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Ahobilam is located in Karnool district of Andhra Pradesh in the hills of the eastern ghats, about 400 KM northwest of Chennai.
The temple consists of nine shrines to Lord Nrisimha located around a 5 KM circle. In addition to the nine shrines, there is a temple for Prahaladavarada Varadhan in the foothills of the mountain. Due to security reasons and the difficulty in performing daily worship, many of the utsava vigrahasof the nine shrines are kept in this temple.
Garuda wished for a vision of Lord Nrisimha in the form of the Avathara. To fulfill his wish, the Lord settled in the hills around Ahobilam in the midst of dense forests in nine different forms. For this reason this hill came to be known as Garudadri, Garudachalam, and Garudasailam.
Ahobilam is the place where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada. Mahalakshmi took avathar as Senjulakshmi among the Senju, tribal hunters of the hills, and married the Lord.
Sri Ahobila Muth, one of the most important Sri Vaishnava religious institutions in India, was established by Sri Athivan Satakopan at the instructions of Lord Lakshmi Nrisimha of Ahobilam. In fact, the utsava moorthy of the Malola Nrisimha temple, one of the nine shrines of Ahobilam, is the presiding deity of Sri Ahobila Mutham. Sri Malolan accompanies Srimad Azhagiya Singar, the spiritual and titular head of Sri Ahobila Mutham, on his travels.
Thirumangai Azhvaar has sung ten verses about this temple in Periya Thirumozhi.
The Himalayas rise high to the Everest in the north while the far south of India shows the deep sea - rather communion of the three oceans. The western region and the eastern region of the Peninsular India, on the other hand, while tapering towards Kanyakumari, exhibit a wide range of mountains known as Western Ghats present wholesome sceneries and adventurous travel both by rail and road, the Eastern Ghats display not only picturesque view but demonstrate divinity as well. The Eastern Ghats are likened to the great serpent Adhisesha basking in the sun with its head (or hood) at Thirumala, its middle at Ahobilam and its tail- end portion at Srisailam - all the three with famous temples on them.
The subject we have before us is Ahobilam. Of course, Thirupathi and Srisailam are also frequented pilgrimage centres. Ahobilam because of this special issue. Not only Mahabharatha; but also ancient puranas like Koorma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana mention about Ahobilam and its presiding deity Narasimha. In fact, Brahmanda Purana says that this place was once the palace of Hiranyakasipu who was slain by Sriman Narayana manifesting as Narasimha from a pillar there for the sake of his staunch devotee Prahlada. Vagaries of time brought about the destruction of the then existing structures yielding place to nature's creation of the mountain range that preserved the site of incarnation as "Svayam Vyakta Kshetram" of Lord Narasimha.
According to Stala Purana, there are two popular legends for the derivation of the word 'Ahobilam'. It is stated that the Devas (Gods), while witnessing the terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the lord took on in order to tear to pieces Hiranyakasipu sung in His praise as 'Ahobala' (Lo: the strength). Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobilam. In support of this, there is a prapatthi sloka about-Ahobilam that reads:-
"Aho Veeryam Aho Souryarn Aho Bahuparakramah
The other version is that because of the great cave, the Ahobila, where Garuda worshipped, did penance and realised the lord, the place itself has come to be called Ahobilam. The Ahobilam 'Kaifiyat' gives support to this legend. (The Ahobilam Kaifiyat forming part of Mackenzie collections gives very valuable information regarding the Ahobilam temples. Kaifiyats - the digests from 'Kaviles' or village registers containing information on the political, social, religious and other conditions of the villages in Deccan were prepared by Pandits and Mussadis working under Col. Mackenzie.) The Ahobilam Kaifiyat is in Telugu and available in the State Archives at Hyderabad (vide "Ahobila Narasimhaswamy temple" - Monograph by P. Sitapati, Commissioner of Archives).
As per this record, "On one of the mountains in the Nallamalai hills range, eight amadas from Srisaila Kshetra, Garuda commenced silent penance to obtain a vision of Lord Narasimha who destroyed Hiranyakasipu. The Lord in his grace, after long years of the tapas of Garuda, manifested Himself in the cave of a mountain".
