The Nine Shrines of Nallamala, Thiru SingaverKundram-Part II
I dont know why but everytime I decide to write about a Divyadesa, I am hardly able to fit it all in one post. There is simply too much to tell. And so it happens with Ahobilam.
“Dhaivamallaal sella onnaa Singavel Kunrame||” –Periya Thirumozhi 1.7.4
In the above Paasuram of Thirumanga Azhwaar on the Lord of Ahobilam, he wonders if the divine thirupathi of Thiru Singaverkundram is accessible only to the Gods themselves. Such is the hardship that one had to encounter to have the divya darshana of the Nava Narasimhas. The fact still remains true in part. Though the accessibilities of the NavaNarasimha shrines have been eased through generous Kainkaryams of the Azhagiya Singars, there are shrines that cannot be reached easily without a hard trek.
The kshetra of Ahobilam is divided into two as the Eguvu Ahobilam or the Upper Ahobilam and the Diguvu Ahobilam or the Lower Ahobilam. Lower ahobilam houses the single temple to Prahaladha Varadhan while the rest of the 9 Nava narasimha temples of upper Ahobilam can be reached only after a hard trek.
The temple of Prahalada Varadhan in lower Ahobilam is a small and elegant structure that lends itself to the Vijayanagara style of architecture. The temple consists of the sanctum, a Mukha mandapam which is used as the kalyana mandapam and an intricately carved Ranga mandapam. There are also three other shrines dedicated to Andal, Thaayar and the alwars. A temple dedicated to Venkateshwara is also present a little away from the main temple. Much of the temple was built by the Vijayanagara and the Kaakathiya kings. There is a tall jayasthambam just outside the temple that was erected to comemmorate the victory of Krishnadeva Raya in a war.
The rest of the Nava Narasimhars reside in upper Ahobilam within a circle of a radius of five kilometres, among the seven hills of the Nallamala range. The Nava Narasimhars are usually worshipped in the order of the accessibility to their shrines, starting with the easiest and then moving on to the more difficult ones. The trek to the Nava sannidhis is quite breathtaking in the views that you get and the number of ponds, waterfalls and rivulets that you come across on the path of your yathra.
Bhargava Narasimhar sannidhi is located at a distance of two kilometres from lower Ahobilam. It is situated by a sacred pond, Bhargava theertham, where Shri Bhargava Raama had performed his penance. Hence the deity here is know as Bhargava Narasimhar.
One other of the Nava Narasimhas located close to the Prahalada varadhan temple is Yogaananda Narasimhar. It is believed that after killing Hiranya, the lord taught Prahalada various yogic positions and exercises at this very place and that the lord has remained in his yogic form to bless the devotees.
The Shrine of Chathravada Narasimhar is located around three kilometres from the base and has the idol of Shri Narasimha installed beneath a Peepul tree. The idol is surrounded by a thicket of thorns and bushes which is the reason for his very name.
After a rigorous climb of eight kilometres one then reaches the door steps of Shri Ahobila Narasimha Swami. This is the earliest of all the Nava Narasimha temples. He is worshipped here in his terrific aspect of Shri Ugra Narasimha. This happens to be the main temple of Upper Ahobilam and it is believed that the lord in this temple is a swayambhu of extraordinary power.
A further short walk from the Ahobila Narasimha temple brings one to the shrine of Krodakaara Narasimha. Interestingly, here He is portrayed with the head of a boar (Kroda). This happens to be the Varaaha aspect of the lord. It is of widespread belief that if the Varaaha Kaanda Paarayanam is done in the temple for three days, the devotee is blessed with immense spiritual benefits.
One kilometre from upper Ahobilam lies the temple of Karanja Narasimha swami. Here the idol of Narasimha has been installed beneath a Karanja tree and hence the name. Interestingly, the idol has a bow in His hand, a weapon often associated with a later avatar of Shri Raama.
A further walk of 2 kilometres from upper Ahobilam brings us to the doors of the Malola Narasimha swami temple. This is perhaps the most famous of all the Nava Narasimha shrines. Here, the lord gives darshan in his graceful form totally devoid of anger. The priests attribute it to the presence of His consort, Mahalakshmi. Malolan literally translates to one who has the mother (Ma) ,Laksmi herself, as his beloved (Lola). The utsava moorthy of Shri Malolan was given to the temple by Prathaparudra Kaakathiya, the greatest of the Kaakathiya rulers. Legend says that when Prathapa Rudra returned victorious from a war, he wanted to thank the gods and decided to cast a golden idol of Shiva. But trouble came along when, try however much he might, the cast always turned out to be that of Narasimha. Deeply perturbed by the turn of events he went into a deep state of meditation. It was there that the Lord revealed to him that it is base foolishness to differentiate between Vishnu and Shiva and to cast the idol of Shri Narasimha for the Ahobila temples. This idol of Malolan is usually carried along with the Jeeyars of the Matham when they go for their yathras. When the Jeeyar returns, the famous Serthi Utsavam is conducted when the utsavar is kept back along with the moolavar. Every Serthi Utsavam is regarded as a Mangalaasasanam to the lord by the Jeeyar.
