Sila Thoranam Rd, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh 517504.
|W=8 m, H=3 m.
|Silathoranam, Sila Thoranam Rd, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh 517504.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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శిలాతోరణం (Silathoranam) is a natural bridge which is a National Geo-heritage Monument. The name in the local Telgu language means sila (rock) and thoranam, a garland strung over a threshold, in other words its a rock-garland connecting two stacks of rocks. The arch is 8 m wide, 3 m high, and in the middle quite fragile looking. It is formed of quartzites of the Cuddapah Supergroup of Middle to Upper Proterozoic age (1600 to 570 Ma). The quartzite forms a series of hills which are called Tirumala hills, the natural bridge is hence also called Tirumala Natural Arch The size of this bridge is not really special compared to other countries, but it is actually the most spectacular arch in India. And arches in quartzite are definitely rare and special.
The arch forms the hood of a serpent, a conch (Sanskrit: Shank) and a discus (Sanskrit: chakra). All three are symbols of worship in Hindu religion. The arch is the source of the Idol of Lord Venkateswara or Lord Balaji at the Tirumala hill temple.
The main deity in the Tirumala temple is of the same height as the arch, because that's its origin.
Lord Vishnu is also known as Balaji or Venkateswara, the central deity of Srivaishnava tradition. He put his first foot down at the Tirumala temple town, at a place called Padalu or శ్రీ వారి పాదాలు (Sreevaripadalu, divine footprints). This place is the highest point of Tirumala hills. His second step was at the location of the arch. The third step was placed where his idol is now worshipped in the temple at Tirumala.
Tirumala is a spiritual town where Tirumala Venkateshvara Temple is located, a popular shrine of Vishnu. It is not an actual place where people live, it's just infrastructure for the temple, the town is even vegetarian, however they ensure it.