Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sri Ahobala Maha Kshetram



Sri Ahobala Maha Kshetram (The Abode of the Nava Narasimhas)

Srimad Ahobila Mahaa Kshetra Nivaasaaya Mahaatmane |
Ahankaara Vinaasaaya Aadidevaaya Mangalam ||

Aho Viryam Aho Shouryam Aho Bahu Parakramaha |
Narasimham Param Daivam Ahobalam Ahobalam ||


Jwala Ahobila Maalola Kroda Karanja Bhargavah |
Yogananda Chatravata Pavanah Nava Moortayah ||

The nine forms of Narasimha seen here are 1) Jwala Narasimha, 2) Ahobila Narasimha, 3) Maalola Narasimha, 4) Varaha Narasimha, 5) Karanja Narasimha, 6) Bhargava Narasimha, 7) Yogananda Narasimha, 8) Chatravata Narasimha 9) Pavana Narasimha.

As per the Puranas; Nallamalai Hills is the personification of Adisesha, the great serpent bed of Sri Maha Vishnu. Srisailam, one of the famous Shiva Kshetram is the tail end, Ahobilam is the middle portion, Tirumala is the head and Srikalahasti, and another Shiva Kshetram is the mouth of Adisesha. Thus, the sacred hills houses two Vishnu and two Shiva Kshetrams. Ahobalam, the great Narasimha Kshetram is also known as Ahobilam, Singavel Kundram, Vedachalam, Garudachalam, Veera kshetram, Pancha Kosa Kshetram etc. for the following reasons.

AHOBALAM: - means “great strength”. Since Lord manifested Himself here for rescuing His devotee Prahalada by killing the asura, Hiranyakashyapu, the devas praised Him saying

“Aho Viryam Aho Shouryam Aho Bahu Parakramaha |
Narasimham Param Daivam Ahobalam Ahobalam “|| ” (Oh! What strength)”

VEDACHALAM: - Maha Vishnu restored the Vedas to Brahma by killing Somuka, an asura.

GARUDACHALAM: - Maha Vishnu blessed Garuda who did penance here and made him His mount.

VEERA KSHETRAM: - Lord exercised one of His gunas “VEERYAM”.

NAVA NARASIMHA KSHETRAM: - There are nine temples dedicated to Narasimha.

PANCHA KOSA KSHETRAM: - All the nine temples are situated within a radius of 5 kosas or 10 miles or 16 kilometres.

Ahobalam is situated 25 Km from Allagadda in Kurnool district can also be approached via Cuddapah district. It is situated on hills amidst thick jungles. The local tribals are usually hostile. All the temples are in the boundary of Andhra Pradesh Reserve Forest and the permission for building roads for the temples is not permitted. Compared to Tirumala, this is strenuous since there is neither motor able road (except to two or three temples) nor well-laid pathway like that in Tirumala. Added to this, almost all the temples are scattered on the hills with no direct route. One is forced to walk back the way he came and then go to the next temple.

MOOLAVAR: SRI LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY
THAYAR: SRI AMRITHAVALLI THAYAR
VIMANAM: Gugha (Cave)
THEERTHAM: BHAVANAASINI
PRATHYEKSHAM: PRAHALADA, GARUDA, HANUMAN
MANGALASAASANAM: THIRUMANGAI AZHWAR (1008-1017)


PRAHALADA VARADA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

Situated at the foot of the hills known as Lower Ahobalam, this temple can be visited by one and all. Usually all homams and yagams are performed here. Here Lord is seen along with Maha Lakshmi blessing Prahalada. Hence, He is known as “Prahalada Varadha”. The utsava vigrahas of all the Narasimhas except Malola Narasimha are offered pooja here. To the left of Lord, utsava vigraham of Pavana Narasimha can be seen majestically. In front of the Lord, the utsava idols of Prahalada varadha Narasimha along with Sridevi and Bhoodevi grace us. The processional deity of Jwala Narasimha along with His consorts is also seen in the garbagriha. The vigraham is superbly carved and on request, the archaka removes the alankaranam and performs Aarathi to the idol. This idol has 10 arms and Hiranyavadha (killing) is beautifully depicted. There is also a small vigraha of the first Ahobila Mutt Jeeyar facing south. The walls of the temple depict the sthala purana briefly. There is a Devi Amruthavalli Sannidhi to the right of the temple.


BHARGAVA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

This temple is situated two kilometers from Lower Ahobalam on a small hillock and can be approached by foot or autorikshaw. The purana says, that Parasurama after renounced Kshatra Dharma and become a Rishi; he wanted to have the darshana of the Maha Vishnu in Narasimha form killing Hiranyakshyapu. Hence he did penance here, and had the darshana of Lord in Narasimha form. It is easily approachable. The Lord can be seen with four hands upper two holding Chakra and Shanku and the lower two hands ripping open the stomach of Hiranyakashyapa. Prahalada is seen with folded hands.

