman

Char Kaman refers to four different arcs made in the city of Hyderabad by Mir Momin. These arcs are situated at few meters at the four different roads of the city which intersects at a place where a blue colored fountain is situated. The arc to the North of the fountain is named as Machli Kaman, to the South of the fountain is called Charminar Kaman, to the East of the fountain is called Kali Kaman and the one to the West of the fountain is named as Kaman Sher Dil.

Mecca Masjid

Mecca Masjid is a pious place visited by the followers of Islam all across the world. One of the largest mosques in India, Mecca Masjid can accommodate around 10000 worshippers at a time. Many of the arcs and walls of the Masjid are adorned by inscriptions from Quran.

Golconda Fort

Another tourist attraction in the city of Hyderabad Golconda Fort, a 16th century fortress situated on the western outskirts of Hyderabad city. Known for its collection of diamonds, it is said that the famous Kohinoor originally belonged to Golconda. The fort is one of the rare pieces of beautiful architecture in India.

Falaknuma Palace

The last Nizam of Hyderabad built the Falaknuma Palace, which housed the most expensive art objects, tapestries and carpets, in addition to the largest single-man collection of diamonds. Here the Nizam received their Majesties, the late King George V and King Edward VIII of England. The museum has a very unique collection of jades. The dining table in the palace can seat up to 100 people at a time.

Husain Sagar Lake and Durgam Cheruvu Lake

Husain Sagar Lake was built by Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah in 1575. It is a large artificial lake which connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. In the lake on an island there is a larger-than-life size statue of the Buddha. Boats take tourists across the lake to the island, on which the statue rests. The statue looks absolutely beautiful at night when it is illuminated. The Lumbini Park surrounding the statue boasts of musical fountains. Durgam Cheruvu is situated close to Shilparamam Crafts Village and Hitech City, behind Jubilee Hills. AP Tourism organizes boating in Durgam Cheruvu Lake which is surrounded by hills of the Deccan Plateau.

Salar Jung Museum

Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad has a rare collection of beautiful pieces of fine arts, tapestries, jade artifacts, weaponry, painting, sculpture and much more. The third largest museum in India, Salar Jung museum is named after Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III who was the Prime Minister of the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad. Some of the prized possessions of the museum include Tipu Sultan’s wardrobe, swords of Aurangzeb, Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings and furniture collection from the time of Napolean. The museum also has a great collection of Qurans (holy book of Muslims) from across the world in different fonts and proportions. The various clocks in the clock room of the museum show you time in style.

India, the sub-continental country is known for its richness in culture and tradition. Speaking of the topography of India, the Northern side is covered by the wide range of the huge snow clad Himalayas. The west is covered by the Arabian Sea. The East is covered by the Bay of Bengal. The southern side is very unique as both these seas mingle with the Indian Ocean. The Land that is located in the tip of the country, where the three seas get united is none other than cape comerin or Kanyakumari.

(The district name is spelled as ‘Kanniyakumari’ in official records which is in tune with the spoken name of the district in Tamil language). With an area of 1672 it occupies 1.29% of the total extent of Tamil Nadu. It ranks first in literacy among other districts in Tamil Nadu.

Lakhs of tourist, round the year are lured by the serene beauty of this place and the spectacles of sunrise and sunset. Though sunrise can be viewed throughout the year, sunset is visible only from October 15 to March 15 from this southernmost tip. But one can view both sunrise and sunset throughout the year from atop a hill called Murugan Kundram which offers a panoramic view of Kanyakumari. The sunset and moonrise can be seen almost simultaneously on full moon days from the same spot. It is a unique spectacle.

Elegantly placed in the shores of Coromandel Coast, Chennai boast of a rich heritage, which is elaborately intertwined with the culture, traditions and living style of the people through generations. One of the prettiest metropolitan cities in India, Chennai perfectly mixes the elegance of past with the vibrancy of modernism. This contemporary city is often referred as the Gateway to the South India. Chennai was formerly called as Madras and to the rest of India, Madrasis represents the entire south Indians.

