Was Tirumala Tirupati Balaji Temple a Buddhist Shrine?

by WriterArtist

It is unfortunate that Lord Balaji of Tirupati is not open to research. The presence of Buddhist elements and similarity to Padmapani proves that it was an ancient Buddhist Shrine.

My visit to Tirumala Tirupati Balaji brought about an important aspect of Indians. Millions of Hindus flock to Tirupati every year not just once, but again and again. He is also called the Lord of seven hills, Lord Tirumala or Lord Balaji. The world’s richest God is surrounded by the noble metal gold all around.

There is no doubt that Indians are religious and Hinduism is practiced widely across the country. Hindus visit temples during festivals and some go regularly. There is no compulsion on visiting temples on a regular basis and it is all based on faith and devotion.

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Customs at Lord Tirupati

Deity Lord Vishnu as per Agamic Rules

The customs of Lord Tirupati follow the traditions of deity Lord Vishnu. People who worshipped Vishnu are known as Vaishnavas. We can find the evidence in earliest scripture of Rig Veda written approximately between 1300 and 1000 BC. At that time he was a minor deity and not very popular or an object of worship because people of those times gave importance to Agni (God of fire), Jal (water) and Indra (God of lightning and thunder).

History of Tirupati

Asoka’s empire as compared to present India


Ancient India in south was land of Nagas and people spoke Tamil language. Nagas did support and follow Buddhism. Ashoka’s empire extended to a large part of present India and beyond. It stretched from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Kerala. There are traces of Buddhism found in Kerala (present Ayyappa’s temple). Buddhism went even further when Ashoka sent his elder son Mahinda who became a Buddhist monk to Sri Lanka. We can easily understand why the region of Tirupati was under Asoka's Empire. Symbols found in the temple are Buddhist, idol is of Buddha as ancient south India was not under Brahmin influence.

Post Buddha Analysis

Buddhism Prospered during Ashoka’s reign


Many rulers followed in path of Dhamma after Buddha’s enlightenment. Among them was famous King Ashoka who abandoned bloodshed and violence to embrace Dhamma (Dharma). Numerous shrines and Buddha Viharas were constructed. Later, there came a decline in Dhamma.

The existing Buddha viharas were taken over by Brahmins predominantly and converted in temples of Hindu deities. Among the converted deities are Lord Vishnu in Tirumala, Lord Ayyappa in Sabrimala, Jagannatha of Puri and many others.

There is ample evidence that the Brahmins, did convert Buddha vihara and shrines for their own usage. Sadly, it happened all over India for centuries during the decline of Buddha's Dhamma. Most of it was through violence. Kings who followed Buddhism were massacred, followed by monks and general masses.

It is paradoxical and depressing against Buddhists who are followers of non-violence. Buddha an oasis of compassion stopped the widespread usage of Yagnas and animal sacrifice which was prevalent with Brahmins of those times. But after his death, Buddhism flourished and later violence against Buddhism became rampant.

Buddhism and Buddhists as we know today gained strength only when Dr. Ambedkar converted the lower caste "Shudras" to Buddhism.

Buddha Head

Courtesy Wikimedia
Buddha Head 2023-05-09-5
Buddha Head 2023-05-09-5

Evidence Supporting Tirupati Balaji Temple as Buddhist Shrine

Similarity to Buddhist Images and Symbols

Tirumalai (Tirumala) being a Buddhist Centre, was unimportant to Hindus and hence neglected for a long time till a supposedly elite sect saw an opportunity to extract/use it for its own advantage. Following reasons are cited in accordance and proof of it being a Buddhist shrine.


  • There is an important similarity of the image of Lord Tirumala to the famous Bodhisattva Padmapani (Buddha) painting in cave I of Ajanta hills now located in Maharashtra.
  • Tirumalai was not mentioned in any Hindu literature like Vishnu Puranas, Bhagavat Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharat. Ancient temples of important locations find themselves in inscriptions but not Tirumala (Tuirumalai). This was because it was a Buddhist centre and not significant for Brahmins.


The customs of Tonsure (Offering hair) and Rath yatra (chariot festival) in Tirumalai are originally Buddhist ways.

  • Not only men but women too undergo tonsure. Men and women would undergo tonsure in Buddhist tradition when they took Pravrajya (renunciation). This was a preliminary ordination as samanera (novice).  It is important to note that tonsuring in Vaishnavas was considered inauspicious. Widows would be tonsured on the event of death of their husbands whereas men tonsured when elders passed away in the family.
  • Ratha yatra in old records of Hindus start much late, whereas it was Buddhist practice in olden days and was seen by Fa Hain.


  • The relics and statues do not contain Garuda (Eagle), an important vehicle of Lord Vishnu’s.
  • The lions on the temple of Tirumalai have a Buddhist connotation. Buddha was also known as Shakya muni or 'Sakya simha' meaning a Lion among the Shakyas.


  • Since Buddhism came before Lord Vishnu was made God and if we refer to Rig Vedas and other 18 Puranas; it is evident that objects of worship were not Vishnu in ancient era at the time of construction of this shrine. It was definitely constructed by the followers of Buddha and later converted to Hindu temple.


  • The figure is shyama (black) in colour and has four arms. The extra two arms were planted later.