"Ten 'Paruvus' to the north-east of the mountain, where Garuda was doing penance, a vision of His manifestation was then granted to Garuda, who after obtaining a sign of the location of the mountain-cave, gladly traveled thither and saw the embodiment of the Sathsvaroopa,' Mahapurusha, Lord Jwalanarasimha - not easily accessible to common people. Garuda then worshipped the Lord and praised him that 'Ahobilam is Mahabalam' (Ahobilam is a great sustainer with strength). The Lord's Divya Mangala Vigraha was worshipped by him with several sthotras- Garuda then considered himself as blessed after a vision of the Lord. This divine place thereafter obtained the deserving name of Ahobilam".
"The mountain on which Garuda performed tapas became famous as Garudachala. In the days of yore when truth and dharma prevailed, great heat was observable near the mountain- cave of Ahobila; according to legend when green grass was put in the cave, it would catch fire and smoke would be emitted. Several great Rishis lived there for a time; after sometime with the knowledge that great places would become common Janapadas in the Kali age, they left for northern lands, covering up the Narasimha cave with boulders. Traditionally therefore this place is being called the Narasimha Kshetra. There are thus nine Narasimha places, Nava-Narasimhas; Rishi- installed and worshipping areas:
Jwala Ahobila Malola Kroda Karanja Bhargava
The Nine Narasimhasthalas are :- 1. Jwala Narasimha 2. Ahobila Narasimha 3. Malola Narasimha 4. Kroda Narasimha 5. Karanja Narasimha 6. Bhargava Narasimha 7. Yogananda Narasimha 8. Kshatravata Narasimha and 9. Pavana or holy Narasimha.
Before visiting these nine shrines, let us see how we approach the place. Situated in the Nallamalai Hills, Ahobilam is about 24 Kms. from Allagadda Taluk Headquarters, 112 Kms. from Cudappah and 65 Kms. from Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh and can be reached by bus from Hyderabad and also by rail via Kurnool and then by bus from there. Long long ago, the Tamil mystic bard, Thirumangai Azhwar sang that Singavel Kunram (Ahobilam) was accessible to none but Gods.
Due to the efforts of the current 45th Srimad Azhagiyasingar, the access routes to several of the shrines have been greatly simplified such that people of different age groups are now able to visit the places easily. The whole complex is in two parts - one called Eguvu Ahobilam (Upper Ahobilam) with Nava Narasimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobilam (Lower Ahobilam) with a single shrine for Lakshmee Narasimha connected by a road, stretching a distance of about 12.8 Kms. from Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam.
The Sthalapurana of Ahobilam in Sanskrit gives an account of nine forms of Narasimha, worshipped here. They are: -
1. BHARGAVA NARASIMHA SWAMY
2. YOGANANDA NARASIMHA SWAMY
3. CHATRAVATA NARASIMHA SWAMY
4. AHOBILA NARASIMHA SWAMY
5. KRODAKARA (VARAHA) NARASIMHA SWAMY
6. KARANJA NARASIMHA SWAMY
7. MALOLA NARASIMHA SWAMY
8. JWALA NARASIMHA SWAMY
9. PAVANA NARASIMHA SWAMY
In addition to the shrines mentioned above, there is a famous shrine dedicated to God Narasimha Swamy in the Lower Ahobilam, which is popularly known as Prahlada Varada Sannidhi. The other objects of this place are 'Ugra Sthambham' and 'Prahlada Mettu'.
(a) UGRA STHAMBHAM
(b) PRAHALADA METTU
There are a number of holy 'theerthas' (water ponds) round this place. Of these, Rakthakundam is the most important. It is stated that Lord Narasirnha after killing the demon Hiranyakasipu, washed his hands in this 'theertham' and hence the water is still reddish in appearance. (History of the cult of Narasimha in Andhra Pradesh by Dr. M. Narasimhacharya).
What is apparent and observable is Lord Narasimha's posture in three places including the one in a polar of a divine ascetic presenting ascetic order to the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt. Both in the Upper and Lower Ahobilam, it is a common sight on the pillars of Lord Narasimha wooing His consort Chenchulakshmi. The Lord chasing Hiranyakasipu in one pillar and bursting forth from another pillar to tear him are very realistic. Thanks to the 44th Jeeyar's efforts as also that of the Endowments Department of A.P. Government, the complex has been renovated, though a lot is desired to be done. It would not be out of place to mention that good resting places, free or paid boarding arrangements (as is done in Thirupathi), provision of enough drinking water and Devasthanam canteens would go a long way to attract more number of pilgrims. The annual uthsavam (Brahmothsava) performed in February every year is a great attraction that lure both the common folk and the religious Pandits to participate in them. Though under the care of the Ahobila Mutt whose Jeeyars are hereditary trustees, co-operation from the public and the government would help improve Ahobilam further.
