Sri Venkateswara Annaprasadam completed 30 long years this April. Lord Balaji’s Annaprasadam holds a special significance among millions of devotees who vouch for its divinity and heavenly taste together.
The tradition of Annaprasadam had been coming down since centuries. The concept of offering rice to the Lord was initially conceptualized by Saint and poetess Tarigonda Vengamamba way back in 18th Century.
“Aham Vaishvanaro Bhutva Pranimam Deham Asritaha Pranapana Samayuktah Pachamanyam Chaturvidham” says the hold verse in chapter 15 of Bhagawad Gita. The verse signifies the sacred importance of offering ‘Annam’ as food to the entire human race and living creatures as preached by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield.
As per the revered Hindu Sanatana Dharma, there is no better Puja or ritual than feeding a hungry living being. Annadanam is considered to be the highest or “Mahadanam” and a vital part of Hindu tradition.
The famous Annadanam at TTD was initiated 30 years ago by none other than the then and late Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sri N T Rama Rao.
History of Tarigonda Vengamamba and the Inception of Annadanam
The great poetess of 18th century, Vengamamba was the first to conceptualize the idea of rice offering. She used to live in a small thatched hut during the era when Goddess Padmavathi Devi accommodated her in what is the now called Rambageecha gardens.
The poetess used to perform deep penance under a tamarind tree that was present near her hut. Every Narasimha Jayanthi in the month of May, she used to serve hundreds of pilgrims who visited Tirumala at her residence for ten days.
Vengamamba was given many Danapatras by some of the pilgrims between 17th and 18th century. She carried out her Anna Prasada Vitarana till her last existence on earth. Vengamamba was fondly referred to as ‘Matrusri’ because of her motherly disposition and nature, taking care of all living beings.
Annadana Scheme in 1985
The process of Annadanam was intercepted in Tirumala since 1985. The tradition underwent plethora of changes since years, but the soul remains to be the same. The new Annadanam complex is also renamed as Annaprasada Bhavan.
Every year, as the number of pilgrims keeps increasing at Tirumala, the quantities of Annadanam keeps growing to meet the need. Donations keep pouring in for the Annaprasadam Trust that was incorporated towards the cause. Apart from donations in money, the trust also accepts vegetable donation that helps provide food every day to thousands of devotees.
Volunteers are also welcome to participate in the Srivari Annaprasada Seva, performing duties like vegetable cutting. Many volunteers are deputed every day in the temple premises, to render services at the Annadanam complex, queue lines and other prime areas. The volunteers are fondly referred to as Srivari Sevakulu.