An ancient city, which has got a rich history of long 350 years, Chennai has been able to preserve its ethnicity and charm. In between the long busy sandy beaches, parks, sculptures and historic landmarks, one can see a vivacious and lively city which is ever growing, sprouting, mounting and shifting in harmony with the modern trends. One of the oldest cities of India, Chennai is a melting point of culture and tradition. The harvest festival – Pongal is seven day event, showcases the art of Tamil Nadu.


Ashtalakshmi Temple
Ashtalakshmi Temple is a highly revered shrine situated in Besant Nagar, on the shores of Bay of Bengal. The architecture of the temple is unique, with the deities installed in four levels. It looks different than the other South Indian temples as it a modern construction, less than 25 years old. The temple enshrines Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Lord Vishnu as the principal deities. The temple has separate shrine for the Ashtalakshmi forms of Goddess Lakshmi. Ashtalakshmi Temple has a shrine for the Dasavathars (the 10 incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. Other deities worshipped here include Tumbikai Aazhwar (Lord Ganesha), Guruvaayurappan (Lord Krishna), Chakrathaazhwar and Narasimha (on either side of the same idol), Anjaneyar (Lord Hanuman) and Dhanvantri. Visit to this temple brings the well being for the devotees.

ISKCON (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) Temple
ISKCON Temple is located in the Injambakkam region in Thyagaray Nagar of Chennai. The temple is one of the many popular worshipping places established by the ISKCON society in the region of India. It is a blend of tradition and modernity to give the artistic style as well as the best of latest scientific technology. The ISKCON Temple at Chennai like other ISKCON centres is the axis point from where the teachings of Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya are spread. The deities worshipped in the temple include those of Rukmini and Krishna. The image of deity Satyabhama, one of the eight wives of Krishna, is also housed in the temple premises. Other deities worshipped in the temple include Jagannath, Baladeva, Subhadra and Gaura-Nitai. ISKCON Chennai also promotes and protects traditional art and craft of South India.

VGP Golden Beach
VGP Golden Beach is situated at the East Coast Road, in Chennai city. Basically, the resort is essentially an amusement park which is stationed closest to the Chennai city. The resort hosts a wide variety of amusement activities which includes go-kart, dashing car, water chute, super trooper, giant wheel, aero ship, jungle safari, roller coaster and many more.

Apart from the above mentioned, the resort also offers different contemporary, cultural as well as folk shows for the visitors to enjoy. The Ecstasy Land inside the VGP Golden Beach features an open-air theatre, banquet, conference halls, bars & a private beach. It is a perfect spot to have complete fun and entertainment.

MGR Film City
The Government of Tamil Nadu manages the MGR Film City, established in 1994 in memory of MG Ramachandran, popular film actor and longtime Chief Minister of Tamilnadu.

Covering 70 acres at Taramani in Chennai, the MGR Film City was a popular tourist spot and the setting of several South Indian films. The film city has a film school, indoor and outdoor shooting locations, replicas of village and urban areas, temple, church, mosque, post office, police station, prison, courtroom, and landscaped gardens in Italian, Japanese and Mughal styles. The recently opened MGR Knowledge Park adds to the attraction.

Kerala tourist places are the most popular destinations in India. Kerala is well known for its Backwaters, Beaches, Wild life sanctuaries, Hill stations and Ayurvedic treatments. Kerala Beaches are spread along the 900 km Arabian Sea coastline and it become one of the main attraction in Kerala Tourism. The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. SightSeeing in Kerala is very interesting.

The following are some of the must see Tourist Places in Kerala

Location: Alappuzha, South Kerala.