There is a tall Jayasthambham erected in the spacious ground outside the temple walls to mark the victory of Krishnadeva Raya. The Kakatheeya Kings especially Prathapa Rudra had also contributed towards additional structures and maintenance of this Ahobilam complex.
Sri Thirumangai Azhwar describes the place as very hard to visit (sendru kandarkku ariya kovil, kavvu naayum kazhugum, deivamallal sella vonna), but due to the efforts of the 45th Azhagiyasingar, this place has transformed into "sendru kaandarku eliya (easy) kovil. Many devotees visit ahobilam frequently and the place is well connected with a guest house and access to trains from Chennai, Bangalore and Bombay. In addition, several tourist operators also frequently arrange religious trips to Ahobilam from major cities.
Ahobhilam (Telugu: అహోబిళం, Sanskrit: अहोबिलं) also known as Ahobalam is located in the Allagadda mandal of Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located at a distance of 40 km from Nandyal and about 150 km from Kurnool, the district headquarters. There are two temple houses, lower Ahobilam and upper Ahobilam.
Tamil poems "The Nalayira Divya Prabandham (Tamil:C )" is a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses (Naalayira in Tamil means 'four thousand') composed before 8th century AD, by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centurieshas .In this ten poems dedicated to the god of Ahobilam.These were composed by Tirumangai Alwar (Tamil:திருமங்கை அழ்வார்),Tamil saint Tirumangai Alwar(one of the twelve Alvars,who lived in the 8th Century A.D has composed ten poems in praise of the God of Ahobilam.Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.Vaishanava bhakti literature was an all-India phenomenon, which started in the 6th-7th century A.D. in the Tamil-speaking region of South India, with twelve Alvar (one who is immersed in God) saint-poets, who wrote devotional songs. The religion of Alvar poets, which included a woman peot, Andal, was devotion to God through love (bhakti), and in the ecstasy of such devotions they sang hundreds of songs which embodied both depth of feeling and felicity of expressions (Indian literature(Official Website of Govt of India), Sri Vaishnavam
Aho is an exclamation word. Bhalam (bhalam means energy). It is equivalent of 'oh the mighty energy' and thus aho-bhalam of lord Narasimha swamy. One famous slokam that explains this is:
Meaning: Oh! what a great valour he has! oh his great gallantry! oh those great powerful shoulders of the greatest of the Gods Lord Narasimha, and what a mighty cave it is! and what a mighty divine strength He has!
Annamacharya also mentions in his slokas about Ahobalam.
Meaning: She is goddess Ramaa who established herself amidst us. She is Alamelumanga dear to all. She is the eternal treasure established on Venkatadri and Ahobalam
There are nine temples around the Nallamala Forest range, and in terms of sculpture and architecture all these nine temples stands to be an ultimate testament for the ancient sthapathis in planning and sculpting these temples. A few temples can be reached through trekking. Some temples are inside the cave. Some temples are very difficult to trek to. The nine planets that define the human fates are believed to have worshipped these nine Lord Narasimhas to get relief from Rakshashas (demons) and curses of sages for their actions. This is main theme of the work of the great Telugu poet Errana, the “Nrisimha Puranam”. The hereditary powers of the temple rest with the Pontiff HH Azhagiyasingar of Ahobila Mutt. Currently the 45th Jeeyar of this lineage is the reigning Pontiff. Occasionally when HH Jeeyar performs Mangalasasanam (pays respects at the temple) at Ahobilam, the Serthi Utsavam is performed (the Moolavar of Malola Nrusimhar and the Utsavar) are united.
According to legends it is believed that when the Devas saw the manifestation of Lord Vishnu as half-lion, half-man, they shouted "Ahobala" (great strength) as well as "Ahobila" (great cave in which the current sanctum is). Hence, this place could be called either "Ahobalam" or "Ahobilam". The mention of this place is present in Brahmanda Purana. The place where Lord Narayana appeared from the stone pillar to kill Hiranyakashipa can be seen in this place. The name of this pillar is Ugra Sthambha, which is now referred as “Ukku SThambha” in Telugu, which incorrectly translates to iron pillar.