YOGANANDA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

Situated at a distance of 3 kilometres from Lower Ahobalam, this can be approached by foot. It was here that Prahalada mastered the Yogic lessons and Rajaneeti from Lord Himself. The divya mangala swaroopa of the Lord is eye captivating. Lord who has four arms with the upper two holding Chakra and Shanku and lower two arms resting on His knees. He has closed eyes in Yoga nidra.

CHATRAVATA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

This is situated at a distance of nearly 3 kilometres from Lower Ahobalam opposite to Yogananda Narasimha Sannidhi reachable by foot. Here Lord is seated alone under a peepul {Vata Vruksha} tree that protects Him like an umbrella, Hence He is known as Chatravata Narasimha. He has four arms with upper two holding Chakra and Shanku and right in abhya mudra and left palm clasping as appreciating the music. This Lord is fond of music played by Gandharvas. It looks as if the Lord is deeply engrossed in music by clasping His hands. Devotees please Him with their music and He is fond of Adi Thala.

UGRA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

This is in Upper Ahobalam. There is a narrow bus route and it takes about 40 minutes to reach this place from Lower Ahobalam. This is considered as the Divya Desam temple. Usually, pilgrims have bath in Bhavanaasini or Paavanaasini (a spring which flows from the top of the hill) and then have Lord’s darsanam. A dip in Paavanaasini absolves all the sins committed. The sannidhi is located inside a cave. Opposite to Lord, there is an idol of Prahalada. The Lord has unusually two arms both the hands resting on Asura Hiranyakashyapu. There is a dark room on the other side of the cave that is believed to be the place where Chenchulakshmi resides. It has been a common belief that in the ancient times people were afraid to face the fierce deity of Ugra Narasimha in the sanctum sanctorum. It seems when a stack of grass was left in front of the deity by the priest, it would soon result in fire and one could witness the smoke from a distance. This was attributed to the intensity of heat emanating from the Lord Ugra Narasimha. There is a sannidhi to Sudarsana Chakra and Chenchu Lakshmi in two separate caves.
Recently, under the supervision of Jeeyar, a bridge across Paavanasini river has been constructed which facilitates the pilgrims to go to Varaha Narasimha temple (Krodha Narasimha)

Sixth Jeeyar Sri Shasta Parangusa Yathindra Maha Desikan

Tradition has it that the sixth Jeeyar Sri Shasta Parangusa Yathindra Maha Desikan while fervently worshipping at Ahobalam was commanded by Sri Lakshmi Narasimha to be ever present there to do pooja to Him. In order to do that he had disappeared into the cave of Ahobalam, which now remains, closed. (This place is shown to pilgrims at the Upper Ahobalam Temple where it seems even now early in the morning the peeling bells and chanting can be heard by the devout). He was however never again seen afterwards though we are told, very pathetically that his shisyas - particularly Tatacharya - stayed outside the cave for several days without meals and water, wept and cried out for him requesting him to come out - but it was all in vain.

Swarna Narasimha:

During 1291 to 1322, a Kakatiya king named 'Pratapa Rudra Deva' was ruling Telengana. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He would cast an image of Lord Siva in gold and would give it away as a charity everyday before taking his food. On one occasion, he was passing through Ahobalam and camped there. To his surprise, the gold casting took the form of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha. From Scholars, he learnt that Ahobalam is ''Narasimha Kshetra' and everything is Narasimha at this place. Later, he also worshipped Lord Narasimha and arranged for the installation of golden idol at the temple there. Even today, the Jeeyars of Ahobalam mutt are worshiping this Swarna Narasimha idol.

KRODHA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

There is a small temple cavern, not far from Ahobala Narasimha Swamy temple, on the banks of the Bhavanasini river, dedicated to Krodha Narasimha or Varaha Narasimha Swamy facing South. There are two shrines in this temple, one a Sthanaka (standing) of Sri Varaha Narasimha Swamy with Goddess Bhudevi on his shoulder and the other shrine of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy with Goddess Lakshmi on his side. It is interesting to note that while Varaha and Narasimha avataras are considered as separate avataras in Dasavataras, we sometimes come across the combined form, namely Sri Varaha Narasimha Swamy. The popular shrine of Sri Varaha Narasimha Swamy is located at Simhachalam in Vishakapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.

