Anyone from India is likely to be familiar with the term “Birla Mandir”, or “Birla Temple”. It can actually be quite misleading to ask an Indian about “the Birla Temple” without specifying a location (such as, say, the Hyderabad Birla Mandir), though, given that there are so many of them in existence. All of these temples, regardless of the city in which they are situated, have been erected by the famous Birla family, which was founded by Shiv Narain Birla, a businessman who originated from Rajasthan.
Through the years, the Birla family has put up over 10 temples throughout the country, all of them constructed out of precious and rather marvellously distinctive white marble. Although many of these have been dedicated to specific Hindu deities, the temples generally retain the name of their founders as opposed to being named after the gods to whom they are supposed to be dedicated.
The Hyderabad Birla Mandir took a decade to complete, which is surprising when you consider how intricately beautiful its design is. Not one but about two thousand tons of precious white marble were brought in just for it, transported all the way up to the 85-metre-high hill on which the temple is built. This high vantage point gives it a superb view of the surrounding country, including the city of Hyderabad. You can also get a striking view of Hussain Sagar Lake from here, so it would be best to bring a camera along for your trip. Try to bring one with panoramic shot capabilities too, since it would be best able to take advantage of the stunning platform the temple offers to photography enthusiasts.
A lot of people, upon seeing it, actually make the mistake of thinking it one of the centuries-old temples of the country, perhaps due to the impression its architecture leaves. It is an intriguing mix of stylistic influences that have their origins from both the north and south of the country, and is thus widely considered a handsome architectural masterpiece that represents many of the best notes of Indian style. That said, it is not one of the century-old temples: in fact, it was built in the latter part of the twentieth century and consecrated during that time as well.
The Hyderabad Birla Mandir shares the same deity as the nearby Balaji Temple. Both of them are dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, one of the forms of the Hindu god Vishnu. Balaji is actually another name for him, hence the name of the other Hyderabad temple. Both temples actually have their own points of uniqueness. For instance, Balaji Temple is known for being the only temple in the area and quite possibly in the country that has no hundi and refuses to accept financial donatives from its devotees, besides being free of government intervention and control in its operations. As for the Birla Temple of Hyderabad, it is known not just for the beauty of its appearance but also for the fact that it has none of the usual bells found in such temples, in order to facilitate efforts at meditating.