Diguva and Eguva (Lower and upper Ahobilas)
In the lower Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha Swami is in a peaceful form. The temple has exquisite stone art. The history of Ahobila temple is sculptured in the stone form. Lord Srinivasa himself is said to installed the main deity here. He is said to have sought the blessings of Narasimha before his wedding but finding the Narasihma in fierce form in Upper Ahobila, he is said to have installed the peaceful form in the lower Ahobila. The temple complex also had temples for Adivan Sathagopulu. The sculptures of coronation of Lord Srirama (Sreerama Pattabhishekha), the ten incarnation of Lord Vishnu (Dasavatharas), statues of Poet Annamacharya are present on the walls of the temple. Annamacharya is said to have spent some time here composing songs praising the Lord Narasimha. The great sage Lord Pothuluri Veerabrahmendra Swamy is said to have meditated here to write Kalagnana (the knowledge of the future) which set forth a spiruitual movement. It is a common practice to worship the Prahlada Varada Narasimha (the Narasimha who gave boons to Prahlada) in lower Ahobilam before worshipping Eguva (Upper) Ahobila Narasimha, who is present eight kilometers away on a hilltop inside a cave. After worshipping the Lord, it is another practice to visit Navanarasimhas (nine Narasimhas). The legend says Lord Narasimha, after slaying Hiranyakasipa was roaming around the forest hills of Ahobilam making fearsome laughs and settling at nine places to bless the devotees. Here are the Nava Narasimha temples. Another legend describes when Lord Garuda did penance to see Lord Vishnu in Lord Narasimha form. Thereafter, Lord Narasimha took nine different forms in this hill.
Lord Narasimha in nine forms are
Bhargava Narasimha Swamy
This Lord is present on a hillock at a distance of 2.5 km from Lower Ahobilam, with Akshaya (inexhaustible) thertha (lake). Lord Parsurama is said to have performed penance for Lord Narasimha. An worship of the Lord after a bath in the Akshaya Theertha would make the Lord give Lakshmikara (hand possessing Goddess Lakshmi or prosperity) thus blessing in all manners.
Yogananda Narasimha Swamy
This place is suitable for meditation. Prahlada is said to have obtained all the prosperity after meditating upon the Lord here. The compassionate Lord here rescues the people who seek help out of difficulties.
Chatravata Narasimha Swamy
One of the astrological planets, Ketu is said to have worshipped the Lord here and gained all comforts. People willing to study fine arts seek blessings from this Lord.
Ahobila (Ugra) Narasimha Swamy
This is the main Lord of all Nava Narasimha's and is also referred as the main temple in Upper Ahobilam. Goddess Chenchu (local forest tribe who have been ardent worshippers of the Lord for ages) Lakshmi is with the Lord. Heart-felt prayer to the lord destroys all fear and timidness.
Varaha Narasimha Swamy
Located at a distance of 1 km from Upper Ahobilam,Present with the divine consort Lakshmi, Lord removes the obstacles and ensures success to the worshippers.This temple is also referred as Kroda Narasimha swamy. The statue is in side a small rock cut formation facing the perennial stream of water.
Malola Narasimha Swamy
This temple is present in Lakshmi Parvata (Hill). Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi along with the Lord, bestows blessing on the devotees. Worshipping this Lord brings Brahmananda (unlimited joy) to this world and the higher world.
Jwala Narasimha Swamy
Lord Narsimha appears fierce slaying Hiranyakasipa with his nails. Serving the Lord ensures success in all efforts, marriages are made. Lighting a ghee lamp in the month of the Karthika and meditating on Lord dispels all sins and brings fame and name. This temple is the toughest to reach compared to other Narasimha temples. A small red water pond named "Raktha Gunda Theertham" can be seen on the way to the temple which is said to be the place where Narasimha swamy washed his hands after slaying the Demon.
Paavana Narasimha Swamy
This is said to be the most peaceful form among the Nava Narasimha Kshetras. This is said to Kshetra Ratna (jewel among the Kshetras)and is also referred as Pamuleti Narasimha swamy. Sages have said that the Lord here liberates the devotees from all the sins in the past lives and sins in the current life (knowingly or unknowingly).
Karanja Narasimha Swamy
Serving the Karanja Swamy with three austerities (thought, word and action) brings enlightenment and the Lord bestows all desires.
