Monday, 12 September 2011

Srikalahasti - (Vayu Sthalam - Air)

There are five very important Shiva temples in Southern India where the Lord is worshiped as manifestation of five elements – earth, water, air, sky & fire. These temples are called panchabhoota sthalam. Although relatively unknown in other parts of the country, they hold much religious importance here. These are important ancient Shiva Kshetras (Shiva Temples) of Southern India.
Srikalahasti, one of the panchabhoota sthalam, is the Vayu Sthalam representing Air. The others are - Tiruvannamalai (Thejo sthalam - Fire), Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth), Tiruvanaikaval (Appu sthalam - Water) & Chidambaram (Akasa sthalam - Sky).
Importance: Srikalahasti is one of the ancient temples included in the Saiva pilgrimages and is popularly known as "Dakshina Kailasam". Primary deity is Sri Kalahastheeswara Swami (Shiva) with consort Gnana Prasunambika Devi (Parvati).

The Lingam here is swayambhu, and it is white in colour. The Main lingam is untouched by the human beings, even by the priest. Abhishekam is done by pouring a mixutre of water, milk, camphor and panchamrita. Sandal paste, flowers, and the sacred thread are offerred to the Uthsava murthi, not the main Lingam. Even today the flame placed in Garbhagraha inside the temple flickers indicating the presence of the wind while there is no entry of wind to disturb the flame. The air is just sufficient to breathe in. This according to a belief is the existence of Shiva in the temple

The goddess here is Parvati as Gnana Prasunanmba and is said to be the sister of Lord Venkateswara at the Tirumala temple. According to another legend, Parvati was once cursed by Shiva to leave off her heavenly body and become a human. She meditated here, and was finally blessed by Lord Shiva, who not only restored her to her original status but also endowed her with the highest of divine knowledge. It is believed that the goddess with divine powers here has cured women who were possessed by evil spirits.  

The main festival in this temple is Mahashivratri, which lasts for 10 days.

Patal Ganapati (Lord Ganesha’s underground temple) - Situated just before the main temple of Srikalahasi, Patal Ganapati is associated with the old Sivalingam beneath the temple. It is said that the idol of Lord Ganesha here marks the bed of the river flowing by the temple. One cannot see the Old Siva Lingam (related to the old story of SriKalaHasti) beneath the temple but can imagine it on seeing Lord Ganapati. This unique small shrine is built about 30 feet below the ground with small entrance above and flight of stairs for descent to the shrine. All devotees avail the darshan of this supreme deity - Vigneswara for trouble free existence. The idol is modest sized, ardent devotees worship with Karpura aarti. According to legends, many sages and seers did penance here and were blessed with his Sakshatkara.

