According to the Varaha Puranam, the Brahmothsavam is performed in the month of Asweeja (according to the Salivahana calendar) when the Sun is in the Kanya Rashi. However when the Adhikamasa occurs, which is a rare feature in the almanac, the festival is also performed from Bhadrapada Suddha Tadiya to Bhadrapada Suddha Ekadasi, i.e. the festival is celebrated twice in a calendar year, otherwise normally in the month of September-October.
Preparatory to the festival, the interiors of the sanctum sanctorum and the small shrines around are cleansed and smeared with a rich paste made of sandalwood, refined camphor, saffron and other spices and this ritual is called the “Koil Alwar Thirumanjanam”. This is followed by another ritual viz; “Mritsangrahanam” – the process of collecting earth-and this is done a day before the first day of the festival. The ritual signifies a prayer by the temple officials to the deities like Vishvakksena, Anantha, Sudarshna and Garuda to seek their help for the successful conduct of the Brahmothsavam. They also pray to Mother Earth and collect a small quantity of earth with which the Ankurarpanam ritual is conducted by sowing nine kinds of cereals in it. Then “Dhwajarohanam” is performed signaling the start of the grand fete. The high priest of the temple hoists the flag carrying the picture of Garurda atop the “Dhwajasthambham” erected opposite the sanctum sanctorum.
Everyday during the gala festival both in the morning and evening the processional deity of Lord Venkateshwara, sometimes alone and sometimes with his two consorts is taken in a colorful procession through the decorated four-mada streets around the shrine. Pilgrims soaked in devotional ecstasy line up all along the route and at vantage points to ave a glimpse of the deity in procession amid shouts of “Govinda Govinda” renting the air. The Lord is taken in procession on various vahanas and each vahana has its own way.
The “Garuda” seva performed on the night of the 5th day alone pulls a crowd of over 1.5 Lakhs from all over making the entire hill look a sea of humanity. Befitting the occasion the priests would adorn the deity with the most precious of his ornaments like “Lakshmiharam”, “MakaraKanti”. Another equally important festival during the 9-day celebration is the “Theru”, when the deities would be seated in the exquisitely carved huge wooden chariot and pulled round the shrine amid religious fervor. Snapanam Tirumanjanam, the process of bathing the Lord with herbal water after the procession, is performed daily to relieve him of the strain suffered during the processions. On the 9th day of the Brahmothsavam, Chooranabhishekam is performed giving the deities a holy bath after anointing them with sandalwood powder. The Lord is then taken round in a procession when the priests distribute to the devotee’s enroute the sandalwood powder used for the Lord’s celestial bathing. It is believed that the powder has an immense power in removing obstacles from one’s path.
The penultimate festival is the “Chakrasnanam” which is akin to the bathing ritual after the performance of a yagna. On that morning the Lord and his consorts and Sri Sudarshana Chakra ritual on the banks of the tank. Nearly a lakh of pilgrims waiting on the banks and some floating on the waters of the tank would also take a dip simultaneously with the deities with a big splash, which would be a treat to watch. It is considered a sacred ritual participated by all cutting across their caste and communal barriers.
On the last day of the Brahmothsavam, the ritual of giving a warm send off to the Rishis and other Gods on their way back to “heaven” is performed and the ritual is called “Devatodwasanam” when the Lord Brahma will be propitiated for having come all the way down to earth from his abode, Brahmaloka and for organizing the Brahmothsavam. Varaha Puranam says that the Lord himself has told Brahma about the benefits that would accrue to the devotees who witnessed the Brahmothsavam at Tirumala.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devsthanam, being the custodian of the temple makes elaborate arrangements for the annual festival not only to make it a grand affair but also to meet the demand from the multitudes of pilgrims that throng the hill temple during the period from far and near. The entire hill will be spruced up and decorated with arches, festoons, cutouts made of colored serial lamps depicting different deities.