Sri Thathaya Gunta Gangamma is Grama devatha of Tirupati town. Located in the centre of Tirupati is a temple dedicated to Gangamma, who is believed to be the sister of Lord Venkateswara. T he annual fete is celebrated with great fervour by the local residents of Tirupati.
Thathayagunta, the tank bed on which the temple is now located, got its name from a Vaishnavite devotee called ‘Tirumala Thathacharyulu', who is said to have consecrated the deity in the 16th century. The age-old practice for devotees visiting Tirupati is to first visit the Goddess before undertaking the trek up the Tirumala hills.
Once upon a time when Tirupati and surrounding areas are ruled by “Palegondulu”, harassment on women was enormous. During this time in a village “Avilala” the Godess Gangamma was born and grown as most beautiful women. When the Palegondulu want to the Goddess Gangamma with bad intention, she with her grace and power tried to kill him fearing her, Palegondulu was hidden in a remote place.
To take him out of hide the Gangamma planned “Ganga Jathra” where the people in Tirupathi do vichitra veshadarana and curse Gangamma for a period of 7 days. On the seventh day the“Palegondulu” comes out of the hide and is killed by Godess Gangamma for the “LokaKalyanam”.
The Gangamma Jatara is a very famous local festival for the is a very famous local festival for the People of Tirupati. It is done every year in month of May.
As the Gangamma temple was in banks of Thathaya gunta, the temple is famous as “Thathaya Gunta Gangamma Temple”. People worship this goddess with great belief, on Tuesdays and Fridays “Pongallu” is offered to the deity.
There is another interesting story associated with this temple and its goddess. Centuries ago, goddess Gangamma troubled an entire village with a very strange disease that consumed scores of people. This happened year after year in spite of the mass festival called jaatara that was celebrated in honor of the goddess.
One such year when the jaatara was in progress, the goddess felt very sorry for the troubles faced by the villagers. She spoke through one of the devotees who were possessed by her. She vowed to rid the village of the disease if they offered her one human sacrifice every year. The villagers agreed and both the goddess and the villagers honored their vows.
Each year the villagers caught hold of a traveler passing by the village and offered the traveler as a sacrifice to the goddess. The goddess on her part took care of the disease. This went on for some years.
One year a guru by name Tirupati Tatacharya was passing by the village. He was the only one available for the villagers at the time. But then he was a guru. They found it impossible to kill a learned man as a sacrificial animal. Tatacharya found out about the moral dilemma faced by the villagers. He told the villagers that he would meet the goddess on his own and sort it out. The fateful day arrived. Tatacharya on his part asked all his disciples to assemble and continuously chant the famous and all powerful Ashtakshari mantra. He for himself prepared two hot iron rods that had the conch and discus shapes on their edges. Conch and discus (Shanku and Chakra) are two holy symbols associated with Lord Vishnu and his Vaishnavite devotees. As the jaatara was in progress, the goddess appeared. As usual she took control of one of the devotees and demanded that her food be presented in front of her. Tatacharya appeared in front of the goddess and took out the hot iron rods to plant the symbols on the goddess. The goddess, initially tried to run away, but she failed in her attempts because of the affects of the Ashtakshari mantra being chanted by the disciples of Tatacharya. Tatacharya tried to plant the symbols on shoulders but missed and planted the symbols on the back instead, perhaps below the neck. The goddess submitted herself to Tatacharya and fell on his feet and sought his forgiveness. Tatacharya accepted her as his disciple and moved her to Tirupati and established a temple for her on the outskirts of Tirupati.
From that time she said goodbye to human sacrifice and instead preferred to accept animal sacrifices. Over a period of time, she gave up both alcohol and animal sacrifices that were offered to her and began to accept only vegetarian offerings.
'Gangamma jatra' (folk festival) is celebrated at the Tataiah Gunta Gangamma temple in Tirupati annually during the month of May, when devotees offer Pongal to be blessed with good health and wealth. This week long festival has many peculiar rituals.
The festival will begin with giving a celestial bath (abhishekam) to the deity of Gangamma at the ‘Kodisthambam' situated at the temple entrance. Later, ‘Saarey', a set of vermilion, turmeric, bangles and saris, will be brought to the temple by the village elders of Avilala on the city outskirts, considered to be the birthplace of the Goddess.
During the festival period, devotees clad in various 'vesam' (disguise), criss-cross the streets of the temple town shouting filthy words as part of the tradition to drive away evil forces and offer prayers to different folk goddess in the temples. Smearing sandalwood paste all over the body, the devotees wear glittering clothes and cover their heads with jasmine garlands.
The interesting feature of the final day is the mode of travel to the temple. Though the most preferred way to the temple is on foot, irrespective of the distance from their residence to the temple, the devout take a more strenuous route by performing ‘Sashtaanga Namaskaram’ on the road throughout. They roll a coconut on the road and when it stops, start falling to the ground with stretched hands and legs offering prayers. The process continues till they reach the temple.
They enter the temple of goddess Gangamma, after performing arati. The week long celebrations will come to a close after smashing the huge earthen idol of the goddess erected outside the temple at an auspicious time by the priest.
Many Muslim women too paid obeisance at the temple early in the morning, showing that Gangamma is revered irrespective of caste or religion.
- There is ample literary and epigraphic testimony to the antiquity of the temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara. Rahukala Pooja is famous in this temple, on Tuesday and Friday during Rahukala period special pooja’s are done for the deity.
- Navarathri(Dasara) festivals are done during Dasara period, Every day the gangamma is dressed depending on the occasion and prayed.
- Laksha Kumkuma Archana is done on special occasions.
- Saswatha Abishekam - Depending on wish of devotee on any particular day of a year, Abishekam is done to deity on behalf of devotee with his/her name and gothra. Price: Rs. 2,500 /-
- Nitya Anna Dana Padhakam – Depending on wish of devotee on any particular day of a year Annadanam is done for 50 people.