Location: Srikalahasti, about at 38 km from Tirupati, is a municipality town in Chittoor District of Andhra. It is located on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. The river Swarnamukhi got its name from a belief that gold was found in its stream. Swarna means gold and Swarnamukhi means gold faced in Sanskrit. Swarnamukhi is a sacred river, said to have been brought to earth by Agastya Muni. It is also called Uttara Vahini, because at this place it flows south to north, which is unusual.
SriKalahasti got its name because in days of yore a Spider (Sri), Serpent (Kala) and Elephant (Hasti) worshipped Shiva with great devotion. A spider lived in the inner sanctum and worshipped the Lord by weaving elaborate temples and images of Shiva. One day a breeze came up and caused the altar fire to destroy the spider’s offerings. It became angry and was about to gulp down the flame, (realize the Self) endangering its (ego’s) life. Appreciative of its devotion, Shiva appeared and granted the spider a boon. The spider requested moksha, release from the cycle of births and deaths. Accordingly it became one with Shiva, the Self.
A cobra worshipped Lord Shiva by offering rare gems, pearls and rubies that it brought from Nagaland, a mythical place where Nagas (serpents) dwell. Serpents are one of India’s most visible symbols of the spiritual power of the Self. The spiritual power of the Self, called Kundalini, the latent electricity of Consciousness, is hidden in the dark recesses of the unconscious like a snake hidden deep within the earth. After the snake had worshipped, an elephant, fresh from its purifying bath in the nearby river, came to worship. In preparation it sprayed the altar with water from its trunk, scattering the gems. It then proceeded to decorate the altar with leaves from a holy tree. When the cobra returned it was angered to see its offerings disrespected and replaced by mere leaves. So it replaced the leaves with gems. This charade repeated itself every day until the cobra became fed up and decided to punish whomever was destroying its offerings. When the elephant returned to worship with its leaves the cobra slithered up its trunk and injected its venom. In agony the elephant dashed its head on the stone altar in an attempt to kill the snake. The snake fell out of the trunk and died from its wounds and the elephant succumbed to the poison. Understanding that both had sacrificed their lives for the sake of their love of the Lord, Shiva resurrected them, gave them liberation and took them into his own body. At the foot of the linga one can see a spider, two elephant tusks and a five-headed (the five elements) serpent to remind the devotee of these acts of supreme devotion.
There is another legend of sacrifice and devotion of a well-known, Saint Kannappa. He was once a hunter and a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He used to offer part of his hunt to Shiva everyday. One day while he was offering the hunt, both eyes of the deity appeared. One of the eyes of the deity was profusely bleeding. In the state of helplessness to remedy the deity, he pulled out his own eye in total devotion and fixed it on the deity’s eye. While the bleeding stopped in one, the other eye of the deity started bleeding. Kannappa’s endless devotion made him pull out his second eye also and offered to the deity. The diety pleased with the depth of his devotion granted him Moksha (Salvation).
There is a legend for the first temple which was built for the Shiva Lingam in the forest, and the river which flows alongside. As the story goes, a merchant in the nearby town had a dream in which the Lord appeared before him, and asked him to go and look for the lingam in the forest and build a temple there. The merchant was so excited by this that he woke up at once to share the news with his wife. He hastened to the forest and soon found the lingam. With his huge wealth at his disposal, he started hiring people to build the temple. As time passed, the work progressed slowly, but his money soon ran out and he was forced to sell everything he owned to pay the workers. At last, he had nothing left, and he wept in front of the Lord, ashamed that he could not complete the work he had been entrusted with. The Lord appeared before him in a dream again and said, “I did ask you to build a temple, but I did not ask you to use your own money. You were so proud of your wealth and sure of your ability to build the temple that you did not wait till I told you how to do it!” The merchant realized his folly and humbly requested the Lord to tell him how to continue the work. The Lord replied, “Ask the workers to bathe in the river before starting work, and after completing their work for the day, ask them to bathe again in the river, and then scoop out sand from the river bed. They will find in their hands, the payment for their services.” The merchant was surprised to hear this, but he assured the Lord that he would do as he was told. He wondered how he would assure the workers of such a thing, and if they would believe him. He shared his doubts with his wife, who said that they should first try it out themselves. Accordingly, the merchant and his wife bathed in the river the next morning, and worked on the temple by themselves doing what they could. At the end of the day, the tired couple headed for the river, where they bathed again, and found themselves as fresh and energetic as ever. They then scooped out the sand from the river bed as the Lord had advised, and were surprised when they found that instead of sand, they held gold coins in their hands! Now that they had tried it out for themselves, all their doubts were cleared and they managed to convince the workers to come back to work. Each day, every worker bathed in the river before and after work, and when they scooped out the river bed sand, found exactly as many gold coins as they deserved for that day’s work – no more, no less! Work now progressed much faster, and at last, the temple was built! This is when the river earned the name ‘Swarnamukhi’ – the river which gave out gold coins.
