Temple Name – SriKalahasteeshwara temple
Main Deity – Lord Shiva
Location – Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh
Srikalahasti is a holy town located 36 kms from Tirupathi in Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh. It is located at the foot of the Kailasagiri hills on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. The origin of the name is said to come from 3 animals Sri which means spider, Kala which means snake and Hasti which means elephant. These three animals were worshippers of Lord Shiva and were granted liberation here. The main shrine contains a statue of these three animals.
In the Puranas, Kalahasti is associated with Mount Meru (Seshasaila). It is said that there was an altercation between Adi Sesha the Serpent God and Vayu the God Of Wind. This caused three blocks to be separated from Mount Meru and they fell at three different places. One of these places was Sri Kalahasti. The other two places were Trichy and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka.
Swarnamukhi means gold faced and it is believed that gold was found in its waters, hence the river got this name. Sage Agasthya is believed to have brought this sacred river according to the Puranas. It is a perennial river and flows from North to South which is a rare phenomenon hence it is also called Uttara Vahini. At this spot it is said that Lord Brahma after bathing in the river Swarnamukhi and praying to Lord Shiva got rid of the sin of killing children (Shishuhathya Patakam)
It is most famous for the Srikalahasteeshwara temple which depicts the Vayu Linga and is one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalas representing wind. It is said to be the only temple which is dedicated to the Wind God in India. It is also said to be the only Hindu temple in the whole world which has been kept open even during the times of Solar Eclipses and Lunar Eclipses. Its importance as a Shiva temple can be gauged from the fact that it is also referred to as ‘Dakshina Kailasam’ or ‘Dakshina Kashi’. This temple has also been associated with the two grahas Rahu and Ketu(which are among the Nine Navagrahas or celestial bodies linked to Indian Astrology) and is also called Rahu Ketu Kshetra.
Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Shri Kalahasthishwara and is represented by the Vayu Lingam. The Lord is worshipped along with His Consort Parvati who is depicted as Gnana Prasunambika Devi. In proof of the Vayu linga it is said that even to this day in the Garbha Griha or sanctum sanctorum of the temple there is a light flickering showing the presence of air even though there seems to be no loop hole for the air to enter into the temple. The marks of the three animals spider, snake and elephant from whom the temple has derived its name is said to be still pointed out on the Central Linga which along with the Nandi or sacred bull in front is white in colour and hence considered to be Swayambu or Self Manifest.
There are inscriptions dating back to the tenth century that indicate that the Vijayanagara Kings and the Chola Rulers had given patronage to the temple in the form of land endowments. Inscriptions show that the Chola King Kuluthungan built the galigopuram in the 11th century and Veeranarasimha Yadavaraya constructed the Prakara or compound wall along with the four Gopurams in the 12th century. Further inscriptions show that the 100 pillared mandapa was built in 1516 AD by the Vijayanagara Kings followed by the Cholas then further construction by the Pallavas and the Pandyas.
Origin of the name Srikalahasteeshwar
Legend says that spider (Sri), Snake(Kala) and elephant(Hasti) were great devotees of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu mythology the elephant used to collect water in his trunk and wash the lingam thoroughly and placing Bilva leaves would offer prayers everyday. The spider would weave its web over the lingam to protect it and the snake would then decorate the Lord by placing its precious gem on the lingam. This went on for some time each following their own way without the knowledge of the others. One day the elephant noticed the web and thinking it to be dirt washed it off with waters from its trunk thus also removing the precious gem. The snake in anger entered the trunk of the elephant and bit it also dying in the process. The elephant mad with pain dashed itself against the linga dying and crushing the spider in the process. Seeing their selfless devotion Lord Shiva appeared before them and granted liberation to the elephant and the snake while the spider was reborn as a great King who built a number of temples and carried on his good work on Earth. Lord Shiva also blessed them that due to their unflinching devotion their names would be merged with the Vayu Lingam and would be known as Srikalahasteeshwara. It is to be noted that the spider reborn as a King is said to have built the Sanctum in all temples in such a way that no elephant could extend its trunk over the Lord from any side.
