India, as we know, is a land of temples and people of every caste and creed are its inhabitants. For tourists and pilgrims visiting the southern part of India, Srikalahasti Temple in Andhra Pradesh signifies great importance. It is one of the most famous Shiva temples and dates back to many centuries.
Three hills surround the Srikalahasti Temple- Durgambika in the north, Kannappar in the south and Kumaraswamy in the east. This famous destination is located in the Chitor district of Andhra Pradesh and is close to the Lord Balaji temple at Tirupati.
This famous pilgrimage destination has another name- ‘Dakshina Kailasam’ and is along the banks of the Swarnamukhi River. It is counted among one of the ‘Pancha Bhoota Stalams’ that celebrate Lord Shiva as the personification of the primary elements. The element of air is signified by this temple while the other four are associated with Tiruvannamalai (fire), Chidambaram (space), Tiruvanaikkaval (water) and Kanchipuram (earth).
Pallava dynasty started Srikalahasti Temple’s construction during the 5th century. The Chola and Vijayanagara kings provided great assistance to the development of this temple. Around the 10th century the Chola kings renovated the main shrine and constructed the main temple.
Srikalahasti Temple History
The most prominent legend is about the strong devotion of the spider Sri, the snake Kala and the elephant Hasti. The elephant used to clean the deity by pouring river water from his trunks and praying with Bilva leaves. The spider protected the Shiva lingam by weaving his web and the snake placed a precious gem on the linga to decorate the God.
One day there a fight occurred among the three as the elephant cleaned the linga where the snake and the spider placed gem and built the cob. While the snake died by entering the elephant’s trunk, the elephant died by hitting its trunk and head against the linga. The spider also died. Pleased with their selfless devotion, Lord Shiva associated their names with the Vayulinga. The place is hence Srikalahasteeswara.
It is also a belief that Rahu and Ketu, two of the nine planets in Indian Astrology offered their prayers at this famous temple.
Another legend refers to Goddess Parvati’s curse. Lord Shiva cursed Parvati to discard her heavenly body to take a human form. Parvati penanced here to get rid of the curse. Hence, eventually Lord Shiva recreated her body using various mantras like the Panchakshari. Parvati then became popular as Gnana Prasunamba or Gnana Prasunambika Devi.
A ghost named Ghanakala also prayed here for 15 years following a curse. After he recited Bhairava Mantra many times, Lord Shiva regained her original form.
Lord Shiva tested the devotion of Thinnadu before the sages accumulated at Srikalahasti. Shiva created a tremor that caused the top of the roof to fall.
Significance of Srikalahasti Temple
Srikalahasti Temple is one of the most remarkable Shiva temples in India. It consists of a huge and ancient entrance tower (gopuram) over the main entrance. This tower is 120ft high and is carved out from a huge stone hill. The Vijayanagara king, Krishnadevaraya in 1516 constructed the 100 pillar mandapam and the gopuram.
A lamp is presented inside the inner sanctum which flickers constantly without any air movement. One can clearly observe it when the priest closes the entrance of the main deity room that has no windows.
The linga is white in color and remains untouched even by the priest.
Srikalahasti Temple is the only temple which remains open irrespective of the Solar or Lunar eclipses.
Additionally, there are many other deities for Venkateswara, Vinayaka, Nataraja, Surya and replica of Lingas of famous Shiva temples from all over India.
This ancient temple is also considered as the Kailash of the South or Dakshin Kailash.
The Temple Trust consists of fifteen members and Sri Guravaiah Naidu is the Trust Board Chairman of this temple.
Srikalahasti Temple offers free bus service from the temple premises to the railway station and the bus stand as well. All the pilgrims can avail this facility without bearing any cost.
Srikalahasti Temple Timings
The Srikalahasti Temple opens at 6 AM and closes at 9 PM.
Srikalahasti Temple Food Timings
The Prasad costs Rs 10 for Laddu, Pulihora, and Vada. While each Jalebi costs Rs 15, the Mahanivedanaladdu laddu is available for Rs 50. Hence, a pilgrim can take his pick of these options and cherish the unique taste as well.
Festivals celebrated at Srikalahasti Temple
The Mahasivaratri Brahmotsava is the most important and auspicious festival of the temple. There are innumerable devotees who gather in the temple during this time. This 12 days festival is celebrated during the Kartik month on an annual basis. Mahasivaratri, Nandi Seva, Lingodbhavam, Rathotsavam, Teppotsavam, Sri Swami-Ammavarla Kalyanotsavam, Palki Seva are some of the most vital aspects of this festival.