Four Kilometres from the temple of Upper Ahobilam, upon a small hillock called Achalaachaya Medu is the temple dedicated to Jwaala Narasimhar. This place is believed to have been the threshold of Hiranya’s Palace, where the Lord’s wrath reached its highest point, which culminated in Hiranya Vadham.
Near the temple of Jwaala Narasimhar lies the final of the Nava Narasimha kshetras, the Paavana Narasimhar temple. Since this temple is situated by the banks of river Paavana, the lord is named so.
Apart from the nine temples, there happens to be another object of high reverence at Ahobilam, the very pillar from which Narasimha pounced out to drink the blood of Hiranya. This is now referred to as Ugrasthambam. It is situated at a distance of eight kilometres from Upper ahobilam and can be reached only after a near vertical climb. The hill at that point is split into two by a cleft, which people attribute to the shockwave that was created when Narasimha made His appearance.
There is also a shrine dedicated to Prahalaada Narasimhar in a place referred to as Prahalaada mettu. It is believed to be the place where Prahalaada practiced his lessons on a day to day basis.
The whole Nallamala range of mountains is also dotted with a number of theerthams and sacred ponds. The Alwar Koneru near lower Ahobilam is one of the best sources of clean drinkable water. Kaalava Theertham happens to be the place where Kaalava munivar did his penance to gain a darshan of the lord. The Rama Lakshmana theertham near the base is where lord Raama and Lakshmana had a bath to worship Narasimha when they went out in search of Sita. Bheema theertham was constructed by Maheshwaran himself. Sanga theertham was made by a rishi named Sangar for his ritual worship of the lord. Varaaha theertham happens to have been formed from a drop of water that fell from Sri Varaaha’s tusks when he rescued Bhoodevi. The Sudarshana theertham was the place where King Ambareesha meditated on Sudarshanaalwar to get his anugraham. Soodha theertha was the holy lake by which Narayana himself stood as a mango tree giving out fruits to 18,000 rishis who were performing penance by its shores. Thaara theertham is the one from which water is used to prepare the daily naivedhya for each of the Nava Narasimhars. Vinayaka theertham has lord Vinayaka eternally praying at its banks for the good of the world. Bhairava theertham was where Bhairava cut off his head to stop the fast flowing Bhavanasini river from damaging the temples. Gajakundam happens to be the only place where the elephants of the forest take their water from. And finally there is Raktha Kundam, where it is believed that Narasimha washed his blood smeared hands after the killing of Hiranya. As a result the waters here are still murky and red. Each of these theerthas have their own benefits for those bathing in them. It is also believed that these are not individual ponds but just outbursts of the sacred Bhavanasini at various points in the mountains.
The temples at Ahobilam celebrate their Brahmotsavam in the month of Panguni, two weeks after Shivarathri. The Brahmotsavam draws a lot of people to the town and grand festivities are held for the 10 day long festival. The high point is ofcourse the marriage of Shri Lakshmi Narasimha. It is believed that when Vishnu took the Narasimha avatara, Mahalakshmi was born in the Chenchu tribe. These tribes happen to be the local tribes of the region. Narasimha then married Chenchu Lakshmi and lived in the warm hospitality of the Chenchus. So fond of them did he become that when time came for them to go back to Vaikuntha, Narasimha is said to have refused to do so. The Kalyana utsava is therefore the highlight for the tribes of the mountains.
One particular Chenchu tribe, the Padmasalis claim themselves to be the parent clan of Chenchu Lakshmi, and hold themselves responsible for her marriage. Every year one person is chosen by lot to act as the father for Chenchu Lakshmi and give her away in marriage to Malolan. The Nishchayathartham or the engagement is a sight to behold. The utsavars of both the Lord and the Thayar are brought out as the negotiations of marriage are held between the Padmasalis and the lord himself. Such is the love that the tribes have for their Lord. It is believed to be the greatest honor to give away Chenchu Lakshmi in marriage to Sri Malolan.
Apart from the Panguni Brahmotsavam, Narasimha Jayanthi, Sri Jayanthi,Vaikunda ekadashi etc happen to be some other special festivals of the temples at Ahobilam. Special poojas are also held every month on the day of Swathi nakshatram, the birth star of Narasimha. Apart from these, the jeeyars conduct poojas to the utsavar of Malolan in a grand manner every day. Every day happens to be special in this divya desa.
Thus ends my narrative on Ahobilam, an ancient and sacred place, where forest fires still erupt with the ugram of the lord, where the roars of lions echo all throughout day and night, and where the Lord himself had walked upon ages and ages ago, to heed to the cry of a darling devotee.
A yathra of Ahobilam would surely require a lot of strength, physical, mental and spiritual. It is often said that people cant come to Ahobilam unless Lord Narasimha himself decides to bring them there. I have not yet had the fortune of visiting this Divyadesa but would love to visit it in the near future, Malolan willing!!!