A Sacred Shiva Kshetra
Srikalahasti is one of the most sacred 'Shiva Kshetras'. It is in Srikalahasti Mandalam of Chittoor district, about 60-km from Tirupati . It is situated at the foot of the Kailasagiri hill abutting the river Swarnamukhi, to the west of the Kannapa hill. The temple is one of the most ancient and sacred places in South India and the lingam is known as "Vayulingam", one of the five elements of Lord Shiva.
The name Srikalahasti is a compound of three words - 'Sri' meaning spider, 'Kala' meaning serpent and 'Hasti' meaning an elephant and all these are claimed to have worshiped Lord Shiva in the ages past and attained 'Sadvomukti' (salvation) with Shiva. The marks of all these three are found on the Lingam, which is claimed to be 'Swayambhu' (self-installed) and for that reason, particularly sacred. The Lingam along with the Nandi in its front is white in colour.
A Lovely Temple Art
The temple is huge and a beautiful one, with magnificent 'Gopuras'. The construction of the temple and its 'Prakarams' and subsequent improvements were attended to by the Cholas, the Pallavas, the Pandya Kings, and the local Yadavaraya Kings in the 13th century AD, and developed finally by the great Vijayanagara kings.
Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire is credited with the construction of the huge Galigopuram and the hundred-pillared Mandapam in AD 1516. The Nattukotai Chettiyars between 1900 and 1912 renovated the temple. The three lofty Gopurams of the temple are remarkable for their architecture.
A huge hundred-pillared 'Mandapam' is another important feature of this shrine. The entire temple is carved out of the side of a single huge stone hill. When inside the temple take note of the elaborately designed pillars and altars. The various stupas and temple monuments that one comes across testify to the antiquity of the place.
Other Shrines Within The Temple
The main gate of the temple proper faces south, and this is clear proof that the temple is dedicated to 'Dakshinamurthy', who is a manifestation of Lord Siva. Entering the temple, one can see the Vighneswara temple situated towards the west. There are also idols of 'Appar', 'Sundarar' and 'Manikkavasagar' who are famous 'Shaivite Nayanars' saints.
Next comes the sacred shrine of Sri Kalahasteswara and just before the main entrance is the idol of 'Kannappa', a great devotee, who removed his eyes as an offering to the Lord. Many rare icons like 'Vallablia Ganapati', 'MahaLakshmi Ganapati' and 'Sahasralingeswara Swami' also exist in the temple.
The Main Lingam
The main Lingam has a pedestal and is in the shape of the trunk of an elephant with tusks on either side or a figure of the spider at the bottom. Looked at from the top, it presents the appearance of a snake with five hoods. The 'Pancha Bhuta Kshetras' are 'Kanchipuram' representing 'Prithvi' or earth, the 'Jambukeswara' representing 'Appu' or water, 'Arunachala' representing 'Tejas' or light, 'Chidambaram' representing 'Akash' or ether and Sri 'Kalahasti' representing 'Vayu' or air. This can be seen by continuous flickering of two lamps hung on the right side of the Lingam, without the influence of any wind.
The main lingam is untouched by human hands; even the temple priest does not touch the lingam when performing the Puja. Abhisheka is done by pouring a mixture of water, milk, camphor and 'panchamrita' (a mixture of fruits, jaggery and ghee). Worship with flowers is done on the 'Utsava-Murti' (the idol taken around the temple and the town during festivals), not the main lingam.
Srikalahasti is a very sacred Kshetram
where Lord Shiva's consort Parvati did penance and gained with his
blessings a body hundred times better than her previous heavenly body and
learned Panchakshari Mantra to become Gnanaprasunamba. It is the place
where Sri (Spider), Kala (Serphant) and Elephant (Hasti) were granted
boons by Lord Shiva to merge their names with Vayu Linga and called the
place as Srikalahasteeshwara.
In this holy place 'Ganakala', 'Mayura', 'Chandra' and 'Devendra' washed off their sins after taking bath in 'Swarnamukhi' and offered prayers. 'Bhakta Markendeya' was taught by Lord Shiva that a Guru could make esoteric teachings and therefore he is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. 'Bhakta Kannappa' was granted a boon by Lord Shiva in this Kshetra, and he occupies a place close to the Lord.
|The following Teerthas within the Kailasagiri hills are
famous and sacred.
Maha Shivaratri is the most important festival in this temple, which lasts for ten days in February-March. The fifth day of the festival corresponds to Shivaratri proper, when the pilgrims bathe in the river and observe fast throughout the day and night and 'Jagarana' throughout the night. Apart from the 'Rathotsavam', 'Teppotsavam' and 'Kalyana Mahotsavam', a number of cultural programs are conducted including 'Giripradakshina'. Another big festival is on the third day of 'Sankranti', when the deity is taken in a procession round the hills, which is a circuit of nearly twenty miles. There are in all eighty-five festivals celebrated in this temple within a year.
Air: Nearest airport is at
Road: Buses ply from nearby towns like Nayudupet, Nellore, Vijayawada, Chennai , Tirupati , Bangalore etc. It is recommended that pilgrims/tourists take a side trip from Tirupati as there is good accommodation available in Tirupati and regular buses/taxis are plying between the two places. The APSRTC has provided number of buses from different routes to reach Kalahasti.
Rail: It is on Tirupati-Vijayawada broad gauge and all express trains stop here.
There are good halting facilities for the pilgrims, including the choultries of Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam and Srikalahasti Devasthanam. One can also stay at hotels in Tirupati or at the budget hotels at Sri Kalahasti.