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History
About The Temple
Local Info and Accommodation
Getting there
HISTORY

Located on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi, about 38kms from Tirupati, Srikalahasti temple stands as one of the most ancient temples in South India. The temple was constructed by Rajarajendra Chola in 12th century. It is adorned with nearly 200 inscriptions from the fourth year of Rajaraja Chola I of 989 AD, to the reign of Sadasiva of Vijayanagara Era till 1565 AD.

The temple has been developed from time to time by the Cholas and Vijayanagar Rayas (kings), the latter making the largest structural contribution. The sculptures of the temple have a Pallava touch. On the eastern bank of the Swarnamukhi river, there is a huge gopura built by Sri Krishnadevaraya in 1516. There is a long mandapa (porch) named after Sri Krishnadevaraya. In the centre of the third enclosure there is a raised platform on which stands the shrines of Sri Kalahasthiswara and Gnana Prasunnambika.

The name Srikalahasti is originated from ‘Sri’ meaning spider, ‘Kala’ meaning serpent and ‘Hasti’ meaning elephant. The first story from the satakam of the temple speaks of the devotion of these beings to Lord Shiva. It is said that Umanabha, son of the celestial architect Vishwakarma, was such an excellent sculptor that he would copy whatever Brahma created. Enraged, Lord Brahma, the Creator, cursed him to be born as a spider. He said that he would be freed from the curse if he worshipped Lord Siva at Dakshina Kailasham. Of the four aeons of the Hindu cosmography, a spider, which Umanabha took birth as, became the devotee of Lord Shiva and came to live in this temple. It started decking the temple with the mansions secreted out of itself. In order to test its devotion, the Lord made the fire from a lamp destroy its structures. Struck with anguish, the spider cried for Lord’s help and attacked the lamp. The Lord intervened and saved its devotee and gave a boon of salvation to the spider. This way it found a prominent place in the temple.

Kala, the serpent was exiled to earth because of his delay in returning from the netherworld to adorn the neck of Lord Shiva. In the Tretayuga, the serpent offered worship to Lord Shiva with gems. In Dvaparayuga, the third aeon, an elephant, was committed to life on earth for his lack of propriety in disturbing the privacy of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He also began worshipping the Lord in Dakshina Kailasam. One day it removed the gems the serpent placed and offered worship with flowers and Bilva leaves. When it came to the notice of the serpent, he replaced them with his offerings. The next day, the elephant removed the jewels and again worshipped the Lord with flowers. This went on for few days until the serpent and elephant confronted each other. One day, the snake crawled into the elephant’s trunk and bit it, for which the elephant died banging its head. In the due course, the snake was also killed. Lord Shiva, out of mercy to both his devotees, gave them liberation. Thus all the three devotees, the spider, snake and the elephant, were given salvation by the Lord and till date hold a prominent place in the temple. So the temple got its name as Srikalahasti, after the name of these three ardent devotees of the Lord.

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ABOUT THE TEMPLE

A town rich in history, Srikalahasti is a beautiful temple of Vayudeva, the Lord of wind who is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshipped as Sri Kalahastishwara. A magnificent temple and one of the Panchabhoota Shivasthala, Lord Shiva conciliates here in the form of air and it is the Vayu (air) Lingam that is the presiding deity of Srikalahasti. Jala linga, the Linga made up of water, at Jambukeswara, Jyothir linga, the linga made up of fire, at Arunachalam, Aksha linga, the Linga made up of ether, at Chidambaram, and Prithvi linga, the Linga made up of earth, at Sivakanchi - are the other four Lingas made up of the other four elements of the universe. This temple is also associated with Rahu and Ketu, two of the nine celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme. It is said that life changes for better for one who visits the temple of Srikalahasti.

The temple has four major entrances each with a huge tower. A miraculous feature of this temple is that the flame of a lamp, present in the garbha gudi (Sanctum Sanctorum) flickers even though there is no ventilation inside and even when the pujaris close the entrance. The skilful Yadava architecture of the temple indicates the presence of a shaft of wind near the deity and hence the fire in the lamp flickers.

The main Linga, which is in the shape of an elephant trunk, with tusks on each side and a figure of a spider at the bottom, is untouched by human hands, even by the priests. Abhishekam (anointing the Lord) is done to the ‘Utsava Murthi’ by pouring a mixture of water, milk, camphor and Panchamrita. Even sandal paste, flowers and sacred threads are offered to the utsava murthi and not to the main idol.

There are some legends and myths associated with the temple of which two are most popular. One of them is in “Sri Kalahasti Satakam”, describing the origin of the name of the temple and the other, in the Tamil hagiology, describing the association of the original jungle temple where Kannappa, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva worshipped.

In the temple compound, there is an underground temple for Lord Ganesha and an entrance leading to Kannappa Hills. There are other famous temples in Srikalahasti like the Durgamba temple on the northern part of the hill surrounding the main temple. On the southern part of the hill there is a Kannapeswara temple dedicated to sage Kannappa. Thinna, the original name of Kannappa, was a wild tribesman who worshipped a Siva Linga amidst the forest. He offered one of his eyes to the lord when he found blood oozing out from it and when he tried to offer another, the Lord mercifully stopped him. From then, he was called as Kannappa as he offered his “Kannu”, meaning “eyes” in Telugu, to the Lord. Hence there is an image of this devotee of Lord Shiva, in the sanctum.

The town is also famous for its arts and crafts especially for the manufactures of “Kalamkari” or temple clothes and hangings. There are two temples of Cholas about 8kms from Srikalahasti in the village of Tondamanad.

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LOCAL INFO AND ACCOMMODATION

Maha Shivaratri is one of the greatest festivals celebrated in Srikalahasti. It occurs in the month of Maasi, according to the Tamil calendar, which falls in February 15 to March 15. The fifth day of the festival in the month of Maasi coincides with the Maha Shivarathri.

The remarkably huge compound of the temple has a large flower garden, rooms for making garlands, eating places and a place for Vasanthotsavam (festival of colours) during Holi in the names of Chookkeswara and Meenakshi Gods.

There are some other places like Kannappa temple with the icon of Kannappa on the top of a hill on the eastern side of the main temple. There is a Durgamba Hill, a 800m high hillock to the north of Srikalahastiswara temple. There is a temple of Lord Kumaraswami (son of Lord Shiva) where He is installed on a high pedestal.

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GETTING THERE

There are many buses from Tirupati and other nearby towns and cities. The main bus-stand is 1km north-east of the temple. The railway station is 2kms north-west of it. There are local transport facilities to get around, autos being the quickest and fastest way to get around. There are also private taxis stalled around, which can be hired to reach Srikalahasti.

The nearest airport is at Tirupati from where there are taxis and local buses to Kalahastiswara temple.

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