Legend of Gnana Prasunambika Devi
It is said that once Goddess Parvati was cursed by Lord Shiva. She came down to Earth, discarded her heavenly body and took a human form. Then she began her long penance. Lord Shiva was pleased with her deep devotion and restored her body by making it a hundred times better than her previous heavenly body. He gave her Shiva Gnanam initiating her into all mantras including the Shiva Panchakshari. Consequently Parvathi became known as Shiva Gnana Prasunamba or Gnana Prasunambika Devi(meaning flower of divine knowledge).Some legends claim that Parvati was cursed to become a ghost Gnanakala and she prayed at Srikalahasti for 15 years and Lord Shiva restored her original form after she continuously chanted the Kala Bhairava Mantra. The statue of the Goddess Gnana Prasunambika Devi is considered to be one of the 108 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Shakti hence this temple is of great importance. It is considered according to legends that the Goddess is a representation of one of the Ashta Lakshmis namely Santana Lakshmi.
The Legend of Kannappa
Kannappa was one of the 63 Nayanmars or Shaivite saints of ancient India. He was a tribal born into a hunting family in Udupoor district near Srikalahasti. He was named Thinnadu or Thinnan by his parents. One day, he found the Vayu Lingam (later installed in the Srikalahasti temple) in the forest while hunting. He did not know the proper ways to worship the lingam being a hunter and in his simplicity and innocence it is said that he used to collect water in his mouth from the nearby Swarnamukhi River and pour it over the Linga. Whatever animal he hunted used to be offered to the Lord (as Naivedhya). But the Lord’s heart melted when he saw Thinnadu’s pure and selfless devotion and he accepted even the offerings of animal flesh. Once in order to test him, Lord Shiva created such a tremor that the roof tops of the temple began to fall. All the saints and sages in the area ran away due to fear but Thinnadu was so worried about the Linga that he covered the Linga with his body in order to protect it. Therafter he came to be known as Dheerudu or Dheeran meaning the brave one.
In order to further test him, once, one of the eyes of the linga of Lord Shiva began to ooze blood along with tears. Dheeran in anguish sensed that the Lord was in pain and in order to alleviate the Lord’s misery he took one of his arrows and plucking out one of his own eyes he placed it on the top of the eye of the Shiva Linga which was bleeding. The bleeding in the Lord’s eye immediately stopped. But now the other eye began to bleed. This did not deter Dheeran who thought that he would be unable to mark the exact spot where he had to place his own second eye as he would become blind so he placed his big toe on the linga to mark the spot and proceeded to pluck out his second eye with his arrow. The Lord was so moved by his extreme devotion and selflessness that he appeared before him and restored both his eyes. He became ‘Kannappan’ or ‘one who donated eyes’.
Origin of the name Kailasagiri
According to the Linga, Skanda and Shaiva Puran, it is said that Lord Brahma brought the idol of Srikalahasteeshwara from Mount Kailas as a gift from Lord Shiva. He followed the instructions given by the Lord and worshipped the idol so that by his worship he would recollect the process of creation for all times as it was forgotten by him. Hence the hill is called Kailasagiri. It is said that when Brahma began his worship Lord Shiva took up his abode in the idol after leaving Mount Kailas. Goddess Parvati being alone also came and began doing poojas and penance to the linga. Durga was her attendant during this period. After Lord Brahma and Parvati had completed their penance, Shiva gave darshan to both of them. Durga her attendant was also granted her boon to become a goddess. Hence there is a hill called Durga hill. On the ninth day of Mahashivarathri and on Makara Sankranthi day the Lord and the Goddess are taken out in procession.