  • Potalka location as described by the famous traveller Hiuen Tsang who travelled to India could be Tirumala. He described to great extent that it was an abode beautiful yet difficult to access. It was also the time of declining of Buddhism. The shrine was witnessing conversion for the first time.

Inference with Reality

Temple and Its Sculptures prior to Conversion



It is sad that many Buddhist Vihars have been converted to Hindu temples beyond recognition. They have turned to powerhouses churning money. Government was/is unable to preserve the culture and heritage of ancient times which is revered and protected in many neighbouring countries of India.

Not only Tirumala but many other temples like Jagannatha at Puri, Vitthal in Pandharpur, Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala in Kerala are ancient Buddhist temples. There is a need to examine the symbols, study ancient scripts from Buddha’s time to match the relics and understand the additions or distortions of the old idols and demolitions of the shrines. Only further research can establish the facts.


Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine By K. Jamanadas

Selected Works Of DR. B. R. AMBEDKAR

Manu Smruti

WWW aka World Wide Web

Tirupati Temple as a Buddhist Shrine

Updated: 06/13/2023, WriterArtist
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Do you believe in the existence of very old Buddhist shrines?

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DerdriuMarriner on 08/05/2023

Thank you!

You've answered all my questions, such that I've enjoyed reading them as much as I treasure reading your original wizzleys.

WriterArtist on 08/03/2023

Dear DerdriuMarriner - Thanks for your interest and many questions/points raised.
Hope I have answered them all with my understanding and knowledge of Dhamma.

WriterArtist on 08/03/2023

Derdriumarriner- In modern India widows get to keep what belonged to their husbands. In olden days, the inheritance/ property could be usurped by the relatives, namely brothers of the deceased.

WriterArtist on 08/03/2023

Buddhism as I know in the original Pali teachings do not celebrate deities, customs and beliefs. According to Buddha, every living being has potential to become Deva (God) and even Bramha. The living beings can even surpass these realms and become enlightened. Hindus believe Bramha is the creator of universe. Buddhism defines him just as a God of higher realm. According to Buddha, Universe/Cosmos is just there. There is no Creator.
No God came to Buddha to bestow enlightenment. Buddha encourages mankind to find the answers by themselves, he only shows them the path to enlightenment. He doesn’t grant you enlightenment, nor rewards you. He clearly tells that it has to be earned by you. He never claimed that he was God and could fulfil your wishes. He asked people to call him ‘Tathagat” - a seeker of truth.

WriterArtist on 08/03/2023

Hinduism borrowed many Gods from Buddhism. Indra is one example. Bramha is another. There aren’t any followers of these Gods. Hindus worship many deities. Only followers of God Shiva and God Vishnu became prominent. They were known as Shaiva and Vaishnav.

WriterArtist on 08/03/2023

Derdriumarriner - Shankaracharya and many other Pandits who followed later tried to wipe out Buddhism. Kings following Ashoka the Great, massacred Bhikkus. Ashoka’s mother was a Brahmin and father Kshatriya. His initial steps were to expand his empire. He was a great warrior. He transformed after the genocide in Kalinga. He followed the preachings of Buddha. Several Buddha Vihars and shrines were made.
Bramhins converted all these to temples. Brahmins tried to wipe away Buddhism and they were successful too. You have mentioned places of shrines that are mentioned in Buddhist texts, the modern names may differ. In fact all over India, you will find Buddhist,shrines, stupas and idols. But in sorry state and mostly converted to temples. Not only India, one will find strong presence of Buddha, his teachings and relics in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Japan, Nepal and Srilanka. Not to forget China and Korea.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/28/2023

Veronica Ions authored Indian Mythology for publication Jan. 1, 1967. The library system has a copy so that's how I know it.

Ions indicates that all the gods in their Buddhist homes have gardens and living quarters. Would that be a belief in Hinduism as well? And what would be grown in each of those gardens?

It would be so much fun to have an Indra garden!

DerdriuMarriner on 07/25/2023

Indra appears to be a god who fares well in every religion that includes him. Is it just me, or is it likeable the way he is in Buddhism and Hinduism?

A Shiva follower receives the moniker Vaishnava. What would an Indra follower be named?

DerdriuMarriner on 06/15/2023

Pali sources give the birthplaces of the 28 whom we already know and of the 29th whom a future generation will know.

Wouldn't it be interesting to see if there are old Buddhist shrines in Anupamanagara, Arunavattinagara, Bandhuvatinagara, Baranasinagara, Champayanagara, Chandawatinagara, Dhammawatinagara, Hansawatinagara, Kāśi, Khemanagara, Khemavatinagara, Mekhalanagara, Popphavadi, Rammawatinagara, Sobhavatinagara, Sonanagara, Sudannanagara, Sudasananagara, Sudhammanagara, Sudhannawatinagara, Sumangalanagara, Surananagara, Uttaranagara, Vibharanagara, Vipula and Yaghara?

DerdriuMarriner on 06/15/2023

Your next-recentest comment considers that in modern India widows may remarry.

What would happen to the dead husband's inheritance that would have been taken from her -- and given to whom? -- in previous times?

Would a widow nowadays be able to keep her dead husband's inheritance, no matter whether she marries or remains widowed?

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