The Aadi Krithika festival is for the worship of Lord Kumaraswamy as it is his power day. The Krithika star day of the Aadi month marks for a rejuvenating occasion to rebuild one’s positive energy. Pilgrims gather at the Vignana Giri to worship during this festival.
Kedaari Gowri Vratham is celebrated on Diwali at the temple premises. Thousands of women gather in this temple every year to worship Ammavaru. People wear new clothes, lit lamps and seek blessings during this event.
On occasions such as Brahmosavams, Vijayadasami, New Year, Ugadi, Ekadashi and Mukkoti, pilgrims from surrounding places pay a visit to this temple.
Poojas and Rituals at Srikalahasti Temple
The priest performs the Rahu Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja in the temple from 6 AM to 7 PM on all days except for Maha Shivaratri. A large number of pilgrims belief that the most auspicious days to observe this puja is on an Amavasya day in a calendar month or Sunday Amavasya. This puja removes all the doshas of the people who suffer from various long-term problems or have no children.
The Unjal Seva is a special service to the Lord and the Goddess on every full moon day. In this puja, the deities adorned with precious ornaments for seven weeks. The pilgrims make an endowment of Rs 5000 and in this Seva, the devotees offer service to the God and the Goddess with their own hands.
Nandi Seva is another service which the visitors offer by paying Rs 6500. It can be performed on any day and Abhishekam is done in their name besides giving tirtha and annaprasadas. The heavenly couple is taken out on beautifully decorated Silver Nandi and Simha Vahanam for procession at night.
Abhishekam refers to ‘Bathing the Lingam’. It is the most important ritual of the temple along with the daily prayers. Abhishekams are performed four times in a day and signify the act of cleansing and singing melodious hymns praising the Lord. During this process, flowers along with sandal paste and sacred threads are offered to the God.
Panchakarpur refers to paste comprising camphor, water, honey, milk and is the most important Abhishekam. Rudra Abhishekam refers to bathing the Lord with milk and camphor and chanting mantras and prayers. Pala Abhishekam signifies bathing the Lord with milk and Panchamrutha Abhishekam is offered to both the Lord and Gnana Pransunambika.
Nitya Annadana Scheme
The Nitya Annadana Scheme provides free food to the devotees who visit this temple. An average of 200 pilgrims is fed on a daily basis under this plan. Moreover, it is in the name of the donor who can contribute any amount over Rs 1116. Every year on the day of the donor’s choice, annadanam is provided by using the interest derived from the endowment. People who donate Rs 1000 are Poshakas, Rs 25000 are Raja Poshakas and those who donate Rs 50000 are Maharaja Poshakas. The donations can be sent to the Executive Officer of the temple by way of a demand draft that can be drawn from any bank.
How to Reach Srikalahasti Temple – Road, Rail, and Air
Air- The easiest way to reach this temple by air is the Tirupati Airport. For foreign visitors, the Chennai International airport is the major airport locates at a distance of 99 km from the Srikalahasteeswara temple.
Rail- Sri Kalahasti railway station is the nearest to the temple and it is on the Tirupati-Vijayawada broad gauge rail route. The closest railway junction is Renigunta which is only 25 km from the temple.
Road- A traveler can reach the temple through road as well. Both KSRTC and APSRTC operate buses during the day and night. APSRTC has frequent buses at every 1 and half hour from Tirupati. It also offers special tourist packages like Yathra darsini and Divyadarsini.
Hotels near Srikalahasti Temple – Where to stay
There are many guest houses near the Srikalahasteeswara Temple where one can stay. From affordable single to double and dormitory, there are a variety of options for accommodation. One can also book air conditioned rooms as per their requirement.
And if you want to unwind, there are multiple luxury hotels with world class modern facilities.
Where to eat
There are many restaurants and small eatery joints in the surrounding area of the Srikalahasteeswara Temple. One can taste authentic Indian food at a decent price. Also, for people looking out for international cuisines, Andhra Pradesh offers exotic restaurants that provide an array of delicacies to suit one’s taste buds.
Sri Subrahmanya Swami Temple – It is on the north eastern side and is one of the important destinations for people who visit the Srikalahasteeswara shrine.
Bhakta Kannappa Temple – This shrine is for Bhakta Kannappa and is on Kailasagiri. It is on the eastern side of the Srikalahasteeswara temple.
Durgamma Temple – This is situated on the hillock northern direction of the temple.
Sri Prasanna Varadaraja Swami Temple – This temple stands near to the Srikalahasteeswara Swamy temple as an epitome of religious harmony.
Panchamukheswaram – This auspicious shrine is both significant and rare in its own right. This temple of Lord Siva is unique and of great importance next to that of Nepal.