The town of Tirumala is said to be a place of "Nitya kalyanam pachaa toranam" which means that every day the town has the festive atmosphere of a wedding due to the many utsavas or festivals that take place there. The Sanskrit word "utsava" comes from the word "ut" meaning "removal" and "sava" which means "worldly sorrows" or "grief". Therefore, an "utsava" removes our worldly sorrows by the joyous festivities and atmosphere of devotion created by the community serving the Lord.
The Agamas, which are a class of Sanskrit texts that form the basis for temple rituals and activities, prescribe many utsavas or celebrations which must be performed over the course of a year for the different beras (murtis/vigrahas or icons) in a temple. Like the temple at Tirumala, the Balaji Temple of Aurora follows the Vaikhanasa Agama and has several kinds of vigrahas. The primary virgrahas that are worshiped during the Temple’s utsavams are:
The mula vigraha, which is the large beautiful stone image that is nearly an exact replica of the Sri Venkateswara Swami vigraha at Tirupati;
Bhoga Srinivasa, which is the small silver image that receives the daily worship, located at the feet of the mula virgraha; and the utsava vigrahas, which are bronze images of Srinavasa, Sridevi, Bhudevi, Krishna, Rama, Sita, Laksman, Hanuman and Sudarsana, all of which are taken out of the sanctum at the time of utsavas.
Just as a flame retains all of its qualities when it is passed from one candle to another, in a similar way, Sri Balaji is present in all of his images and retains his divine qualities. The beras or vigrahas are "Archavatara Murtis", forms in which Sri Balaji appears and resides in order to receive worship (archa) from his devotees. In the vigrahas, the divine power (sannidhyam) is manifested and maintained by following the prescriptions in the Agamas.
At the Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple of Aurora, the Trustees and Executive Committee have tried to model the religious life of the Temple on the festivities and mode of worship at Tirupati. Since the original consecration of the Temple in 1986, the celebrations of the Temple have been evolving in this direction. Several major utsavas such as Brahmotsavam and Pavitrotsavam could not be started until the installation of the Bali Pitham (offering platform) and Dhvajastambham (temple flag post), which did not happen until 2003. Like all temples, the development of the festivals at the Balaji Temple has been influenced by considerations of location (desham) and time (kalam). For example, the Pavitrotsavam and the Brahmotsavam take place one month earlier than in Tirumala, in order to complete the festivals during the warm summer months. In addition, there are festivals which have arisen due to the Temple’s location in the United States , such as the special Lakshmi puja on Mother’s Day.
The timing of the utsavas is based on a lunar month of twenty eight days, consisting of a dark lunar fortnight in which the size of the moon becomes smaller and smaller until it disappears (new moon), and a bright lunar fortnight in which the size of the moon increases until it becomes a full moon. The days of utsavas fall on different days of the week. However, most people in the United States can only come to the Temple on the weekends. The Temple has always tried to balance the need to celebrate a holiday on the correct day and to have a grand celebration on the weekends when people can attend.
In addition to the many Vaishnava utsavas centered on the worship of Balaji, the Temple has many beautiful festivals for our Saiva deities: Siva, Parvati, Ganesha, Subrahmaniya, Ayyappa, Kanyaka Parameshwari (Vasavi), Nataraja, and Sivagami. At our Temple , both the Saiva and Vaishnava communities worship in the same institution with mutual respect and great enthusiasm.
The Temple has been very fortunate to have good priests who have been trained in the Agamas.The Vaishnava priests have had their Agama training from the Tirumala Patashala. The Temple has had good support from the devotee community throughout the United States. With the grace of Sri Balaji, we hope that we will be able to continue to improve our standards of worship until the Aurora Temple will be known throughout the world as the "Tirupati of the West." It has taken hundreds and hundreds of years for the traditions at Tirupati to evolve into their present condition. In the nineteen years since its consecration, the Temple has gone a long way.However, there still is a long way to go, and we hope that you will travel with us and continue to support the Temple .