The Annual Float Festival In Tirumala

Float Festival in Tirumala

Float Festival

Teppotsavams are also called as the divine float festival In Tirumala is usually conducted in the Telugu month of Phalguna. The Agamic Scriptures call this Kalotsava as ‘plavotsava’ where ‘plava’ or ‘plavanga’ in Sanskrit meaning ‘to float’ and as such Plavotsava is an Utsavam conducted periodically which involves Floating the deities in Swami Pushkarini. It begins on the day of Ekadashi and concludes on the fifth day which is Phalguna Pournima. It is a happy time when the divine deities of the Tirumala temple are taken around in a specially bedecked float upon the holy waters of Swami Pushkarini. It is an ancient practise prescribed by the Vaikhanasa Agama to appease the Gods and hence seek their benevolence.

According to Inscriptions

Temple inscriptions state that the float festival has been in vogue since the time of Saluva Narasimharaya, the Vijayanagara ruler. It was he who built a stone Mandapam in the middle of the Swami Pushkarini in the year 1468 A.D.The ornate structure with four carved pillars was called the Nirali Mandapam.This Nirali Mandapam seperates Sri Swami Pushkarini and Varaha Pushkarini. Many of us are not aware of this detail that the Pushkarini or the sacred tank for the presiding deity Sri Venkateswara and the Kshetradhipati, who granted land to Sri Srinivasa, Lord Varaha Swami has separate sacred tanks, but were merged during the construction of this Mandapa.

Initially, when this ritual was introduced in Tirumala temple, there was a practice of conducting a Snapana Tirumanjana to the Utsava deities in the Nirali Mandapam as per inscriptions, but now at present we have only the float festival. The inscriptions also say that the king made a donation for the preparation and distribution of prasadams on the occasion of the float festival. Temple historians believe that the float festival was conducted regularly at the end of special occasions such as Sankranthi or Brahmotsavams. Due to some unknown reason the float festival was not conducted for a long time. It was reinstated during the period of Mahanth Prayag Dasa’s administration in the year 1921 A.D.

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Since then Teppotsavams became an annual event and is now celebrated amidst great pomp and gaiety. The waters of Swami Pushkarini themselves hold a separate significance. Puranas ascribe that all the waters of the entire creation congregate in the holy lake during a prescribed auspicious time, Vaikunta Dwadasi, also called Teertha Mukkoti Dwadasi (the day that comes after the most sacred day of Vaikuntha Ekadashi).Hence, a dip in the Swami Pushkarini literally washes away all sins and deformities.

(In Telugu, ‘Teppa’ means a boat; the celebration of taking out the temple deities, usually on a full-moon day marks the occasion of “Teppotsavam” in Telugu.The same festival is termed as “Tirupalli Odai Tirunal” in ancient Tamil script as mentioned in several temple inscriptions.)

Description of the Float Festival In Tirumala

On the first day, the deities of Lord Sri Rama, Goddess Sita along with Lord Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman are placed ceremoniously on a special float. They are then offered worship and taken around the holy lake for three full rotations. The float is beautifully decorated with sweet scented garlands of flowers and colourful strings of lights. The priests of the temple accompany the deities on the float. During Each rotation, the Lord is offered Rajopacharas, such as praising his auspicious qualities with the recitation of Vedic chants and hymns, a team of musicians either sing or play their instruments as the deities take a leisurely ride thus rendering a very divine atmosphere to the entire event.

On the second day, which is a Dwadasi, the silver deities of Lord Krishna and Goddess Rukmini are brought out for the celestial ride for three rotations. The same ceremonies as the day before are performed much to the delight of the pilgrims.

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The remaining three days of the festival are Trayodasi, Chaturdasi and Pournima which are the 13th, 14th and 15th consecutive days of the first half of the month of Phalguna. Lord Malayappa with His divine consorts Bhudevi and Sridevi is taken out to the amidst grand rituals. The Lord then takes a leisurely ride three times around Swanmi Pushkarini. Similarly, on the fourth day, He is taken around for about five pradakshinams and on the last day, He goes around the lake seven times Amidst throngs of devotees, reverberating hymns and soulful music Swami Pushkarini resembles Bhuloka Vaikuntam! The charm of full moon on the last day also adds an immense glory to the entire event.

Telugu poet Sri Annamacharya sings joyously of the scene in which the Lord pleasantly rides on the celestial waters with His Goddesses. Inscriptions indicate His son Pedda Tirumalayya renovated the Neerali Mandapam and the Pushkarini during his time as recorded in the inscriptions.

Blessed are those devotees who get to see the Lord ride upon the divine float during the auspicious occasion of Teppotsavams!

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