The story behind the Camphor Dot on Lord Venkateswara’s Chin

A-Well-Decorated-Celebration-Deities-Of-Lord-VenkateswaraBhagavan bhaktiyuktena krtan ajnana samyutan
Dosan Sahati yasmatte priyas tasya mahatmanam

God is not only pleased by the worship done by His steadfast devotee, but also by the innocent mistakes of the devotee. He works to design the mistake into a pleasant gesture and glorify the honor of His devotee. The story of ananthALvAn (Ananthaalvaan) , which took place during the 11th century CE (Common Era), depicts the unique love and care of God towards His devotees.

In the olden days, there was a thick forest around the seven hills of Tirumala–Tirupati. Even the steps leading to the hill were not at all good. Recently, they were set right and more convenient means are available. Earlier, the priests used to go to the Temple on foot every morning. They used to return home at night. They used to carry the deity’s ornaments with them and bring them back. Even the Naivedyam (food-offering ) was taken from the foot of the hill daily. In those days, none used to stay on the hill.

Bhaghavath Ramanuja Acharya (1017-1137) ordained that a flower garden be raised on the hill and its flowers to be used for decorating Sri Venkateswara Swami. Besides that, the Acharya made arrangements for the priests to reside on the hill so that the Temple could be in a sanctified atmosphere with continual chanting of Veda Mantras charged with spiritual power. From then onwards, it became very convenient for priests, avoiding daily trips to and from their homes.

Bhaghavath Ramanuja Acharya had a disciple called ananthALvAn. ananthALvAn was highly reputed as a kind hearted person (parama sAdhu). The Acharya ordained ananthALvAn to serve Lord Venkateswara Swami. ALvAn said, “I will stay on the hill. I will raise a flower garden for the Alankara Seva (decoration service)”. Everyone was happy. In the olden days, there was a thick forest around the seven hills of Tirumala–Tirupati. Even the steps leading to the hill were not at all good. Recently, they were set right and more convenient means are available. Earlier, the priests used to go to the Temple on foot every morning. They used to return home at night. They used to carry the deity’s ornaments with them and bring them back. Even the Naivedyam (food-offering ) was taken from the foot of the hill daily. In those days, none used to stay on the hill.

Bhaghavath Ramanuja Acharya (1017-1137) ordained that a flower garden be raised on the hill and its flowers to be used for decorating Sri Venkateswara Swami. Besides that, the Acharya made arrangements for the priests to reside on the hill so that the Temple could be in a sanctified atmosphere with continual chanting of Veda Mantras charged with spiritual power. From then onwards, it became very convenient for priests, avoiding daily trips to and from their homes.

Bhaghavath Ramanuja Acharya had a disciple called ananthALvAn. ananthALvAn was highly reputed as a kind hearted person (parama sAdhu). The Acharya ordained ananthALvAn to serve Lord Venkateswara Swami. ALvAn said, “I will stay on the hill. I will raise a flower garden for the Alankara Seva (decoration service)”. Everyone was happy.

ananthALvAn and his wife started to dig a tank for supplying water to the flower garden. He used to dig the soil with a pick-axe and his wife used to remove the soil to throw it a little away. One day Sri Venkateswara Swami came there in the disguise of a boy and said, “Sir! Let me also serve a little”. ALvAn said “Sorry! In obedience to the Acharya’s order, only we two must do this work” and sent the boy away. Then the boy went to the wife of ALvAn and asked her, “At least you give me a chance to serve.” She consented and said, “Unseen by my husband, throw away the soil behind these trees.” She was in a stage of advanced pregnancy.

Whenever the boy took the basket full of soil, her pain reduced. ALvAn observed that the boy was carrying the soil. He thought that he failed in performing his self-duty (Svadharma) and said angrily, “When I refused to accept your service, you approached and convinced her” and struck the boy with the pick-axe in haste. There was a bleeding injury on the boy’s chin. Astonished by this incident, aLvAn dropped the pick-axe and approached the little boy. Before ALvAn could reach the little boy, he ran and entered into the Temple in counter-clockwise direction (apradakshina mArgam). ALvAn was repenting for his cruel behaviour.

The next day, the priests were upset looking at the bleeding chin of the idol. Then they heard the oracle of God (asherira vani), “I myself went to the flower garden. Do not worry. Ask anantALvAn to apply camphor (KaRpUram) to this wound. The wound will heal but there will be a scar on me. As Srivatsam indicates the place and presence of Sri Alamelumanga Devi, the camphor dot on my chin reminds ananthALvAn. This incident happened with my influence (Maya).” Knowing this, ALvAn felt very sad and said, “Oh! I could not recognize the Lord and injured Him.” Then he went into the Temple and applied camphor to the chin of Sri Venkateswara Swami. The scar impression is developed on original Idol of Lord Venkateswara Swami. From that time onwards, the scar on the chin of the Lord is decorated everyday with camphor. Thus the camphor dot application gained elements of divinity and eternity. The pick-axe is preserved and displayed in the Temple premises.

This kind of deeds earned God several titles as “Bhakta Vatsala”, “Bhagavatha Priya” etc. ananthALvAn earned the grace of God through pure devotion. This incident fascinated poets of later age. Sriman Srishaila Srirangaacharyar quoted this divine event in his composition, Sri Srinivasa Gadyam:

“… Arya dhurya anatharya pavithra kanithra paatha
paathrikruta nija chubuka vrana kina
vhibushana vahana suchita shritha jana vatsala atishayaha”

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