Referred to as the Venice of the East, Alappuzha has always enjoyed an important place in the maritime history of Kerala. Today, it is famous for its boat races, backwater holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry. Alappuzha beach is a popular picnic spot. The pier, which extends into the sea here, is over 137 years old. Entertainment facilities at the Vijaya Beach Park add to the attraction of the beach. There is also an old lighthouse nearby which is greatly fascinating to visitors.

Another delightful experience while in Alappuzha is a houseboat cruise. The ones you find in the backwaters of Alappuzha are in fact reworked version of kettuvallams of olden times. The original kettuvallams or rice barges used to carry tons of rice and spices. The kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’ was so called because the entire boat was held together with coir knots only.

Location: About 16 km South of Kasaragod on the national highway, Kasaragod district, North Kerala

Kasaragod, the Northern most district of Kerala is renowned as the land of gods, forts, rivers, hills and beautiful beaches. The imposing fort at Bekal is one of the largest and best preserved forts in Kerala. The beautiful expanse of the shallow beach near the Bekal fort known as Bekal Fort Beach has been developed as an exotic beach location by the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC).

Beautification: Beautification of the site includes installation of two sculptures of Theyyam created using laterite on the beach and a shed the walls of which are adorned with murals created by artisans from Nilambur. Apart from these a rock garden at the parking area has been developed where laterite boulders of various sizes have been utilised. Under the social forestry scheme, trees have been planted in the beach area.

Location: About 13 km from Ernakulam town.

To explore the historic town of Fort Kochi, there is no better choice than setting out on foot. Relax, breathe deep and come out in cotton dresses, soft shoes and yes – a straw hat. At each and every nook of this island steeped in history, there is something amusing awaiting you. It is a world of its own, retaining the specimens of a bygone era and still proud of those days. If you can smell the past, nothing can stop you from walking through these streets.

Walking straight through the K. J. Herschel Road and turning left, you can have a glimpse of Fort Immanuel. This bastion once belonged to the Portuguese and is a symbol of the strategic alliance which existed between the Maharaja of Cochin and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom the fort is named. This fort was built in 1503 and reinforced in 1538. Walking a bit further, you come across the Dutch cemetery. Consecrated in 1724 and managed by the Church of South India, the tomb stones here silently remind visitors of those Europeans who left their homeland to expand their colonial empires.

The next spot to watch is the ancient Thakur House, which stands erect as a concrete specimen of the colonial era. The building is simply graceful. Formerly known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British rule. Now, it belongs to the Thakur and Company, renowned tea trading firm.

Walk on and there is another colonial structure awaiting you – David Hall. It was built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company. The hall is associated with Hendrik Adriaan van Reed tot Drakeston, renowned Dutch commander, who is more admired for his monumental book on the flora of Kerala namely Hortus Malabaricus. However, David Hall is named after David Koder, a later occupant of the hall.

Location: Just 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, South Kerala.

Kovalam is an internationally renowned beach with three adjacent crescent beaches. It has been a favourite haunt of tourists, especially Europeans, since the 1930s. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful bay of calm waters ideal for sea bathing.

The leisure options at this beach are plenty and diverse. Sunbathing, swimming, herbal body toning massages, special cultural programmes and catamaran cruising are some of them. The tropical sun acts so fast that one can see the faint blush of coppery tan on the skin in a matter of minutes. Life on the beach begins late in the day and carries on well into the night. The beach complex includes a string of budget cottages, Ayurvedic health resorts, convention facilities, shopping zones, swimming pools, Yoga and Ayurvedic massage centres.

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is just 16 km away from Kovalam and getting there is no hassle. But if you are on holiday it is better to stay in Kovalam and visit the city.

Location: 16 km away from Kottayam town, Central Kerala.

The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist’s paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian Stork visit here in flocks and are a fascinate the visitors.

An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at the Taj Garden Retreat, a sprawling old bungalow-turned-resort.

Waterscapes, the backwater resort of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages built on stilts, set amidst coconut groves and panoramic view of the backwaters. Holiday packages involving houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms (rice barges) offer great experiences.

