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Tirupati, 150 km northwest of Chennai in the Palkonda Hills, is known as the abode of Venkateshwara, Lord of Seven Hills, and a form of Vishnu. About 15 km northwest, on the sacred hill of Tirumala (elevation 750 m), is a temple dedicated to Venkateshwara. A fine example of Dravidian art and one of the most important pilgrimage centers in India, it employs 18,000 and attracts more pilgrims than Jerusalem, Rome, and Mecca - on a typical day, 100,000 pilgrims visit this temple. The devout consider it auspicious to have their heads shaved during their visit. About 500 years ago, Tallapaka Annamacharya fathered a new genre of devotional singing addressed to lord Venkateshwara, which today fills the air at Tirumala. His Sankirtana Laksanam, a collection of 32,000 songs in Sanskrit and Telugu, represents a significant contribution to Carnatic music. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica]
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