Sunday, 30 August 2015

Ahobila Sri Narasimhaswamy temple in Prahaladavarada Varadhan

Ahobilam is primarily famous for the Sri Vaishnava Vadakalai (sect) religious institution established here 600 years ago. This religious order, called Sri Ahobila Muth, was established by Sri Athivan Satakopan in the temple of Lord Lakshmi Nrisimha (Narasimha), an incarnation of Vishnu, in Ahobilam.

Located in Karnool District, Andhra Pradesh, Ahobilam is near Nandyal Railway Station and is perched on the hills of the Eastern Ghats, about 400 kms northwest of Chennai. The temple consists of nine shrines to Lord Nrisimha (Narasimha) and all of them are built around a 5 km circle. In addition to the nine shrines, there is a temple for Prahaladavarada Varadhan, Lord Vishnu, at the foothills of the mountain. Due to security reasons and the difficulty of performing daily worship, many of the utsava vigrahas (processional images) of the nine different forms of Narasimha from their original shrines are kept in this temple.
Sthala Puranam
The Himalayas rise high to the Everest in the north while the far south of India shows the deep sea - rather communion of the three oceans. The western region and the eastern region of the Peninsular India, on the other hand, while tapering towards Kanyakumari, exhibit a wide range of mountains known as Western Ghats present wholesome sceneries and adventurous travel both by rail and road, the Eastern Ghats display not only picturesque view but demonstrate divinity as well. The Eastern Ghats are likened to the great serpent Adhisesha basking in the sun with its head (or hood) at Thirumala, its middle at Ahobilam and its tail- end portion at Srisailam - all the three with famous temples on them.

The subject we have before us is Ahobilam. Of course, Thirupathi and Srisailam are also frequented pilgrimage centres. Ahobilam because of this special issue. Not only Mahabharatha; but also ancient puranas like Koorma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana mention about Ahobilam and its presiding deity Narasimha. In fact, Brahmanda Purana says that this place was once the palace of Hiranyakasipu who was slain by Sriman Narayana manifesting as Narasimha from a pillar there for the sake of his staunch devotee Prahlada. Vagaries of time brought about the destruction of the then existing structures yielding place to nature's creation of the mountain range that preserved the site of incarnation as "Svayam Vyakta Kshetram" of Lord Narasimha.

According to Stala Purana, there are two popular legends for the derivation of the word 'Ahobilam'. It is stated that the Devas (Gods), while witnessing the terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the lord took on in order to tear to pieces Hiranyakasipu sung in His praise as 'Ahobala' (Lo: the strength). Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobilam. In support of this, there is a prapatthi sloka about-Ahobilam that reads:-
"Aho Veeryam Aho Souryarn Aho Bahuparakramah
Naarasimham Param Daivam Ahobilam Aho Balam.

The other version is that because of the great cave, the Ahobila, where Garuda worshipped, did penance and realised the lord, the place itself has come to be called Ahobilam. The Ahobilam 'Kaifiyat' gives support to this legend. (The Ahobilam Kaifiyat forming part of Mackenzie collections gives very valuable information regarding the Ahobilam temples. Kaifiyats - the digests from 'Kaviles' or village registers containing information on the political, social, religious and other conditions of the villages in Deccan were prepared by Pandits and Mussadis working under Col. Mackenzie.) The Ahobilam Kaifiyat is in Telugu and available in the State Archives at Hyderabad (vide "Ahobila Narasimhaswamy temple" - Monograph by P. Sitapati, Commissioner of Archives).

As per this record, "On one of the mountains in the Nallamalai hills range, eight amadas from Srisaila Kshetra, Garuda commenced silent penance to obtain a vision of Lord Narasimha who destroyed Hiranyakasipu. The Lord in his grace, after long years of the tapas of Garuda, manifested Himself in the cave of a mountain".

"Ten 'Paruvus' to the north-east of the mountain, where Garuda was doing penance, a vision of His manifestation was then granted to Garuda, who after obtaining a sign of the location of the mountain-cave, gladly traveled thither and saw the embodiment of the Sathsvaroopa,' Mahapurusha, Lord Jwalanarasimha - not easily accessible to common people. Garuda then worshipped the Lord and praised him that 'Ahobilam is Mahabalam' (Ahobilam is a great sustainer with strength). The Lord's Divya Mangala Vigraha was worshipped by him with several sthotras- Garuda then considered himself as blessed after a vision of the Lord. This divine place thereafter obtained the deserving name of Ahobilam".

