Ramayana Discourses at the Foot hill and the self-revealed Feet of the Lord:
At the foot of the hill where the steps to Tirumala begin there is a tamarind tree (Tamil-Adipuli, now popularly called Alipiri). There is a beautiful set of footmarks representing the holy feet of Sri Venkateswara. We will narrate the origin of this.
Sri Yamunacharya, the pontific leader of Srivaishnavas at Srirangam foresaw the advent of Sri Ramanuja as a great teacher and leader and left specialised areas of knowledge of Srivaishnavism with five of his disciples to be imparted to Ramanuja in due time. One of the chosen disciples was Tirumalai Nambi, maternal uncle of Ramanuja, who had dedicated himself to the service of Sri Venkateswara. Tirumalai Nambi would recite prayers during the three Pujas morning noon and evening. He would bring a pot of water from the far off Akasa ganga daily for use in the puja. Tirumalai Nambi had made a special study of the Ramayana at the feet of Sri Yamuna (Alavandar) and it was Yamuna’s command that Nambi should initiate Ramanuja in this area.
Ramanuja was very eager to learn the inner philosophical significance of the various incidents narrated in the great epic. He did not want to sojourn at Tirumala since he felt that it would be a sin against (apachara) Adisesha whose body the hill was. Since he had no obligatory service in the temple, he preferred to stay at Tirupati. Nambi on the other hand would not brook even a day’s absence from Tirumala and his service there. It was agreed that Nambi would come down after the morning service, instruct Ramanuja at the foot of the hill and return in time for the evening service. They would meet near a rock in the shade of the loot-tamarind’ tree.
Nambi would come down every day after the morning service to the Lord and bring with him. the Lord’s prasad (holy tirta, Tulasi, food offering etc.) Ramanuja would be there at the appointed place after this morning anushtana (ablutions) and Tirumalai Nambi would come down after his morning anushtana (ablutions) and service at Tirumala, and teach him the whole day. This routine was followed over a whole year till the lessons were completed.
As the lessons were progressing, one day, when Nambi was about to retire to bed after his evening service to Sri Venkateswara, he thought, “Lord Srinivasa! Lord of Tiruvenkata! By the grace of Alavandar (Yamunacharya) I have been blessed with darsan of yourself thrice a day. At present I have to miss the noon-service.” Sri Venkateswara appeared in Nambi’s dream that night and told him “Come! Tirumalai Nambi! We will show you our noon puja darsan too. Do not grieve.” Nambi got up the next morning, and as usual he brought water from Akasa ganga for the Lord’s service, had his morning darsan and came down the hill to teach Ramanuja. At about noon, both of them experienced the fragrance of musk, saffron, camphor and sandal and they saw a pair of feet decorated with flowers and Tulasi appear on the nearby rock. Nambi related his dream of the previous night to Ramanuja and felt happy at the grace showered by Srinivasa.
Then Ramanuja and Nambi decided to enshrine the self-revealed feet of the Lord and built a small temple around the rock. They also established the images of the Alwars and arranged for daily puja according to the Vikhanasa agama. Considering the “foot-tamarind” also to be an incarnation of Adisesha since the Lord’s feet were revealed under its shadow, they continued the study of Ramayan and completed the same in due time.
The Sri Venkatesa Rahasya in Bhavishyothara Purana states that in the Kali age Sri Venkateswara would particularly demonstrate His power over people. In this cruel Kali age people would be prone to sin considerably and even the worst sinners who have harmed good people and appear as personification of sins could go to the Tiruvenkata mountain and get pardoned and turn a new leaf. Such would be the virtue of Tiruvenkata Hill situated in the Tamil country. The Lord has come down in the form of Sri Venkatanayaka to protect His devotees who are especially dear to Him.” The most merciful Ramanuja considering that Sri Venkateswara atop the Venkata Hill who blesses His devotees and protects them irrespective of their caste, birth etc., was still out of reach to the fifth caste, ordered that even such devotees could come and go round and worship these self-revealed feet of the Lord after purifying themselves by a bath in the Chandala Tirta (malavarikunta) situated in the southern end of the Tiruvenkata hill and the last of the five famous holy tirtas of Tirumala.