Kodaikanal is the most beautiful and popular hill station in Tamil Nadu. It is located in the famous Palani Hills in Western Ghats and is known as the Princess of hill stations.

Kodaikanal is situated about 7,200 feet above the sea level.

Kodaikanal is the most sought after honeymoon destination in South India because of its scenic beauty and it has the attribute to leave any nature lover mesmerized by its charms.

The word Kodaikanal means gift of the forest in local language. The dense forest with many varieties of trees, the huge rocks in the wilderness and the enchanting waterfalls, makes it a real gift for the tourists visiting this place. Kodaikanal is famous for eucalyptus oil, homemade chocolates, plums and pears. Kodaikanal is famous for the kurinji – flowers, which blossoms only once in twelve years. Woolen clothing is available at cheaper rates in the Tibetan refugee bazaar.

PLaces to Visit in Kodaikanal

Berijam Lake
Berijam Lake located at a distance of 21-km from Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu is one among the beautiful lakes of South India. Spread over an area of 24 hectares, the lake is star shaped and is known for its pure water.

Adventure in Kodaikanal

Kodaikanal Trekking
Head for Kodaikanal in the Palani Hills for small-time trekking. You can take short treks and hikes to tourist spots close by as well to local viewpoints. Overnight treks are also possible here where one can spend a night at a local village.

Fairs & Festivals – Kodaikanal
There are several beautiful hill stations in Tamil Nadu. With the Summer Festivals, the hills are even hospitable to welcome the visitors. The summer festival is held in the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, the evergreen Ooty; the exquisite Kodaikanal or the salubrious heights of Yercaud. Cultural programs, adventure sports, boat races, flower and fruit shows add to the splendour of the festival.

Leisure – Kodaikanal

The famous places to visit in Kodaikanal for shopping are the Khadi Emporium, Handloom Co-operative Stores and Travancore Crafts Work, Government Sales Emporium, Kurinji Mini Supermarket, Spencer and Company.

The Golf Club is located 5-km from the Kodaikanal Lake. Boating and Angling facilities are available at the Kodaikanal Lake. Picturesque trek routes are available in and around Kodaikanal. For details, contact: The Trek Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai.

Tirupati is a town of holy shrines in the lap of Chittoor disrict in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Every year millions of disciples come to visit Sri Venkateshwara Temple which is dedicated to Lord

Vishnu. One can get more relevant information regarding the place in the Tirupati travel guide.

Lord Vishnu is recognized in two different ways to people. The North Indians call him as ‘Balaji’ and

the South Indians worship him as ‘Govinda’. This shrine is nestled on the top of Tirumala hillock and

the rest of the town is located in the foothills.

The other name of the place is Tirumala due to the Vishnu temple. One has to cross the 7 peaks

identified as Sapthagiri to reach Tirumala. These seven mountains are marked as a symbol of the 7

lids of ‘Adishesha’ that is the oldest serpent as per the mythological stories. This is the largest

urban area in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati town has many temples and is

also famous for its red wooden toys. The city is a major educational centre of the state.

Tourist Attractions around Tirupati
This lies about 12 km from Tirupati, at the confluence of Swarnamukhi,

Bhima and Kalyan rivers. It has three beautifully sculptured entrances and a separate shrine for

Goddess Parvati. Opposite the shrine in the middle of the river is a mandap where the statues of

Balaji, Ayyappa and Ganapati are installed. A small shrine dedicated to Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and

Anjaneya is also located near the tank.

CHANDRAGIRI TOWN Located about 11 km southwest of Tirupati this was once the capital of the

Vijayanagar rulers way back in AD 1600. This town is famous for the Chandragiri Fort built on a

180-metre-high rock. One can still find well-preserved fortifications and palaces and temples.

HOESLEY HILLS This charming hill station lies along the southwest border of Andhra Pradesh at an

altitude of 1,265 metres. The resort, named after the former collector of Chittoor, is a fascinating

place to visit with valleys covered with teak, mango, sandalwood and eucalyptus plantations.