"The mountain on which Garuda performed tapas became famous as Garudachala. In the days of yore when truth and dharma prevailed, great heat was observable near the mountain- cave of Ahobila; according to legend when green grass was put in the cave, it would catch fire and smoke would be emitted. Several great Rishis lived there for a time; after sometime with the knowledge that great places would become common Janapadas in the Kali age, they left for northern lands, covering up the Narasimha cave with boulders. Traditionally therefore this place is being called the Narasimha Kshetra. There are thus nine Narasimha places, Nava-Narasimhas; Rishi- installed and worshipping areas:
Jwala Ahobila Malola Kroda Karanja Bhargava
Yogananda Kshatravata Pavana Nava Moorthayaha.

The Nine Narasimhasthalas are :- 
1. Jwala Narasimha 
2. Ahobila Narasimha 
3. Malola Narasimha 
4. Kroda Narasimha 
5. Karanja Narasimha 
6. Bhargava Narasimha 
7. Yogananda Narasimha 
8. Kshatravata Narasimha and 
9. Pavana or holy Narasimha.

Before visiting these nine shrines, let us see how we approach the place. Situated in the Nallamalai Hills, Ahobilam is about 24 Kms. from Allagadda Taluk Headquarters, 112 Kms. from Cudappah and 65 Kms. from Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh and can be reached by bus from Hyderabad and also by rail via Kurnool and then by bus from there. Long long ago, the Tamil mystic bard, Thirumangai Azhwar sang that Singavel Kunram (Ahobilam) was accessible to none but Gods.

Due to the efforts of the current 45th Srimad Azhagiyasingar, the access routes to several of the shrines have been greatly simplified such that people of different age groups are now able to visit the places easily. The whole complex is in two parts - one called Eguvu Ahobilam (Upper Ahobilam) with Nava Narasimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobilam (Lower Ahobilam) with a single shrine for Lakshmee Narasimha connected by a road, stretching a distance of about 12.8 Kms. from Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam.
Temple History »»
The Ahobilam is a famous temple of South India. It is situated on the Nallamalai ranges near Nandyal Railway Station of Andhra Pradesh state. The Nallamalai ranges south of river Krishna, down to Tirupati and are called `Sesha Parvatha`. Sesha is the name of the king of serpents. The hood of the sesha is at Tirupati, the tail at Srisailam and the middle is situated at Ahobilam. Nallamalais at the tail are called Sringiri, at the middle are called Vedagiri and Garudagiri referred to as at the hood.

The shrine of the Ahobilam temple is situated on the top of the first range and is referred to as Upper Ahobilam and down below is called Lower Ahobilam. A huge temple surrounded by a number of buildings can be seen at the Upper Ahobilam. The main shrine or the "sacro sanctum" at Upper Ahobilam was carved out of a big egg like rock with mandapams. There is a tank here, which supplies water to the residents of the Upper Ahobliam temple. It is mainly for growing flowers for the shrine.

There is a Lower Ahobilam in the below with a big temple and enclosures, It was built according to the South Indian style. Thousands of pilgrims can stay here in this temple. The priests of both Upper and Lower Ahobilam stay there even today.
Upper ahobilam
A number of costly and different types of valmnas for processional purposes are found in Lower Ahobilam. Recently, many pillared halls are added at the Lower Ahobilam. It is believed that the presiding deity, Lord Narasimha here have had a romance with a Chenchu girl, who is locally called Chenchu Lakshmi. During the annual festival here, the romance and the marriage are celebrated in a dramatic way.

Ahobilam is one of the ancient Vaishnava shrines of Indian and it has a matha at Srirangam. The idol of the presiding deity Lord Narasimha is shown in a sitting posture with jatagata or matted hair. This is the unique posture of Vishnu and which can only be seen here. A rivulet, popularly known as Bhavanasi flows near the temple, which has crystal clear water. It is believed that there is a cave underneath the temple where stays a Swayambhu (self manifested) Narasimha. Another story says that the demon Hiranyakashipu exclaimed `Ahobilam! Ahobilam!` when he saw the ferocious and gigantic form of Lord Narasimha. Hence, the place was named as Ahobilam.

There is a shrine of Malola Narasimha on the outskirts of a nearby village. Here goddess Lakshmi is worshipped by the name of Shantha Swaroopa. The Jwala Narasimha shrine is situated in the higher portion trikala of Lord Narasimha can be seen. This is said to be the actual place where the anger of the Lord reached its climax, when he killed Hiranyakashipu.

One more sacred Narasimha shrine is situated at a nearby place, where worship is done in the Shakta form. All the Nava Narasimhas (nine Narasimhas) - Prahlada Varada, Chatrata, Garuda, Yoga, Urga, Krodha, Malola, Jwala and Lakshmi Narasimha are worshipped at this place. This is a very ancient temple.

