Suprabhatam is a ritual performed every day in the Thirumamani Mandapam, in front of the Bangaru Vakili. The Bangaru Vakili are the two gold gilt doors, decorated with several small panels depicting the Lord in various Agamic forms such as Para, Vyuha, Vibhava and Archa. The Suprabhatam is performed in order to wake up the Lord and his consorts from His celestial sleep (Yoga-nidra)by chanting of the sacred Suprabhatam hymns, a series of poems composed by Prativadi Bhayankaran Annan, a direct disciple of Manavala Mamunigal. It consists of:
• Suprabhatam (Waking the Lord): 29 slokas
• Strotram (Hymns to the Lord): 11 slokas
• Prapatti (Surrender to the Lord): 16 slokas
• Mangalasanam (Prayer to Lord's Glory): 14 slokas.
Official temple chronicles like the Venkatachala Itihasa Mala mention that the Vedas were recited as a daily practice while the sanctum was prepared for the first worship everyday, as early as 12th century. Ramanujacharya is believed to have instituted recitation of Tamil Divyaprabandhams such as Thondaradippodi Azhwar's Thirupalliezhuchi, though it addresses Sri Ranganatha of Sri Rangam. Tallapaka Annamacharya instituted the tradition of singing 'Melukolupu' songs in simple Telugu, requesting the Lord to wake up and perform his duties of ensuring welfare to all. The tradition of reciting Vedic verses and singing Annamacharya's songs have been maintained and are performed in the present day, before the recitation of Suprabhatam begins.
Early in the morning, usually at around 2 AM, The 'sannidhi-golla' (cowherd) will go to the residence of the archakas on the north side of Swami Pushkarini, the temple tank. The golla escorts the priests who have been allotted the duty in the sanctum sanctorum that day. The archaka would have by that time had his morning bath, completed his nitya-karmas, including worship of his own deity. He will then offer obeisance the key of the sanctum and proceed to the temple holding the key on his head, accompanied by paricharakas, temple paraphernalia and music of drums, bugles and horns. The 'golla' will be holding a fireband in his hand, and when the priest has reached the main entrance of the temple. The cowherd would go back and bring the Jiyyangar or his representative, the Ekangin to the temple. The Jiyyangar or Ekangi will come carrying on their head a box, which contains one key (duplicate) and seals which establish their administrative right over the temple.
Meantime, the temple administration representative would have come there with one key. The system is triplicate lock system with archaka, Jiyyangar and temple authorities having one key each. The archaka will first symbolically place his key in the hand of the Dvarapalaka on the right of the Bangaru Vakili. The priest will do pranama todvarapalakas near the Bangaru Vakili. Then he will take the key from the dvarapalaka and seal is broken and the doors of golden vakili will be opened uttering suitable mantras. The 'golla', the paricaraka, jeeyar & archaka will go in and a curtain is drawn over the entrance. The golla will light the oil lamps inside the sanctum, while the priests replace the idol of Bhoga Srinivasa who acted as Sayana bera, the idol who slept, the previous night. He would have been ceremonially put to sleep on an ivory bed, with a velvet mattress during Ekantaseva. He will be lifted from that cot and will be taken back to the sanctum to rest near the feet of the Dhruvabera on the left side. That place is known as Kautuka-sthana. The height of the icon gifted by Samarai, the Pallava Princess does not reach even the anklet of the Dhruvabera. But all worship in the sanctum is done to this idol. The cot and the mattress are removed to a room called Sabera, the Lord's closet, on the northern side of the Sanctum opposite the Hundi, after the recitation of Suprabhatam is completed.
Bangaru Vakili is a Telugu word which means 'golden doorway'. Here the two doors are massive and gilt with gold. One should not miss studying these two doors in detail as they depict rare forms of Vishnu, conforming to the Agamas. On one door all the ten avataras (incarnations) of the Lord are depicted. The other door depicts the Para, Vyuha and Vibhava deities viz. Kesava, Narayana, Madhava and so on. Meantime in the Mukha mantapa the devotees for the Suprabhata seva would have assembled. There will be priests outside who will start reciting suprabhatam, stotra, prapatti. Mangalasasana verses composed by Sri Prativadibhayankaram Annan. While inside the Bangaru Vakili the antarala the golla with his fireband (torch) would have lighted all the lamps. The ekangin would have lighted the Brahmakhanda and sara lamps.
The vaikhanasa practice is to establish a connection between the Dhruvabera and the Kantukabera through a sambandhakurcha during worship. This sambandhakurcha is a bunch of 32 blades of darbha (grass) tied by a knot in a rightward direction. The knot will be about 2 inches (angular) in length and will be in the middle thus having about 4 inches (angular) of darbha (grass) fire in the front. The front portion is set to represent Brahma, the knot Vishnu and rest Rudra. This sambandhakurca is placed in the space between the Dhruvabera and the kantukabera with the front portion of the kurca towards the kantukabera. The belief is that the sanctum is water, while dhruvabera is the earth below and the kantukabera is the flower that is nourished by the earth and water. The sambandhakurca is likened to the stalk of the flower, which is connecting link between earth and flower through water. After restoring the kautukabera to Jivasthana in the sanctum, the sayana mantapa is cleared of the cot and other articles used forEkantaseva the previous night.
At the conclusion of the recitation of Suprabhatam verses, the Bangaru Vakili (golden doors) are opened to the loud sounding of trumpets and conches, to nullify any inauspicious noises at that moment. The presiding Ramanuja Jeeyar of the Tirumala Math will light the camphor on a plate and give it to archaka who performs Harati to the Mula Vigraha. The devotees are then allowed to pass through the Bangaru Vakili and go up to the threshold of the Sanctum sanctorum (Kulasekhara Padi) for the Visvarupa / Suprabhata darshan, considered to be the most auspicious time to visit the Lord. In the Tirumala temple, each Harathi (camphor light) offered to the Lord is to be sponsored by an individual or group of individuals, such as a Matha or the Government. The cost of each Harathi, accounting for camphor, betel leaves, areca nuts and Sambhavana (fee) to the priest is duly noted. In keeping with this tradition, the first Harathi offered to the Lord everyday is sponsored by the Government of Karnataka through its Department of Endowments and Charitable Acts. This tradition is said to have been instituted by Sri Krishna Deva Raya and had been continued by every ruler of Karnataka since him.
It is believed that Brahma conducts worship every night for the Lord at Tirumala. Every night before closing the doors of the Garbhagruha five gold cups of water with the spices specified for puja as per agamas, added to them along with other puja articles are left at the feet of the Lord so that Brahma may use them for the worship of Lord in the night (Brahmaradhana). The devotees who go for Visvarupadarsana get the Tirtha believed to have been used by Brahma & other Gods for the puja offered in the night.
The seva lasts around 30 mins and usually starts at 3:00 a.m (2.30AM or earlier on Fridays). Suprabhatam is performed in Ekantham and no tickets are issued to pilgrims during the month of Jyestha (May–June). In the monthof Margazhi ( December–January), the Suprabhatam verses are replaced with the 30 verses of Thiruppavai. Suprabhatam may be conducted in Ekantham on Fridays of Margazhi, as several other rituals are prescribed for this month that restricts the time for Vishwarupa Darshanam. The piligrims are then allowed to enter the Bangaru Vakili, giving them the best view of the beautiful Lord. Each seva ticket provides entry for one person. 2 small laddus are provided to the pilgrim as prasadam. The seva does not allow children below 10 years though infants may be allowed with parents.