Venkateshwara is a Sanskrit name where ‘Ven’ means sin and ‘kata’ stands for destruction. Lord Venkateshwara has various names like, Balaji, Srinivasa, Venkata and is a form of Lord Vishnu himself.
The story of Lord Venkateshwara is as follows:
A few rishis headed by Kasyapa were getting ready to perform a sacrifice on the banks of the River Ganga when Sage Narada visited them and asked who would be pleased by this sacrifice. Unable to answer Narada’s question, the riishi’s approached Sage Bhrigu. According to the Vedas, Sage Bhrigu is believed to have an extra eye in the sole of his foot. To find a solution for this question, Sage Bhrigu headed to Satyaloka which is the abode of Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma was reciting the four Vedas in praise of Lord Narayana with each of his four heads at Satyaloka and didn’t take notice of Sage Bhrigu offering obeisance. Bhrigu was angered and left for Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was in deep meditation with Parvati by his side when Sage Bhrigu arrived. Hence he left for Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu.
Here, Lord Vishnu was reposing on Adhshesha with Sri Mahalakshmi in service at his feet. Sage Bhrigu was infuriated and kicked Lord Vishnu on His chest where Sri Mahalakshmi resides. In an attempt to appease the sage, Lord Vishnu held Sage Bhrigu’s leg and slowly press his extra eye in his sole, which is known to be the sage’s egotism. The sage soon realized his fault and apologized to the Lord, thus concluding that Lord Vishnu was the supreme of the Trimurti and returned to the rishis to inform the same.
However, Sri Mahalakshmi was angered since Lord Vishnu had let go of the sage without punishment for kicking Lord Vishnu’s chest, Her residence. Out of anguish, she left Vaikuntha and stayed in Karavirapur which is now known as Kolhapur. Unhappy that Sri Mahalakshmi had left him, he too left Vaikuntha and came down to earth. He took shelter besides a Pushkarni in an ant hill, under a tamrind tree on the Vekata hill. He began meditating for the return of Sri Mahalakshmi without food or rest.
Pitying the condition of Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwara took the form of a cow and its calf to serve him with nourishment. Surya, the Sun God informed Mahalakshmi of this and requested her to take the form of a cowherdess and sell the cow and its calf to the King of Chola Country. The King bought the cow and its calf and sent them to graze along with his herd of cattle to Venkata Hill. The cow found Lord Vishnu on the ant hill and showered him with milk. This continued each day. Due to this act of the cow, it was not able to yield milk at the palace. The Chola Queen was furious and chastised the cowherd severely. The cowherd wanted to find out the reason the cow was not able to yield milk and hence followed the cow only to find it emptying the udder over the ant hill. Furious, the cowherd aimed a blow with his axe on the cow’s head. Just then, Lord Vishnu rose from the ant hill and took the blow on his own head, saving the cow. The cowherd was too shocked to see the Lord bleed profusely and hence died on the spot.
The cow returned to the Chola King, frightened and with blood stains all over. The King was disturbed and followed the cow to find out the cause of its terror. On reaching the spot, the King found the cowherd lying dead. Lord Venkateshwara rose from the ant hill and cursed the King saying that he would become an Asura because of the fault of his servant. The King was despaired and he pleaded innocence. The Lord then blessed him saying that he would be reborn as Akasa Raja and that the curse would end when the Lord is adorned with a crown presented by Asura Raja at the time of the Lord’s marriage to Padmavati. With these words, the Lord turned into stone.
Thereafter, Lord Vishnu also came to be known as Srinivasa. He decided to stay at Vahara Kshetra and requested Varaha Swamy for a site to stay. His request being readily granted by Varaha Swamy, the Lord ordained that a pilgrimage to his shrine would be incomplete without a bath in the holy Pushkarni and darshan of Shree Varaha Swamy and that pooja and naivedya should be offered to Shree Varaha Swamy first. Lord Vishnu built a hermitage there and stayed with Vakula Devi who looked after him like a mother.
Later, a king named Akasa Raja who belonged to the Lunar race, came to rule over Tondamandalam. Akasha Raja was heirless and therefore wanted to perform a sacrifice. As part of the sacrifice, he was ploughing the fields when his plough turned up a lotus in the ground. On examining the lotus, the King found a female child inside. The king was indeed happy to find a child even before he performed the sacrifice and carried her to his palace and gave her to his Queen. At that moment, he heard an aerial voice which said "O King, tend her as your child and fortune will befall you". As she was found in a lotus, the king named her Padmavati. She grew up as a princess into a beautiful maiden and was attended by a host of maids.
One day, while hunting, Lord Srinivasa, chased a wild elephant into the forests surrounding the hills. In the elephant's pursuit, the Lord was led into a garden where Princess Padmavati and her maids were picking flowers. The wild sight of the elephant frightened the Princess and her maids. But the elephant immediately turned around, saluted the Lord and disappeared into the forest. Lord Srinivasa, who was following on horse back, saw the frightened Princess Padmavati and the maids, but was repulsed with stones thrown at Him by the maids. He returned to the hills in haste, leaving His horse behind. The Lord informed Vakula Devi that unless He married Princess Padmavati, He would not stay calm.
The Lord then narrated the story of Padmavati’s previous birth and His promise to marry her. After listening to Srinivasa's story, Vakula Devi realized that Srinivasa would not be happy unless He married her. She offered to go to Akasha Raja and his queen and arrange for the marriage. On the way, she met the maids of Padmavati returning from Shiva Temple. She learnt from them that Padmavati too was yearning for Srinivasa.
Meanwhile, Akasa Raja and his Queen Dharanidevi were anxious about the health of their daughter, Padmavati as they learnt about Padmavati's love for Srinivasa of Venkata Hill. Akasa Raja consulted Brihaspati about the marriage and was informed that marriage was in the best interest of both. Kubera lent money to Lord Srinivasa to meet the expenses of the marriage and hence Lord Srinivasa, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva started the journey to the residence of Akasha Raja on his Vahana Garuda. At the palace entrance, Lord Srinivasa was received by Akasha Raja with full honors and taken in procession on a mounted elephant to the palace for the marriage. In the presence of all the Devas, Lord Srinivasa married Princess Padmavati, thus releasing Akasa Raja of his curse from his previous birth. Together, Srinivasa and Padmavati lived for all eternity while Goddess Lakshmi, understanding the commitments of Lord Vishnu, chose to live in his heart forever.
Venkateswara's temple, today is located at the top of the Seven hills in Tirumala. It stands as a special place, honoring the marriage between the two. Everyday, a Kalyana Utsavam celebrates the divine union in a celebration that stretches to eternity. Even today, during the Brahmotsavam at the temple, turmeric, kumkum and a saree are sent from the temple to Alamelu Mangapuram, the abode of Padmavati.
Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Lord Kubera
Each year, Tirupati sees thousands of devotees donate large amount of wealth at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
Padmavati’s father had asked for a huge bridal price from Srinivasa and to pay the money, he took a large loan from Kubera, the Hindu God who is the treasurer of wealth. Kubera gave the loan on the condition that Vishnu cannot return to Vaikunta (heavenly abode) without paying off the debt.
Lord Vishnu hence resides at Tirumala as Tirupati Venkateswara until the payment is made. To help him repay his debt, devotees offer him wealth and in return Lord Vishnu fulfills their wishes.