Legends concerning the Hill
Many Puranas contain references to Tirumalai, the important ones being Varaha Purana and Bhavishyotar Purana. In short the story is as follows:
"Legends dealing with the sanctity of the Hill are distinct from those which deal with the sojourn of Vishnu from Srivaikuntham..." [Raghavacharya: I,30]
These stories give the explanation why the hill has various names like Vrishabhachala, Anjanachala, Sheshahala, Venkatachala etc. Though it is obvious that name Venkatachala is derived from old name Vengadam, the Mahatyams are keen on narrating the story that name Venkatachala is given because the sins incurred by a brahmin living with a chandala woman of bad reputation were burnt here.
"But great Sanskrit scholars have not even to this day been able to derive this meaning etymologically for the word Venkata..." [Ibid., 32]
Legends of Self Manifestation of Murthi
"...Lord Srinivas manifested himself in a celestial Vimanam on the Swami Pushkarni located on the Lord's Kridadri or Seshachalam and that this Kridadri or Venkatachalam was specially brought down to earth from Sri Vaikuntam, the Lord's abode. The manifestation was in the yuga of the Sweta Varaha Kalpa. In this age Brahma was the first to worship the Lord then became an idol assuming the archavatara in Kaliyuga. This idol was discovered in an ant-hill by one Tondaiman with the assistance of one Rangadasa and was first worshipped by the Sage Vaikhanasa..." Sitapati:15]
Sage Bhrigu kicks Vishnu on chest
Why Lord came to earth is explained in the following story which is condensed from P.M.Munniswamy Chetty's Mahatyam.
Sage Bhrigu, in order to find our who was the proper god to receive Yagnaphalam, went to Brahma and Siva and thought both to be unfit. Then he went to Vishnu and kicked the Lord on the chest, and instead of punishing the sage, Vishnu inquired of him if the feet of best among the twice born were hurt. Bhrigu declared Vishnu as a proper god for yagnaphalam. But Lakshmi was annoyed and left for earth, and Lord followed in search of her, and remained in as ant-hill under a tamarind tree on the banks of Holy Pushkarni. After thousand years, during the Chola rule Brahma and Rudra as cow and calf arrived to feed the Lord. Chola king was cursed by Lord as the Lord was hurt by a stick thrown by the cowherd at the cow. However he was assured release from curse and that he would be reborn as Akasa raja and give his daughter in marriage in the Lord, and also present a gold studded crown.
Venkatesvara as a tribal youth falls in love with Padmavati
Later when Akasa Raja was ruling the Tondamandalam, he found a lotus with a baby girl in it, during ploughing. The child, named Padmavati, grew into a beautiful damsel and met one day Lord Srinivasa, as a kirata hunter youth. Lord Srinivasa fell in love with her and expressed his desire for marriage. Through the mediation of his mother Vakula devi, marriage was arranged. Lakshmi who was in Karavirapuram arrived on receiving the information and was happy to know that Padmavati was none other than Vedavati who was taken by Ravana instead of Sita. The marriage was solemnized with great pomp and grandeur with the money borrowed from Kubera on the understanding that debt would by repaid in thousand years. Akasa Raja presented the crown and gods showered flowers on the couple.
Why Venkatesvara has no weapons
Some years after the marriage, Akasa raja died, and his son Vasudana ascended the throne, But he did not understand the rightful place of his uncle Tondaman, and on the issue of sharing the kingdom, war ensued between them. Srinivasa gave away His chakra and sankha to Tondaman and joined in person to fight for Vasudana. Ferocious war broke out. At one stage chakra was sent against Lord Himself and Lord fell down unconscious and war stopped. There was truce and kingdom was partitioned between the two. After settling the dispute thus, Srinivasa went to Agastya ashram. One day Lord asked Tondaman to build a temple for Him, and King Tondaman built the Temple.
Above is the popular story. But Brahmanda Purana does not mention any war between Vasudana and Tondaman. It says that once the enemies of Tondaman waged war against him. Tondaman rushed to the temple via a tunnel and prayed. Lord appeared before him and gave him His chakra and sankha. Tondaman won the war and while returning the weapons begged the Lord to wear them invisibly, so that the world may remember the great help rendered by Him to a devotee. The Lord agreed and from that day weapons were invisible till Ramanuja prayed to the Lord and begged Him to wear them visible for "men disputed about His identity in ignorance."
Time of start of Cult of Tirupati
It has been claimed that this Raja Tondaman, who is said to have built the temple for the Lord, was a historical person and his time was:
"...in kaliyuga when the yuga had advanced sufficiently to have given occasion to the institution of the era which now- a-days goes by the name of Vikramaditya, and say definitely that the other era known to the Hindus, that of the Saka had not yet come into existence. This would mean a period of time between 57 or 58 B.C..and 78 A.D..." [Aiyangar: I,22]
Somebody had to be there to start the cult of Tirupati, and the king who did, was named by Puranas as Tondaman, which name represents more a people than an individual. But his times around the beginning of Christian era and presumption that cult of Tirupati started around this time can only mean worship of some relic and not installation of Murthi; we will discuss this in detail in later chapters.