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Sunday, 8 May 2011

18. SRI KALAHASTI in ANDHRA PRADESH

OM NAMOH SIVAYAM


SRI KALAHSTISWARA SWAMY IN SRI KALAHASTI

Srikalahasti Temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradhesh is famous for its Vayu deva temple, which is the only shrine for the God of Wind in India. Constructed in the 12th century by the Chola king, Rajendra Chola, Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshipped as Kalahasteeswara.
About Kalahasthi
Sri Kalahasthi  is a temple town in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Located here is one of the famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa, one of the 63 Saivite Nayanars, was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Lord Siva stopped him and granted him mukti.
Kalahasti is surrounded by two sacred hills. The Durgamba temple is on the northern hill. On the south hill there is the shrine of Kannabeswara, in memory of the Sage Kannappa, who offered his eyes to the Lord. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya on one of the surrounding hills.
Sri Kalahasti is one of the important ancient Shiva Kshetras (Shiva Temples) of South India. The Sri kalahasti Temple occupies the area between the river bank and the foot of the hills. It is popularly known as Dakshina Kailasam, i.e, ‘Kailas of the South’ for more than two thousand years. The small river on whose banks it is present, the ‘Ganges of the South.’ Kailash is the abode of Shiva, from whose head, the Ganges is said to flow.
Shiva, ‘that which is auspicious at all places, times and in all circumstances’ is a symbol of the Self and the Ganges flowing from his head represents the spiritualized or awakened mind. The claim that Kalahasti is the ‘Kailas of the South’ simply means that the small hill near the temple is to be taken as the spiritual equivalent of the Himalayan Kailas. Likewise, the small river flowing in a northerly direction beside the temple is to be taken as the mighty Ganges.
Temple
This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Siva is one of the five Panchabhootha stalams (temples celebrating Lord Siva as the embodiment of the five primary elements), air (wind) being the element in this case. The other elements are water at Thiruvanaikaval, fire at Annamalaiyar Temple, earth at Ekambareswarar Temple and space at Chidambaram Temple that Siva embodies.
There is a lamp inside the inner sanctum that is constantly flickering despite the lack of air movement inside. The air-linga can be observed to move even when the priests close off the entrance to the main deity room, which does not have any windows. One can see the flames on several ghee lamps flicker as if blown by moving air. The linga is white and is considered Swayambhu, or self-manifested.
 Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sri Kalahastiswara swamy (Vayu Lingam) with his consort Goddess Jnana Prasoonamba Devi. The main linga is untouched by human hands, even by the priest. Abhisheka (bathing) is done by pouring a mixture of water, milk, camphor, and panchamrita. Sandal paste, flowers and the sacred thread are offered to the utsava-murti, not the main linga.
This temple is one of the most impressive Siva temples in India. Vishwakarma brahmin Sthapthis who sculpted this temple need to be eulogized for their excellent architectural cognizance. This temple features an enormous, ancient gopuram (entrance tower) over the main gate. The tower is 36.5m (120 ft) high. The entire temple is carved out of the side of a huge stone hill.
This temple was built during the period of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar. A huge hundred pillared mantapam is another important feature of this shrine. The initial structure of this temple was constructed by the Pallava dynasty. The Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings also gave great help for the temple development. Around the tenth century, the Chola kings renovated the temple and constructed the main structure.
The outer walls and the four gopurams were constructed in the period of Sri Veera Narasimharayar in twelfth century. The 120 feet (37 m) high main gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam were constructed by Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara king in 1516. Nattukkotta Chettiyar of Devakkotta, developed the structure as it is today by spending one million dollars in 1912. 
The three lofty Gopurams of the temple are remarkable for their architecture. It is one of the ancient temples included in the Hindu pilgrimages and the site of a famous Shiva temple with magnificent gopurams and is fairly close to the famous hill temple of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati, one of the richest and famous temple cities in the world. It is also the origin of the popular textile painting art called kalamkari.
Legend
Sri Kalahasti is named after the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. They were the Spider (Sri), the Serpent (Kala) and the Elephant (Hasti). Appeased with their unflinching devotion, Lord Shiva gave them a boon that their names be merged with the Vayulinga and called as Sri Kalahasteeswara.
According to Hindu mythology, the elephant or Hasti used to clean the Shiva deity by watering the idol with the help of river-water carried in his trunks and pray for him by placing Vilva leaves. The spider or Sri tried to protect the deity from external damage by weaving his web and to provide shelter for the Shiva lingam. The snake or Kala used to place its precious gem on the linga to adorn the lord. In this way, they all worshipped the Vayu linga separately without knowing what the other was doing.
One day, the spider had built a very big and thick web around the deity to protect it from dust and weather while the snake places its gem. The elephant not knowing this and assuming that this form of puja by Sri and Kala is a desecration by the seeming miscreants, pours water on it and cleans it up. This causes a war between the three. The snake punishes the elephant by entering its trunk and in the process kills itself while the elephant runs amok and hits its trunk and head against the shiva linga.
During this struggle, the spider is squashed against the linga by the elephant's trunk and the elephant dies due to the snake's poison. Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all three of them for their selfless devotion. The spider takes rebirth as a great king while the elephant and the snake reaches heaven for satisfying all its karma.
This king continues his good work from his previous birth and builds a variety of temples that seeks to protect the underlying deity with tons of stones. It is interesting to note that all his temples, keep the deity beyond the access of an elephant. In this temple, access to the deity is through a narrow passage in the side of the building that prevents an elephant from extending its trunk over the lord from any side.
 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.
Other Importance
The temple is also associated with Rahu and Kethu (of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme). The river Suvarnamukhi takes the northerly course at Sri Kalahasthi almost washing the west wall of the famous Sri Kalahasthi temple in the Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh. Inside this very large temple, situated between two steep hills Sripuram and Mummidi-cholapuram, is the Sivalinga set to represent the element of Vayu.