One plausible interpretation for this combination of both the avataras may be that since the two occured in the same Yuga (Satyuga), one in the form of Bhu Varaha to protect the earth from the menace of Hiranyaksha and the other in the form of Lord Narasimha to kill his brother Hiranyakashyapu, they may have been combined as Varaha Narasimha. However, since only Lakshmi could calm down Lord Narasimha, his avatara was complete only with his divine consort (Mahalakshmi) by his side (hence Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy). Another interpretation is that since Maha Vishnu is always with his divine consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, by combining Varaha and Narasimha Swamy, we get Bhu Devi from Varahavatara and Sri Devi from Narasimhavatara that would result in Sri Bhu Varaha Narasimha Swamy.

KARANJA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

This shrine is situated at a distance of one kilometre from the Upper Ahobalam and one furlong from the road leading to Lower Ahobalam. On the Western side of Garudadri hill under the shade of the great Karanja Vruksha is located the temple of Karanja Narasimha Swamy. The Lord is seen seated in meditation under the canopy of Adisesha. He has four arms with the upper right hand He holds the Chakra and with the left He is holding a Sarnaga {bow} and lower two hands are in Abhya and Varadha mudra. He is Trinetra {has three eyes} It is believed that He gave darasanam to Hanuman with the bow to show Hanuman that Rama was Narasimha in Satyuga. Located next to this temple is the shrine of Lord Anjaneya.

MAALOLA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

Nearly two kilometres from the main temple of Upper Ahobalam, is the famous shrine of Maalola Narasimha Swamy on the banks of the great river Kanakabhaya. The deity here appears in “Soumya” or graceful form. As the Lord is seen with his consort, Mahalakshmi, he is known as Maalola Narasimha Swamy. The word Maalola is actually ‘Ramaalola’ which means the beloved to Mahalakshmi. It may be noted that the Vedadri hill in Upper Ahobalam area was designated as Lakshmi Kshetra by Lord Sri Maha Vishnu as he gave prominence to Mahalakshmi in this place.

The lord is seated here in the Sukhasana pose with his left leg folded while his right leg is at ease. The Lord’s two upper hands, right and left hold the Chakra and Shankha, respectively while the two lower hands show the Abhaya Hasta mudra and the other is around his Consort Mahalakshmi, with her hands, one in Kataka and the other in Prasarita Vama Hasta mudra, is shown seated on his lap.

JWALA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

This is about four kilometres from the Upper Ahobalam temple. The shrine of Jwala Narasimha Swamy lies higher up between the two hills, Garudachala and Vedachala and in a small mountain cave known traditionally as Achalachayya Meru. This place is said to be the actual spot where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore open Hiranyakashyapu. The lord is seated over Garuda peeta. Lord Jwala Narasimha has eight hands; the upper two hold Chakra and Shankha. Two hands hold Hiranyakashyapu on the lap of the lord who is in the sukhasana pose with his left leg folded and the right leg at ease. His other hands are carrying various weapons of destruction and show tearing out the intestines of the demon to destroy him. Prahalada is in Anjali hasta pose to the right of the Lord.

To the right of Jwala Narasimha is Lord Narasimha with the Goddess Chenchu Lakshmi, who is carrying a sword and a shield. On the left is Lord Narasimha emerging out of the pillar ready to kill Hiranyakashyapu. These three comprise the main sanctum in the Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple.

Beside this shrine, there is a small pond known as “Raktha Kundam” where the Lord is believed to have washed His bloodstained hands. The water is reddish in colour and this was the explanation given by the guide to us.

PAVANA NARASIMHA SWAMY:

It is situated six kilometres away from Upper Ahobalam towards northeast on the banks of River Pavana. It is difficult to approach this temple as wild animals keep roaming. If one wishes to visit this temple, he must do so during daytime with the help of a guide. The path is too narrow; the trek amidst cluster of rocks is strenuous. It takes about 45 minutes for trekking. One can view Maalola Narasimha sannidhi and few water falls on the way on the other side of the mountain. It is believed that devas offer worship to this Lord. The Lord is seen along with Chenchu Lakshmi Thayar. The local tribals usually observe fast on Saturdays and offer flowers, honey, fruits, rice, jaggery etc. to the Lord Narasimha. The general notion that “bali” (sacrifice) is done here to Chenchu Lakshmi by the tribals. Wild animals do not roam near the temple and only during severe summer, they come to the riverbank to quench their thirst. They usually do not hurt any one.

UKKU STHAMBHAM:

Situated at a distance of 8 kms from Upper Ahobalam is the pillar from which the Lord emerged. The pillar, which is situated at the edge of the cliff, is split into two as a proof that Lord appeared from this pillar. Pilgrims usually give their offerings here. It is very difficult to reach this place that is at a highest altitude. Doing pradakshinam around this pillar is even more difficult as it is in the cliff. Near the ukku sthambham (iron pillar) as the Telugus call, there is Lord’s Sri Paada. The climb is very difficult. Only with His grace can one visit this place. One has to have a sharp vision and a flexible body to bend, crawl etc.

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