KAILASAKONA WATERFALLS Situated in the Nagary Valley, this beautiful waterfall is rich in

minerals and is said to possess curative powers and is well worth a visit.

KALYANI DAM About 18 km from Tirupati, in the Rangampet forest on the Tirupati-Madanapallee

Road, lies the Kalyani Dam which is the main source of water for Tirupati and Tirumalai.

NAGALAPURAM This is a small town about 65 km south-east of Tirupat with the Sri Vedanarayana

Swamy Temple as its major attraction. Believed to have been built by the Vijayanagar emperor, Sri

Krishna Devaraja, it is a fine specimen of Vijayanagar architecture style. The sanctum sanctori

houses an image of Vishnu in his Matsya (fish) incarnation accompanied by the Sri Devi and the

Bhu Devi on either side. An important aspect of this temple is Sun worship. The temple has been

constructed in such a wayas to allow the rays of the sun to pass through its gopuram and fall on

the idol for three days every year in the month of March.

NARAYANAVANAM The shrine dedicated to Kalyana Venkateswara is a major attraction here.

Legend has it that Lord Venkateswara married Padmavathi Devi, the daughter of Akasa Raja, here.

The temple was built to commemorate this great event by Akasa Raja.

SRI KALAHASTHI Located between two steep hills along Swarnamukhi River, about 36 km from Tirupati, is Sri Kalahasti. Here one can find a temple dedicated to Vayu, the God of wind. The river running north touches the base of the temple.

Kochi is one of the most popular cities in Kerela, and is often referred as the Gateway to Kerala. Located on the West Coast on India, the city flanked by the Western ghats in the East and the Arabian Sea in the west. Kochi has been rated in the top three tourist destinations by the World Travel & Tourism Council and featured in National Geographic Traveler’s ‘50 greatest places of a lifetime’. Kochi is one of the most historically rich places in India as well, since the city has been under the rule of multitudinous dynasties like the Arabs, the Chinese, the British, the Dutch, and the Portuguese. This city was the first European colonial settlement in all of India. Over the years, Cochin has come up as the industrial and commercial capital of Kerala and it can be nominated as the second most important city on the Indian west coast. It is only surpassed in importance by Mumbai. Today, Kochi has world class international port and well connected railway and road network. Although Kochi itself is strictly speaking a small town, the area has expanded vastly and today, resembles a large metropolis and it now also includes Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Ernakulum and many other nearby towns and villages.

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi
The chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala) are distinctly unique to Cochin. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here. Oddly, these nets are found only in Kochi, outside China! Many fishermen earn their livelihood by fishing using these massive nets. A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets.

Fort Kochi beach
A stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset with the chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a memorable experience. Many European style bungalows can be seen along the shoreline. The coastal stretch has loads of small stalls, which make on demand mouth-watering traditional cuisines using freshly caught fish.

St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi
It is the oldest church built by Europeans in India. On his 3rd visit to Kerala, Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese trader who reached India from Europe by sea, fell ill and died in Kochi. He was buried in the St. Francis Church. Later his remains were taken back to Portugal. In spite of that, his burial spot inside the church has been clearly marked out.
» St. Francis Church

Vasco House, Fort Kochi
Vasco house, located on Rose Street, is believed to be one of the oldest Portuguese houses in India. Vasco da Gama is believed to have lived here. This house features European glass paned windows and verandahs.

Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi
The original church, situated in Fort Kochi, was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and named as a cathedral in 1558. The British colonists destroyed the cathedral in 1795. The current structure was built in 1905 and raised to the status of a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
» Santa Cruz Basilica

Jewish Synagogue and Jew Town, Mattancherry
The synagogue, built in 1568, is magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.

Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), Mattancherry
The Dutch Palace was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented it to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi were held here. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The palace is located in Mattancherry.