Kalahasti is surrounded by two sacred hills. The Durgamba temple is on the northern hill. On the south hill there is the shrine of Kannabeswara, in memory of the Sage Kannappa, who offered his eyes to the Lord. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya on one of the surrounding hills.
Kannappa
At Sri Kalahasti, Lord Shiva tested the unshakable devotion of Thinna (Later became Bhaktha Kannappa) before the sages gathered at SriKalahasti. With his divine power, Lord Shiva created a tremor and the roof tops of the temple began to fall. All the sages ran away from the scene except Kannappa who covered the linga with his body to prevent it from any damage.
In another incident, Kannappa plucked out one of his eyes and placed in the eye of Linga which was oozing with blood and tears. When the tears and the blood were still trickling from another eye, Kannappa decided to remove his second eye and placed one of his feet on the spot of the right eye of the Shiva Linga. Before he could pull out his second eye with the arrow, Lord Shiva appeared and restored his eye while granting him a boon to occupy a place close to him.
According to Swami Sivananda’s book, Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints, pg. 44, some Saivite traditions believe that Kannappa was the reincarnation of Arjuna. Arjuna, worshipped Siva for seeking the Pasupatha Astra and failed to recognize Him in the form of a hunter. Thus, according to this tradition, Arjuna had to be born as a hunter and adore the Lord before attaining final liberation.

Architecture: The vast west facing Kalahastiswara temple is built adjoining a hill, and on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. At some points, the hill serves as the wall of the temple. The temple prakarams follow the contour of the adjoining hill and hence the temple plan is rather irregular.  North of the temple is the Durgambika hill, south is theKannappar hill and east is the Kumaraswamy hill.
Krishnadevaraya built a huge gopuram, a few feet away from the entrance to the temple. The entrance to the temple is crowned with a smaller tower. There is an underground Ganapati shrine in the outer prakaram, while in the innermost prakaram are the shrines of Shiva and Parvati. The present structure of the temple is a foundation of the Cholas of the 10th century, as testified by inscriptions; improvements and additions were made during the subsequent years of the Chola rulers of Tamilnadu and the Vijayanagar emperors.

Festivals
Mahasivaratri is an important festival when lakhs of people offer prayers to seek the blessings of the Lord to attain Mukti. Maha Shivaratri occurs in the Tamil month of Maasi (Feb 15 through March 15) is one of the greatest festival seasons here, and the celebrations are marked by processions of the deities. The fifth day of the festival in the month of Maasi coincides with the Maha Shivaratri.
Recent Crashes of Tower
The 'Rajagopuram' entrance to the temple collapsed on 26th May 2010. No one was injured. The temple's 136-feet-tall Rajagopuram had developed cracks. There was no loss of human life but over 100 monkeys are feared dead in the incident. The Rajagopuram was constructed in 1516 by Srikrishna Devaraya, the ruler of Vijayanagara empire. According to sources, vibrations from bore well digging in the temple vicinity directly contributed to the collapse. “The digging goes on up to a depth of 500-600 ft,” a geologist reasoned.
Access to Kalahasti
Tirupati (30km) is the nearest airport and is perhaps the most convenient base for visiting Kalahasti as it (Tirupati) is endowed with several modern lodging facilities. A one day trip from Chennai is also possible, as Kalahasti is well connected by road with Tirupati and with Chennai and is only a four to five hour drive from Chennai. If well planned, Tirupati, Tirumala and Kalahasti can be covered in a day's trip from Chennai by car.
Chennai to Srikalahasti : 137 km
Route 1 137 KM : Chennai (NH 05) -- Puzhal Lake – Naravarikuppam – Cholavaram ( NH 205)—Nagalapuram – Puttur – Renigunta – Erpedu -- Srikalahasti
Route 2 142 KM: Chennai (NH 05) -- Puzhal Lake – Naravarikuppam – Cholavaram – Panchetty – Gummidipundi – Kotai Karai – Obulapuram – Perla – Elavur – Ramapuram – Arambakam – Tada (SH) – Varadayyapalaiyam -- Srikalahasti 
Kanchipuram to Srikalahasti : 87 KM 
Kanchipuram – Arkonam (SH no 58) – Tiruttani – Nagari – Puttur (NH 205) –Renigunta – Erpedu - Srikalahasti
Bengalore (NH 207) – Kolar – Mulbagal(NH 04) – Palmaner – Venkatagiri --Chittor (NH 18)—Ayirala – Pakala – Panaipakam – Tirupati – Renigunta – Erpedu -- Srikalahasti
Sri Kalahasti can be approached by Railway. The nearest railhead is Reniguntha. It is an important railway junction in South Central Railway and well connected with all important places in India, from Jammu, New Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Secunderabad to Chennai, Ernakulam, Trivandrum, Kanyakumari, Madurai and Rameswaram. 


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