Long, long time back, around 600 years ago, there was a baba named Hathiram Ji who was from the North parts of India , from the Uttar Pradesh. For his intance love to visit the world famous Balaji shrine in Tirupati, he came down to South. He had a great devotion towards Lord Balaji. He used to do various services to the temple , like brooming, washing, cooking, cutting firewood, bringing water to the various rituals, etc.
Lord Balaji, was very pleased with his devotion and used to come and play the game of dice with him. One such day as the Lord used to come to play , he forgot his necklace there and returned to his Sanctum Sanctorum to the temple. Hatiram Babaji noticed it after Balaji had left his place. He wanted to hand it over to the Lord. He started to the temple. In the meanwhile the priests of the temple observed that the necklace was missing. They complained to the authorities.
In the meanwhile Baba ji arrived and handed over the necklace to them. When questioned he answered with all innocence that the Lord had forgotten it in his Math.
They did not believe him, and wanted to embarass him. So they locked him up in a room with ten kilos of cooked rice and ten bundles of sugarcane and challenged him, “If you really are like an elephant you must eat every bit of this food by day-break”. Within five minutes of being locked up Hathiram Ji Baba, having consumed the ten kilos of rice and the ten bundles of sugarcane, kicked the locked doors to pieces and stepped out trumpeting like an elephant.
Hathiram Babaji’s Math exists even today opposite the temple. The scenes of Hathiram Babaji’s game with the lord is depicted on the doors to entrance of the temple.
Hathiram Ji Baba:
Innumerable sadhus hailing from North India undertake pilgrimage to the South while those from South India undertake pilgrimage to the North. While on such pilgrimages some of these sadhus choose to stay back in some place of their interest. Hathiram Baba was one such sadhu who chose to stay back in Tirumala during his pilgrimage to the South. He called himself ‘Hathi’ (elephant) as he was very fat. No one knew his real name. In every age Mahatmas have, on the one hand, enjoyed the support of the people while on the other hand faced strong opposition from them.
One such incident of strong opposition took place even in the life of Hathiram Baba. Once, some people who had taken a strong dislike to Hathiram Baba wanted to embarrass him. So they locked him up in a room with ten kilos of cooked rice and ten bundles of sugarcane and challenged him, “If you really are an elephant you must eat every bit of this food by daybreak”. Within five minutes of being locked up Hathiram Baba, having consumed the ten kilos of rice and the ten bundles of sugarcane, kicked the locked doors to pieces and stepped out trumpeting like an elephant. Those who were on guard and those who stood there to watch the fun fled from the scene. It is this Hathiram Baba who built the famous Srinivasa temple in Tirumala.
In those days, Hathiram Baba used to sit at the entrance to this Temple. Those who came here had to first place their offerings at his feet; only then were they permitted to step in to have darshan of Lord Balaji. This is how the tradition of dropping the offerings in the ‘Hundi’ began.
Whenever Hathiram Babaji felt bored he would play ‘chokkattan’ (Indian ludo) with Lord Balaji. Even to-day one can find these scenes depicted on the doors of the temple. Babaji’s mutt is situated opposite to the Temple. Actually the name of Lord Balaji was given to him by Hatiram Babaji itself because , the Baba liked the Lord in his Bal(childhood form), hence the name Balaji.