The Skanda Purana, Shiva Purana and Linga Purnas have a mention about Srikalahasti. Skanda Purana says that Arjuna visited this place, worshipped Kalahastiswara and met the sage Bharadwaja on the top of the hill.
Brahma, the Hindu God of creation, is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva and bathed in the swarnamukhi river to get rid of "sisuhathya patakam" (the sin of killing children).
Directions have symbolic significance in Pauranic culture. North is said to be the abode of the Self because from the immortal ‘northern’ position the Self looks out on the ‘southern’ world of time and death. God Dakshinamurthy whose name means ‘the one facing south’ and whose idol (murthy) is installed in the Kalahasti Temple, sits in the North and faces south.
The Vedas conceive four ends for which human being strive in search for happiness: pleasure (kama), security or wealth (artha), duty (dharma) and freedom (moksha). In the temple these four universal motivations are represented by four deities facing in the four cardinal directions. Shiva in the form of Dakshinamoorthy represents desire, in this case the desire for liberation, although he more commonly is said to represent the feeling of wealth (dakshina) that comes when you know who you really are. Goddess Gnanaprasoonamba (the giver of knowledge or the mother of all knowledge) represents the ‘wealth’ i.e. freedom from limitation conferred by Self knowledge. Deity Kalahastishwara (the lord of Kalahasti) faces west and symbolizes liberation. Liberation, the death of ego upon the rediscovery of the Self, is the final stage of life just as setting is the sun’s last act before it disappears over the horizon.
History: The inner temple is constructed around 5th century and the outer temple was constructed in the 12th Century.The three lofty Gopurams of the temple are remarkable for their architecture. This temple was originally built during Pallava period and current structures are built by Chola Tamil King Kulothunga Cholan I,II and III during 11th century. A huge hundred pillared mantapam is built by Krishnadevarayar during 16th century which is another important feature of this shrine.
Nakkeerar, a Tamil poet in 3rd Century BC during the Tamil Sangam Dynasty called it as Southern Kailash.Nakkeera composed hundred stanzas to praise Srikalahasteeswara. Adi Sankaracharya praised bhakt Kannappa in his Sivanadalahri. Dhoorjati a Telugu poet native of this place and one among the ashtadiggajas of Sri Krishnadevaraya’s court composed hundred stanzas on Sri Kalahasteeswara. Other Tamil Saivite saints like Sambandar, Appar, Manikkavasagar, Sundaramurti, Pattinathar and Sri Ramalinga Swami of Vadalur have also visited this place.
Pooja: Rahu Ketu Pooja to overcome the ill effects of the imaginary planets Rahu and Ketu and also other doshas (ill effects) like 'Sarpa Dosha', Kaala Sarpa Dosha etc.
Places of interest:
Kalahasti is surrounded by two sacred hills. The Durgamba Temple is on the northern hill. On the southern hill is the shrine of Kannabeswara, a memorial to the sage Kannappa, who offered Lord Siva one of his eyes. There are other lots of temples in and the area near the temple like Bhardwaja tirtham, Sahasra Linga temple etc.
How to reach
Airport: The nearest airport is about 20 km from here at Renigunta, the Tirupati Airport.  Daily flights to Tirupati operate from Hyderabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai.
Railway Station: Sri Kalahasti (KHT) is on the Renigunta-Gudur section of Guntakal (GTL) Division of the South Central Railway (SCR). Trains easily from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bangalore & other important places.
Distance (Railway):
Distance (Kms)
Tirupati (TPTY)
Renigunta (RU)
Gudur (GDR)
Vijaywada (BZA)
Bangalore (SBC)
Hyderabad (SEC)
Lucknow (LKO)*
*Train available for Renigunta (RU)
Buses: The local transport is by taxis or autorickshaws and city buses. Shuttle buses between Tirupathi and Srikalahasti run every 10 mins. Andhra Pradesh State owned Bus services (APSRTC) are available from Tirupati central bus station, at a frequency of 10 minutes and other tour operators provide religious tour package visits to the temple in Srikalahasti from the City centre at Tirupati. Taxicabs are also available from Tirupati. Besides, Buses from other parts like Bangalore are frequently available.
Temple Address:
Sri Kalahastiswaraswamy vari Devastanam
District Chittoor, Andhra Pradhesh
PIN: 517644
Telephone: 08578-221655, 222787


Anonymous said...

very informative. acutally never heard about the temple ealier. good.


good effort with useful but not common information for religious tourists. Content can be brief.

sudhir k nanda said...

i believe very few people have knowledge about this devine place. thank you vineet ji for elaborately explaining the sacred of this place.

sudhir k nanda said...

i believe very few people have knowledge about this divine place. thank you vineet ji for elaborately explaining the sacred and spiritual existence of this place

Anonymous said...

very informative. First time came to know about temples dedicated to five elements related to creation. inspiring to visit whenever opportunity arrives.

Jay Subramanyam said...

An rich casket of information. Though I haven't scanned the contents in detail, I can make out the effort that has gone into it. You have done a remarkable job. Though I have never seen the place myself, the well nuanced & structured narrative inspires me to actually plan a visit.

Jay Subramanyam