The inscriptions available at the Ahobilam temple indicate that king Vikramaditya VI of the Western Chalukya line of Kalyani worshipped the Mula Narasimha of this temple. The `utsava murthi` of the temple is made of gold and it is said to be installed by the famous Kakatiya king Prataparudra. Now, the great spiritual Jiyars of Ahobilam Matha worship it. It is said that while returning from Srisailam, Prataparudra stopped at the Ahobilam and had placed the idol at a place called Rudravaram near the village.

Legend of Chenchu Lakshmi
After execution Hiranyakashyapa, Lord Narasimha proceeded to the Nallamala forest in his UgraAvataram (aggressive form). The devas were upset relating to this manner and prayed to spiritual being Lakshmi to pacify him. She took kind as Chenchu Lakshmi, a social group lady, inside constant forest. On seeing her, Lord Narasimha asked her to marry him. She places him through lots of tests to calm him down absolutely before agreeing to marry him.

Diguva and Eguva (lower and upper Ahobilas)
In the lower Ahobila, Lakshmi Narasimha Swami is in a peaceful form. The temple has exquisite stone art. The Ahobila temple is sculptured in stone. Lord Srinivasa himself installed the main Deity here. He sought the blessings of Narasimha before His wedding but finding Narasimha in a fierce form in the upper Ahobila, he is said to have installed the peaceful form in the lower Ahobila.

It is a common practice to worship the Prahlada Varada Narasimha (the Narasimha who gave boons to Prahlada) in lower Ahobila before worshipping Eguva (upper) Ahobila Narasimha, who is situated eight kilometers away on a hilltop inside a cave. After worshipping the Lord, it is another practice to visit Navanarasimhas (nine Narasimhas). The legend has it that Lord Narasimha, after slaying Hiranyakashipu was roaming around the forest hills of Ahobilam and settled at nine places to bless the devotees. Here are the Nava Narasimha temples. Another legend describes when Lord Garuda did penance to see Lord Vishnu in the Narasimha form, Lord Narasimha took nine different forms on this hill.

This Nava Narasimha Kshetra enshrines Ahobila Narasimha, Varaha Narasimha, Malola Narasimha, Yogananda Narasimha, Bhavana Narasimha, Kaarancha Narasimha, Chakra Vada Narasimha, Bhargava Narasimha and Jwala Narasimha. In the temple at the foothills, the Moolavar Prahladavarada in a seated posture is facing east; there are festival Deities of 8 of the Narasimhas, other than Malola Narasimha. The festival Deities of Malola Narasimha is located in the Ahobila Mutt. The Moolavar in the Ahobila Mutt is Lakshmi Narasimha, while the utsavar is Rama.

Upper Ahobilam is 2800 feet above sea level. It is an arduous trek to upper Ahobilam from the foothills. The Lakshmi Narasimha temple at the lower level, has mandapams, with remnants of fine sculpture from the Vijayanagar period. Upper Ahobilam enshrines Ahobila Narasimha and Ugra Narasimha. The Moolavar Deities were the only shrines of worship during the period of the Chalukyan king Vikramaketu, while it was during the period of Prataparudra that festival Deities were made. Krishna Devaraya is known to have made endowments here.

The two crests of the hill are called Vedadri and Garudadri, through which the Bhavanasini Thirtha flows. Legend has it that Rama, separated from Sita worshipped Lakshmi Narasimha here.  Lord Garuda, desirous of seeing the Narasimha form of Vishnu worshipped Him here, and Vishnu manifested Himself as nine forms of Narasimha. Mahalakshmi reincarnated into a family of hunters as Senjulakshmi, and married Narasimha here. This event is commemorated 
in the annual festival in the Tamil month of Maasi, when the local tribe actively participates in the festivities.
Guha Narasimha - the self manifesting Shaligram of Lord Narasimhadev in a cave at upper Ahobilam. There's a smaller Deity on the His knee that represents Sri Prahlada. The Deity is also wearing a garland of Saligrams. This Saligram stands about two feet tall and wears a garland of saligrams also.

According to legend when the Devas saw the manifestation of Lord Vishnu as half-lion, half-man, they shouted "Ahobala" (great strength) as well as "Ahobila" (great cave in which the current sanctum is). Hence, this place could be called either "Ahobalam" or "Ahobilam". This place is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana. The place where Lord Narayana appeared from the stone pillar to kill Hiranyakashipu can be seen in this place. The name of this pillar is Ugra Sthambha, which is now referred to as “Ukku Sthambha” in Telugu, which roughly translates to steel pillar.