Bolghatty Palace, Bolghatty Island
This Dutch palace is situated on Bolghatty island which is just a short boat ride away from the mainland. The palace has been converted to a hotel run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). The island has a tiny golf course and the panoramic views of the port and the harbour, makes it an attractive picnic spot. Frequent boat service is available from the mainland.
» KTDC Bolghatty Palace Hotel

Hill Palace, Tripunithura
Built in the 19th century by the Raja of Kochi, this palace served as the seat of the Raja of the Kochi province. The palace has been converted into a museum displaying a fine collection of articles showing the wealth and splendour of the Rajas of Kochi, including the thone and the crown. The musuem also houses a large collection of archaeological findings. Hill Palace is located 16km east of Cochin in Tripunithura, a satellite town of Cochin.

Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati is an important pilgrim centre for the Hindus. Generally, weekdays are less Crowded.The most popular destination for Hindu pilgrims in India, Tirupati is the site of the Shri Venkateshvara Temple, situated in the Tirumala Hills, 700 m (2.297 ft) above the town. The seven “sacred hills” of Tirumala are believed to symbolize the seven – headed serpent god Adisesha, on whose coils Vishnu sleeps. The temple dates to the 9th century, although it has often been expanded and renovated from the 15th century onwards.

The aura that surrounds Lord Venkateshvara (a form of Lord Vishnu, who is also known as Balaji) as the “Bestower of Boons” has made his temple the most visited and the richest in India. It eclipses Jerusalem and Rome in the number of pilgrims it attracts – around 25,000 a day, and up to 100,000 on festival days. The gold vimana and flagpole, and the gold – plated doorway into the inner sanctum, proclaim the temple’s wealth. The jet – black stone image, 2 – m (7-ft) high, stands on a lotus and is adorned with rubies, diamonds and gold. The deity also wears a diamond crown, believed to be the singlemost precious ornament in the world. He is flanked by his consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi. The entrance portico has superb life – size images of the Vijayanagara king and queens, who worshipped Venkateshvara as their protective deity.The entire complex is built to accommodate the huge influx of pilgrims,, who come to seek favours from Lord Venkateshvara. This is one of the few temples in South India where non – Hindus are allowed into the inner sanctum. Devotees wait patiently in long queues for a special darshan, and make offerings of money, gold and jewellery that net the temple an annual income of nearly 1.5 billion rupees. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which runs the temple, employs a staff of 6,000 to see to the pilgrims’ needs and maintain the temple premises.

The temple complex includes a ritual bathing tank, and a small Art Museum with images of deities, musical instruments and Votive objects. Surrounding it are green valleys and the Akash Ganga waterfall, which is the source of the holy water used for bathing the deity.

A unique feature at Tirupati is that many devotees offer their hair to the deity, and there are separate enclosures for this purpose. It is believed that since hair enchances a person’s appearance, shaving it off shed vanity as well. This offering is usually made after the fulfilment of a wish. The hair – offerings are later exported to the United States and Japan where they are made into wigs.

Most pilgrims stop at the small Ganesha shrine in the foothills, and at the Govindarajaswamy Temple in Tirupati town, before driving up the hill to the Tirumala shrine. This temple, which dates to the 16th – 17th century, is dedicated to both Krishna and Vishnu. Built by the Nayakas, the successors to the Vijayanagar rulers, it is approached through a massive, grey outer gopura that dominates Tirupati’s skyline, and is carved with scences from the Ramayana. An exquisite pavilion in the inner courtyard has carved granite pillars, an ornate wooden roof, and impressive sculptures of crouching lions. The temple has a magnificent image of the reclining Vishnu, called Ranganatha, coated with bronze armour. A short distance north of the temple is the Venkateshvara Museum of Temple Arts, with temple models, photographs and ritual objects.Daily Darshan: 6 – 11am. Extra charges to join the shorter queue for special darshan of the deity.