Architectural details of the temple
The temple is one of the most beautiful and impressive Shiva temples of ancient India. The temple plan is irregular as the temple prakarams follow the contours of the hill that adjoins it. At some points the hill itself serves as the temple wall. The main gate of the temple has an enormous Gopuram (entrance tower) which is said to be 120 ft high. The entire temple is believed to have been carved from a part of a huge stone hill. To the North of the Srikalahasti temple lies the Durgambika hill, to the East is the Kumaraswamy hill and to the south lies the Kannappar hill. In the temple complex is a small underground temple of Lord Ganesha called Patala Ganapathi. It is in the outer prakaram while the shrines of Shiva and Parvati are in the innermost prakaram. It is said to be 30 feet beneath the surface which marks the level of the river that is passing by the temple. The beautiful 100 pillared Mandapam built by Krishnadeva Raya is another remarkable feature of this temple. Kalahasti is surrounded by two hills which are sacred, the one in the South has the shrine of Kannabeshwara which was built in memory of the great Nayanmar saint Kannappa and the one in the North has the temple of Durgamba. To the west of the Kalahasti hill is the Srikalahasteeshwara temple. To the South of the Kannappa hills is a small shrine of Lord Brahma with his four faces in four different directions. Nearby there are rocks where Shaivite mythology sculptures are depicted in bas-relief. The South East side of the temple has the rock cut mandapa called ‘Maniganniagatam’. This is said to have been built in memory of a pious and devout woman who was blessed by Lord Shiva himself who whispered the holy Taraka mantra in her right ear. The Manikanteshwara shrine also lies close by.
The main entrance of the temple is from the Gopuram called Bikshalagali Gopuram. Facing the East close to this is the Kashi Vishwanath and Annapoorna Devi temple.
Goddesses Balambika, Kalimatha, Kanakadurga, Lord Subramanya, Lord Balaji, Lord Shani and Lord Dakshinamurthy are the other deities who have shrines in the temple complex.
The sacred pond inside the temple is the Saraswathi Teertha also known commonly as “Pathala Ganga”. Its waters are considered to be so holy and pure that many chronic ailments, physical defects and other diseases of the devotees are said to have been cured here.
The Sthala Vruksha in this temple is the Bilva tree or the Bel tree. The leaves of this tree are dear to Lord Shiva and hence always used in worship of Shiva lingas in all temples. The saint Kannappa used to venerate the Lord with the bilva leaves.
Gnana Prasunnambika Temple
As her name signifies she is said to be the Bestower of knowledge to all those who seek refuge in her. It is also said that she is the sister of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupathi. She gave spiritual knowledge of the nature of Parabrahma to the King of Devas Indra. This is mentioned in the Gnana Upanishad.
Religious Significance of the temple
It is one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalas representing the element Wind and is depicted by the Vayu Lingam.
The Shiva linga is considered self manifested or Swayambhu and is white in colour. it is said to be in the shape of a spider if seen from the bottom, like the trunk of an elephant which has tusks on either side or like a snake with five hoods when seen from the top. The main linga is not touched by human hands even by the temple priests. Camphor is mixed with water, milk and panchamrutha and this mixture is offered as Abhishekham to the linga. Even this Abhisheka can be performed only by priests who belong to the lineage of Bharadwaja Gotra of the Apastambha Sutra and they should have undergone the Diksha initiation prescribed to them in the temple. The Utsav Murthy is offered sandal paste, sacred thread and flowers but these cannot be offered to the Main Linga.
It is also called the Rahu-Ketu Kshetra as people who have Rahu Ketu doshas, who have sarpa dosha, who are unmarried, who are childless or who face multitude of other problems in life perform poojas to these grahas in order to alleviate their problems and get desired benefits.
Cultural significance-Poets and Literary mention
Free annadana (Nithya Annadana) or giving food to the hungry is a very famous scheme of the temple which is carried out regularly and various schemes for donations are available for the devotees.
Nithya Kalyanotsavam schemes are present where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati are performed against donations of devotees.
Muthuswami Dikshitar the famous composer has composed many songs in praise of the Lord Srikalahasteeshwara. Shri Kalahasti Satakam the famous Telugu poem explains the traditions associated with the temple. The Shrikallatipuranam of the three brothers Karunaprakasar, Velappa Dikshitar and Sivaprakasar, Tirukkalatipuranam by Ananda Kootar of Veerainagar and Tirukkalatti Ula by Serraikaveerayar are some of the other works written on this temple.
Shri Adi Shankara is said to have visited this temple and in his great work ’Shivanandalahari’ which is a devotional hymn explaining various kinds of Bhakti has extolled the devotion of Kannappa.