Legend has it that Rama, separated from Sita worshipped Lakshmi Narasimhar here.  Legend has it that Garuda, desirous of seeing the Narasimha form of Vishnu worshipped him here, and that Vishnu manifested himself as nine forms of Narasimha. Mahalakshmi is believed to have reincarnated into a family of hunters as Senjulakshmi, and married Narasimhar here. This event is commemorated in the annual festival in the tamil month of Maasi, when the local tribe actively participates in the festivities.

On the way to Upper Ahobilam from Lower Ahobilam, we can see the Karanja Narasimha Temple.

Best way to complete all 9 Narasimha is start with Upper Ahobilam, for that you need a guide because it is inside deep forest.

1. Ahobilam Narasimha:
The temple, situated on the Upper Ahobilam, at a distance of 8km from the Lower Ahobilam, is the main temple and the earliest of all the nine temples there. The Lord here appears in his fierce aspect, called Ugra Narasimha, who is the presiding deity of the temple and is known as Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy. It is firmly believed the Lord Narasimha was 'Svayambhu' (self-manifest) here.

2. Kroda Narasimha:
The temple of this Lord is 1km away from the main temple of Ahobilam Nrisimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobilam. The image of the deity has the face of a boar (varaha or kroda) and the Lord is seen along with his Consort, Lakshmi. Hence the Lord of the temple is known as Krodakara (Varaha) Narasimha Swamy here.

3. Jwala Narasimha:
 The temple of Jwala Nrisimha Swamy, lies higher up the above temple, on a hill called, 'Achalachaya Meru'. This is about 4km from the Upper Ahobilam temple. This place is said to be the actual spot, where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore Hiranyakasipu.

4. Malola Narasimha:
Nearly 2km from the main temple of Upper Ahobilam, is the famous shrine of Malola Narasimha Swamy. The deity here appears in 'soumya' (graceful) form. As Lord Narasimha is seen with his consort, Lakshmi, He is known as Malola Narasimha Swamy. The word 'Malola' means beloved to Lakshmi (Ma=Lakshmi, Lola= beloved).

5. Karanja Narasimha:
This shrine is situated at a distance of 1km from the Upper Ahobilam and one furlong from the road leading to Lower Ahobilam. The image of the deity is installed under a tree, called 'Karanja Vruksham'. Hence this Lord is called Karanja Narasimha Swamy.

6. Yogananda Narasimha:
This temple is to the south-east of Lower Ahobilam at a distance of 2km. The popular legend is that after killing Hiranyakasipu, Lord Narasimha taught Prahlada several yogic postures. Therefore, the Lord in this aspect is called Yogananda Narasimha. It is on the same route to Pavana Narasimha.

7. Chatravata Narasimha:
About 3km  from lower Ahobilam, the image of the deity is installed under a peepal tree, surrounded by thorny bushes. Hence, the Lord is called as Chatravata Narasimha Swamy. It is on the same route to Pavana Narasimha.

8. Pavana  Narasimha:
Pavana Narasimha is on the banks of the river, Pavana and it is about 6km from the Upper Ahobilam temple. Hence the Lord of the shrine is known as Pavana Narasimha Swamy.
In addition to the shrines mentioned above, there is a famous shrine dedicated to God Narasimha Swamy in the Lower Ahobilam, which is popularly known as Prahlada Varada Sannidhi. The other objects of this place are 'Ugra Sthambham' and 'Prahlada Mettu'.

A. Ugra Stambham:
At a distance of 8km from the Upper Ahobilam temple, we can see a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. It is a long-held view that from the cleft, the Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and this cleft is known as 'Ugra Sthambham'.

B. Prahlada Mettu:
The small shrine, situated in a cave on the hill, is in between Ugra Sthambham and the Upper Ahobilam. It is dedicated to Prahlada Narashimha Swamy. The image of the Prahlada is installed in a small cave.

9. Bhargava Narasimha:
The Bhargava Narasimha Swamy is situated at a distance of 2km from the Lower Ahobilam, on a hill, near the sacred pond, known as 'Bhargava Theertham', where Bhargava Rama performed his penance. Hence the Lord of the temple is known as Bhargava Narasimha Swamy. It is different side of Pavana Narasimha.

Suggested routes

Route 1: 
Upper Ahobilam ---> Varaha/Kroda ---> Jwala through river route ---> Ugra sthambam (most difficult), ---> Jwala ---> Malola ---> Prahalada Mettu ----> Malola ---> Ahobila ---> Karanja on the way.

Take rest and visit Chatravada, Yogananda, Bhargava and Prahalada Varadhan in the evening.