Every year, in the month of Phalguna Brahmotsavas (ceremonies performed by the Lord Brahma) are held. Apart from this, every month, on the star day of the Lord, which is Swathi, Gramotsavas (village ceremonies) are celebrated. On that day, Thirumanjan Seva (service) is performed with 108 Kalasas(holy vessels) grandly, A lot of pilgrims visit the temple on the auspicious Swati nakshatra day.
Each of these nine forms have a beautiful story woven with strands of myth, fancy legends and epic tales. According to popular belief, one form of the Lord, the Pavana Narasimhaswamy, when offered the prasad returns half of the offering back to the devotee. On these lines, the Jwala Narasimhaswamy is supposed to be the ferocious form. This form personifies the cumulative and intense anger of the God. It is believed that the original site of shrine of Jwala Narasimhaswamy was the mouth of a volcano and it is only the proxy shrine which is accessible to the devotees.
Belief is that the navagrah's attained their power of being the planet by worshiping these deities of Narashimha. It is believed that the people having malefic effect of any planet could get some reprieve by worshiping Narasimha.
Legend also states that Goddess Mahalakshmi took birth as a human in a tribe, named Chenchu Lakshmi and married Lord Narasimha after the death of Hiranyakashpu. Narasimha Jayanthi will be celebrated with pomp and glory. The local tribals celebrate the marriage of Goddess Mahalakshmi as ChenchuLakshmi and Lord Narasimha.
Sri Ahobilam Mahatyam
The Lord Narasimha is a Vara prasaddhi (One who bestows blessings readily). Hiranyakasyapa (son of Sage Kashyapa) asked for specific boons to ensure his immortality and attained demonic powers due to these boons. Lord Vishnu took form as Lord Narasimha (a complex form of half-man and half-lion) to be able to destroy the demon. Ahobilam is the exact location of the demon Hiranyakashupu's palace, which the epic stories of Lord Narasimha speak of. This place still has remnants, relics and ruins of the demon's palace. The pillar from which the God arose is marked by its base stone and can be accessed after an almost vertical climb up the hill. It is believed that the entire mountain split up into two, due to the impact of pillar getting shattered by God and God rising from it subsequently. The pillar's base stone is thus, on the edge of the cliff. In between the 2 hills is a deep gorge like a cleft. Lower Ahobilam temple deity is said be installed by Tirumala lord Venkateswara himself before his wedding, since the lord of upper Ahobilam has a Ugra (angry) form. There are several Narsimha temples in the surrounding hills like Pamuleti Narasimhaswamy, which are popular among local populations. Lord Narasimha appears in different forms as Ugra Murthi(aggressive form), Shanta Murthy (tranquil form), Yoga Murthy (in penance) and Kalyana Murthy with his consort Sri Chenchu Lakshmi.
Legend of Chenchu Lakshmi
After slaying Hiranyakashyapa, Lord Narasimha proceeded to the Nallamala forest in his UgraAvataram (aggressive form). The devas were worried about this form and prayed to Goddess Lakshmi to pacify him. She took form as Chenchu Lakshmi, a tribal girl, in the same forest. On seeing her, Lord Narasimha asked her to marry him. She put him through a lot of tests to calm him down completely before agreeing to marry him.
Since Ahobilam is in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Telugu is widely spoken in the town of Ahobilam.
Up to 1954, people of the Chenchu tribe lived as many families collecting honey and bamboos. As of today, there are only two to five families living there. The remaining families have relocated to different places in Kurnool district; the places being:
It is conveniently accessible by bus from Nandyal, Kurnool and Hyderabad. Ahobilam is not connected by rail; the closest railway stations are Nandyal (on the Bangalore-Vizag(Visakhapatnam) route) and Cuddapah (on the Mumbai-Chennai route). There are three routes reaching Ahobilam. Pilgrims from the north can get down at Nandyal, which is a Railway junction from Kurnool, and travel by bus to Allagadda and Ahobilam, which is only thirty miles from Nandyal. The second route is from Dhone which is another railway station and from which one can reach Ahobilam via Banganapalle and Koilkuntla.
The other and easy route is to get down at Kadapa which is a district headquarters and an important railway station in the Madras - Bombay route. From Cuddapah one has to travel to Allagadda, which is forty miles over and from there by bus to Ahobilam