There is ample literary and epigraphic testimony to the antiquity of the temple of Lord Sri Venkateswara. All the great dynasties of rulers of the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateswara in this ancient shrine. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Thanjavur (a century later), the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar (14th – 15th century AD) were devotees of the Lord and they competed with one another in endowing the temple with rich offerings and contributions.
It was during the rule of the Vijayanagar dynasty that the contributions to the temple increased. Sri Krishnadevaraya had statues of himself and his consorts installed at the portals of the temple, and these statues can be seen to this day. There is also a statue of Venkatapati Raya in the main temple. After the decline of the Vijayanagar dynasty, nobles and chieftains from all parts of the country continued to pay their homage and offer gifts to the temple. The Maratha general, Raghoji Bhonsle, visited the temple and set up a permanent endowment for the conduct of worship in the temple. He also presented valuable jewels to the Lord, including a large emerald which is still preserved in a box named after the General. Among the later rulers who have endowed large amounts are the rulers of Mysore and Gadwal. After the fall of the Hindu Kingdoms, the Muslim rulers of Karnataka and then the British took over, and many of the temples cane under their supervisory and protective control.
In 1843 AD, the East India Company divested itself of the direct management of non-Christian places of worship and native religious institutions. The administration of the shrine of Sri Venkateswara and a number of estates were then entrusted to Sri Seva Dossji of the Hatiramji Mutt at Tirumala, and the temple remained under the administration of the Mahants for nearly a century, till 1933 AD.
In 1933, the Madras Legislature passed a special act, which empowered the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams (TTD) Committee to control and administer a fixed group of temples in the Tirumala-Tirupathi area, through a Commissioner appointed by the Government of Madras. The provisions of the Act of 1951 were retained by Charitable and Religious Endowments Act, 1966.
The temple at Tirumala is believed to have existed from ancient times. The dynasties like the Pallavas of Kancheepuram, the Cholas of Tanjore, the Pandyas of Madurai and the Kings and chiefs of Vijayanagara, vied with one another in endowing the Shrine and offering worship of the presiding deity. The Tirupathi temple with its ‘gopuram’ or tower is a fine example of Dravidian architecture. The elaborate rituals and mode of worship in the temple were prescribed by the saint Ramanujacharya and are being followed even today. Anointing the idol with camphor, and the offering by pilgrims of the hair on their heads by getting themselves shaved by licensed barbers are the important customs in vogue at Tirupathi Temple. The ‘Vimana’ or Cupola over the sanctum sanctorum is covered entirely with gold plate and is known as “the Ananda Nilayam”. The Shrine consists of three ‘Prakarams’ or enclosures. The outermost enclosure contains the ‘Dhvajastambha’ or the banner post and, among others, the statues of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya and his consorts, and of Todarmal, the minister of Akbar. The idol of the deity, the full figure of Lord Venkateswara or ‘Venkataramana’ or ‘Srinivasa’ or ‘Balaji’ (as is called in various parts of the country) has the attributes of both Vishnu and Shiva, preserving and destroying aspects of the Hindu Trinity.