Next day visit Pavana and Senju lakshmi cave by hiring a jeep (3 hrs travel time to and fro) or take the steps and trekking route from Upper Ahobilam whichever is convenient.

Route 2 : 
Start from Upper Ahobilam ---> Varaha/Kroda ---> Malola --->Prahalada Mettu ---> Malola ---> Jwala ---> Ugra sthambam ---> Jwala ---> Ahobila --- > Karanja

Take rest and visit Chatravada, Yogananda, Bhargava and Prahalada Varadhan in the evening.

Next day visit Pavana and Senju lakshmi cave by hiring a jeep (3 hrs travel time to and fro) or take the steps and trekking route from Upper Ahobilam whichever is convenient.

Theerthams of Ahobilam
In this sthalam, 13 theerthams known as Holy Water Ponds are which is said to cure all kinds of diseases, evils and doshams.

1. Kaalava Theertham:
This theertham is also called as "Asalathruvam". It is said only on the shore of this theertham, Kaalava Maharishi did tapas towards Emperumaan and finally got the seva. This theertham is found in the west side where Jwala Narasimhar is seen. If any human, takes bath in Karthigai month, it is believed that we can attain wealth and finally attain Mukthi.

2 & 3. Rama - Lakshmana theertham:
The 2nd and 3rd theertham are collectively called as "Rama - Lakshmana theertham". This theertham is said to be the theertham where Sri Ramar and Lakshman took bath after they lost Seeta Pirattiyaar and worshipped the Narsimhar. So these theerthams are said to be "Maha Punya theerthams".

4. Bheema Theertham:
It is believed that this theertham is found to be constructed by Lord Shivan. Bheeman means Bayangaran (terrific). So, if any person who takes bath in this theertham, his pabham (sin) itself is terrified by the effect of this theertham and ridded off from us. If we do viradham and say the Gayathri Jabham near this theertham, we can find good results and can attain good position in our life.

5. Sanga theertham:
In this theertham, a rishi by named "Sangar" along with his brother "Likithar" did tapas for the good of the world. It is believed that if we take bath in this theertham for around six years, we can remember of pervious Janmha. And if we give food for the Brahmanas is the shore of this theertham, it is said to be equivalent for doing the after funeral and to generations are said to gain the good stage in life.

6. Varaha Theertham:
It is believed that only shore of this theertham, Varahar explained the puranas to Bhoomi piratti. It is also said that this theertham emerged from a drop of water that came from varahar after he got out Bhoomi piratti. It is said that near this theertham, if we give the dhaanam of clothes, in Chitirai Dvadasi and Pournami, it is a special one.

7. Sudharsana Theertham:
As advised by Brahma,  King Ambhareesha told the Sudharsana mantram near this theertham and got the complete blessings of Chakkarathalwar.

8. Soodha Theertham:
This is the theertham where all 18,000 rishis stayed on the shore and did tapas. The perumal stood near this theertham as a mango tree thereby giving fruits and leaves as food for the animals. Swarna, flower and Kannika Dhaanam are said to be the effective dhaanams near this theertham.

9. Thaara Theertham:
Using this theertham only, the food (or) Naivedhuam for Narasimhar is done and it is said to be theertham of purity. By giving cow, Salagramam near this theertham is a special one in Aadi month - Dvadasi.

10. Gaja Kundam:
It is said to be the theertham where groups of elephants come to take the water. Even though, Lion being the enemy for Elephants, they wish to take the theertham from this Gaja kundam.

11. Vinayaka Theertham:
On the shore of this theertham, it is believed that Vinayaka perumal is said that he is doing tapas for the entire world to live in happiness. Doing Anna dhaanam (food Dhaanam) in Maargazhi is said to be special dhaanam in this theertham.

12. Bairava Theertham:
It is believed that Brairava Moorthy cut his head and dedicated it to the Bavanasini Nadhi which came so fast. Bairavar cut his head to stop the fast flow of the Bavanasisni river. It is said that Bairavar is doing tapas without head on the shore of this theertham.

13. Raktha Theertham:
It is said that in this theertham only Narasimhar washed his hands after the Vadham (killing) of Hiranyakasibhu.

It is said these 13 theerthams not a separate theerthams, but all are considered to be the Bavanasini Nadhi, but it is categorised into 13. On the shore, there are 3 Gughais (Cave) in which 3 Narasimhars are found to give this seva. In the middle, the Narasimhar is Ugaraha Narasimhar in Veetrirundha thirukkolam facing his thirumugham along the east direction, along with Lakshmi thaayar.

Temple timings:-

Hill top temple from 7.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m and 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., Foot hill temple from 6.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.

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