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Sree kaaLahasti maahaatmyamu

by dhUrjaTi

 

Background on Sri Kalahasti

 

Sree kaaLahasti is a holy place of great antiquity. It is situated in the Chittoor district of southern Andhra Pradesh. It is about 40 km east of another famous holy place Tirupati and lies on the banks of suvarNa mukhi river. The river flows northward at this location and is considered very sacred. The presiding deity is Siva whose local name is kaaLahasteeSvara. He is worshipped as the vaayu (air) linga, one of the five such 'elemental' lingaMs. His consort paarvati is worshipped as j~naanaprasUnaaMba. This place is popularly hailed as southern kailaasaM.

 

This holy site has many legends associated with it and was described in the Puranas. Among those are the devotional legends of a spider (Sree), a serpent (kaaLa) and an elephant (hasti) -and hence the name Sree kaaLa hasti. The spider was UrNanaabha, the son of the divine architect viSvakarma. He was cursed by the divine creator Brahma as he was trying to replicate Brahma's work. The serpent once adorned Lord Siva and displeased him and was cursed. The elephant was a servant of Siva and belonged to the pramatha gaNa. He was cursed by paarvati when he disturbed her intimate moments with her husband. The three animals are said to be portrayed on the surface of the lingam in the main sanctum. It is also the place of another famous (this time human) devotee, tinna, also known as kannappa because of his offering of his own eyes (kannu) to Lord Siva. The sthala puraaNaM describes that kannappa is a reincarnation of the legendary Arjuna from Mahabharata. When the Tamil saint Sundarar compiled the list of 63 naayanaars in the ninth century, he included the name of kannappa. Several composers including Muthuswami Dikshita sang in praise of this place.

 

Many exquisitely carved sculptures adorn the temple. The main sanctum appears to be very old. The temple structure as it exists has input from several kings. Most of the remaining portion of the temple was constructed by the yaadava kings. They ruled for a significant amount of time from the nearby naaraayaNa vanaM. They are the Telugu version of the Yadava kings of Devagiri. The story of this construction tells us about the dedication of these kings. During a particular period of financial crunch, they used up all the disposable revenues of the kingdom for the construction. When they needed more money, they raised it by collecting donations from ordinary people. For this, it is said that the kings actually went around with a begging bowl in their hands. The tower thus constructed by the yaadava kings is still known as Bhikshaala gOpuraM (alms tower). COLa and pallava kings made several offerings to the temple. During the formative years of the Vijayanagara Empire (14th-17th Cent.), the rulers were devotees of Siva. They constructed several extensions to the temple and carried out repairs. Krishnadevaraya erected a major tower for the temple. The present temple has several Siva lingas and a full complement of naayanaar statues. On the nearby hill, the story of tinna is recanted in sculpture. At the foot of the hill is situated a very rare panca mukha lingaM.

 

Other sites of interest on Kalahasti: Temple Net, Andhra Today.

 

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Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri
First posted: March 1999.
Suggestions, additions and corrections to the above will be gratefully appreciated.
Kindly contact:
adluri@engr.mun.ca

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