A book written by Swami Shivananda ‘Sixty three Nayanar Saints’ states that in some Shaivite traditions it is believed that Kannappa was the reincarnation of the Pandava Prince Arjuna. Arjuna began to meditate on Lord Shiva to secure the Pashupatha Astra but when Shiva appeared before him in the form of a hunter, Arjuna failed to recognize him. Because of this Arjuna was reborn as a hunter according to this tradition and had to adore and love the Lord before he could attain final salvation.
Nakeera, a Tamil poet who existed in the Tamil Sangam Dynasty during the 3rd century composed a number of hymns in praise of Lord Kalahasteeshwara. He is also said to have got rid of a rare disease after bathing in the river Swarnamukhi. A telugu poet in the court of Krishnadeva Raya lived in Shrikalahasti and composed hundred stanzas on the Lord Kalahasteeshwara.
Many great Tamil Shaivite saints like Appar, Sambandar, Sundarmurthi
Manickavasagar is said to have praised and eulogized Lord Shiva in their hymns ‘Tevaram’. Even later day saints like Pattinathar and Shri Ramalinga Swami of Vadalur are said to have visited the temple and sung about the glories of Lord Kalahasteeshwara.
The Markandeya Puran states that Lord Shiva appeared before Bhakta Markandeya in Srikalahasti and taught him Guru Gyan that a Guru was Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and hence only a Guru could grant eternal knowledge to a disciple. It is said that the Devas Mayura, Devendra and Chandra took bath in the river Swarnamukhi and prayed at Sri Kalahasti and were then freed from their curses.
The Linga Puran, Skanda Puran and Shiva Puran make a mention of Sri Kalahasti. According to the Skanda Puran Arjuna the Pandava prince visited this place and worshipped Lord Shiva as Srikalahasteeshwara and met Sage Bharadwaja on top of the hill Kailasagiri from whom he is said to have learnt about the greatness of the temple and the sacredness of the Swarnamukhi river.
Abhishekams or bathing of the linga is part of the daily prayers and the most important ritual in this temple. Abhishekams are performed four times a day to both the main shrines of Lord Shrikalahasteeeshwara and Goddess Prasunambika Devi.
There are various kinds of Abhishekams like the Camphor Or Pachakarpur Abhisheka, Rudrabhisheka,Milk or Pal Abhisheka, Panchamrutha Abhisheka, Sanishwara Abhisheka(which is offered to the God of Saturn Shani.) The idol of Shani is located opposite to the Srikalahasteeshwara shrine inside the temple.
Mahashivaratri Brahmotsavams in the month of Feb/March is the most important festival and it is celebrated in this temple for ten days. The fifth day is the actual Shivaratri day and on this day pilgrims bathe in the holy river and fast the whole day and night continuously chanting the name of the Lord. Rathothsavam, Deepothsavam and Shri Swami-Ammavarulu Kalyanothsavam, Nandi Seva are held with great fervour during this festival.
In the Andhra province
Vayu lingam is present
The Lord is Kalahasteeshwara
The great saint Kannappa Nayanar
Attained Salvation here.
O Lord Shiva
Thou art eternal
The Supreme Purifier
Thou Art the Indwelling Spirit
Thou Art beyond all reason
Thou are the holiest of the holy
The cause behind all causes
Salutations Unto Thee
Om Namah Shivaya.
Address and Contact Details
Srikalahasteeshwara Swami Vari Devasthanam
Nearest Major Town/City
Chitoor– distance is 106 kms from Chitoor to Srikalahasti
Tirupathi-distance is 38kms from Tirupathi to Srikalahasti
By Train-All trains from Vijayawada to Tirupathi halt at Srikalahasti as it is on Tirupathi-Vijaywada broad gauge route. Another nearest railway station to reach Srikalahasti is the Renigunta Junction Railway station.
By Road-APSRTC buses are available from Tirupathi Central bus station every 10 minutes.
Taxicabs are also available from Tirupathi.
By Air– Tirupathi is the nearest airport and it is connected to Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The nearest International airport to Srikalahasti is Chennai International airport.
Religious tour packages are organized by tour operators from the City centre at Tirupathi to the Srikalahasti Temple.