Updated May 26, 2023
About Srikalahasti Temple
Said to be the “Kailash of the South,” Srikalahasti Temple is 36 kilometers from the well-known Tirupathi Temple. It is in Srikalahasti Town, Tirupati District, Andhra Pradesh. Srikalahasti is one of South India’s most famous Shiva temples, and here’s what you need to know about it.
History of Srikalahasti Temple
During the reign of King Krishnadevaraya of the Pallava Dynasty, the inner temple was built in the 5th Century. By the 10th Century, the Tamil Chola Kings undertook the temple’s work. In the 11th Century, Rajendra Chola I, later Chola Kings, and the Vijayanagara Kings built the outer temple or the main structure. Additionally, they renovated the temple with assistance from successive dynasties in power. The construction of the main Gopuram, about 120 feet (37 meters) tall, and the Hundred Pillared Hall with Intricate Carvings in 1516 AD under Vijayanagara Krishnadevaraya.
The shrine faces West, and the temple faces South. There is a theory that the temple is out of a monolithic hill. However, it is really on the foothills. Surya Pushkarani and Chandra Pushkarani are two water bodies connected with the temple. The White Stone is carved into the shape of an elephant’s trunk to create the image of Shiva, known as a Linga. A Vinayaka shrine carved out of rock is located 9 feet (2.7 meters) below the surface. Some of the unique images in the temple include Sahasra Lingeshwara, Mahalakshmi-Ganpathi, and Vallaba Ganapathi. Jnana Prasanna Mamba has a significant shrine. Kasi Viswanatha, Annapurna, Sadyoganapathi, Suryanarayana, and Subramanya all have smaller shrines in the temple. The Sadyogi Mandapa and the Jalkoti Mandapa are two large halls.
Srikalahasti Temple Legends
The Vayu Lingam, representing the element of air, is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (comprised of wind, water, fire, earth, and ether) and is considered Swayambhu. According to another source, the Kalahasti temple derives its name from an elephant (Hasti), a snake (Kala), and a spider (Sri), all of whom worshipped Lord Shiva in their quest for liberation or moksha. Additionally, the temple is located near a small hill resembling the Himalayan Kailas, earning it the name Dakshina Kailasam or the “Kashi of the South.”
1. Vayu Lingam
Vayu, the wind god, offered penance to Shiva’s Karpoora or Camphor lingam for many years. Satisfied with Vayu’s penance, Shiva appeared before him and bestowed three blessings upon him. As a result, Vayu received the blessing of existing everywhere in the world, being a vital component of every being in the form of Air. Furthermore, the lingam worshipped by Vayu was named Vayu lingam.
2. Rahu-Kethu Pooja
People believe that the astrological effects of Rahu-Kethu influence them and perform Rahu-Kethu pooja to mitigate these influences. Saivite saints sang about this temple as early as the 1st Century. Interestingly, while all other temples in India remain closed during solar and lunar eclipses, this temple is the only one that remains open.
3. Bhakta Kanappa
The temple is to the myth of Saint Kannappa, a hunter who became an enthusiastic devotee of Shiva. He wanted to donate his eyes to contain the blood flowing from Lord Shiva’s lingam. Lord Shiva halted him, granting him moksha.
4. Gnana Prasunambika
Another story states that Shiva cursed Parvati, his consort, to shed her divine nature and take on human form. Parvati made atonement at Srikalahasti and delighted Shiva. She received a heavenly body from Shiva, one hundred times superior to her past appearance. In the temple, Parvati is as Gnana Prasunambika Devi or Shiva-Gnanam Gnana Prasunamba.
Other Notable Incidents from Mythology
Adi Sankara is said to have visited and worshipped in this temple. According to Hindu mythology, during each of the four Yugas, Brahma worshipped Kalahasteeshwara here. During the events of the Mahabharata, it is believed that the ruling deity at Srikalahasti received adoration from the Pandava prince Arjuna. After Ghanakala, cursed to become a ghost, prayed at Srikalahasti for 15 years, Shiva finally restored her to her original form after she chanted the Bhairava Mantra.
In another myth, Shesha and Vayu engaged in a battle to determine their superiority. To demonstrate her superiority, Shesha encircled Shiva’s residence, Mount Kailash. Vayu attempted to break the encirclement by causing a twister. As a result of the twister, eight pieces of the mountain collapsed, with one falling at Kalahasti.
Visitors and priests are prohibited from touching the Vayu Lingam at the Kalahasti temple, which is believed to be composed of wind. Furthermore, the temple itself lacks windows. Intriguingly, even when the temple doors are locked, the Vayu Lingam continues to move. Despite the restricted airflow, the lamp inside the temple keeps flickering. The temple literature encompasses numerous symbolic representations transformed into spiritual stimulants. Shiva, representing the Self, metaphorically embodies the awakened mind with the Ganges flowing from his head. Undoubtedly, Srikalahasti is a place that offers peace of mind.