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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Andhra temples - Ahobila - Ahobala Nava Narasimha Kshetras/Temples - Singavel Kundram

 This is one part of an article written by me after visiting the Nava Narasimha and the Lower Ahobilam/Ahobalam shrines on the 3rd and 4th March, 2013. Since it is a long article, it is made into 2 parts one with gist of details and the other with more details. 


 Ahobilam or Ahobalam

The word Ahobilam or Ahobalam is synonymous with Lord Narasimha or Nava Narasimha Kshetras. Ahobilam/Ahobalam is a village nestled in the valleys and base of a section of the Nallamalai ranges of the mountain regions of Vedachalam (Vedadri) and Garudadri branches of the Eastern Ghat in Nandyal Taluk of Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. Ahobilam – Ahobalam consist of 2 parts, the Upper Ahobilam (Eguvu Ahobilam in local language) and Lower Ahobilam (Diguvu Ahobilam). Since this is a place of temples of Narasimha - Lion headed human form, the place is also referred to as Singavel Kundram in Tamil. In Tamil Singam means lion and Kundram means hill. Ahobilam is having a temple complex of 9 temples known a Nava Narasimhas, all dedicated to Lord Narasimha in 9 different Bhavaas (aspects) spread within a radius of about 6 km.  Out of these 9 temples or shrines 6 are in Upper Ahobilam portion and 3 in lower part. Upper part is hilly terrain and lower part is in the base of the hills. The name Ahobilam came from the words Aho Bilam. Aho is an exclamation for awe wonder. Bilam means cave. Garuda (vehicle of Lord Vishnu) wanted to see the form of the 4th incarnation of his Lord, did penance and he got the vision or sight of his Lord in his ferocious form in a cave on the mountain. Hence the Lord and the place were called Aho Bilam (Ahobilam).  The gods and demi gods on seeing the emergence of Lord Narasimha in his powerful and ferocious form exclaimed Aho Balam. Balam means strength, power or might. This later became to be called as Ahobalam.

What is the importance of Ahobilam or Ahobalam?  

o   Ahobilam or Ahobalam is related to the 4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Narasimha. The Lord Narasimha took incarnation in this place. Narasimha is in the form of a human body with lion's head. There is reference of Ahobilam – Ahobalam and Lord Narasimha in Brahmanda Purana, Koorma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata, Ramayana.

2.   Ahobilam or Ahobalam is the place where the demon King Hiranyakasipu had his palace. The place later over a period of time got dilapidated and became dense forest making it impossible for anyone but the god to approach. But now thanks to the efforts of the 44th Jeeyar (head of Ahobila Mutt) with the support of A P Government and prominent institutions like TVS group and others, repairs and renovations are done to a great extent. But still a lot is to be done to make it easy for the devotees to visit some of the shrines. 

    The Lords – Rudra/Siva, Brahma, Venkateswara/Srinivasa, and saints - Gurus Adi Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhwacharya, Garudalwar, Pragaladhalwar and Thirumangai Alwar had been here and sung in praises of Lord Narasimha and got his blessings. 

      For the above reasons Ahobila Narasimha is praised as “Periya Periya Perumal" (Lord of Lords) in Tamil.

Brief details of the Nava Narasimha temples

As mentioned AhobilamAhobalam pilgrim center called Nava Narasimhas or Narasimha Kshetram have 9 temples. However in addition to these 9 temples there are other 4 shrines connected with Lord Narasimha, one of which is very important and other 3 considered as not so important and skipped mostly. Out of these temples 3 are in lower Ahobilam and 6 in upper Ahobalam. Out of the 4 shrines not forming part of the 9, the important one Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami temple is in lower part and the other 3 – Ugra Sthambam, Prahlada Mettu (school or padi) and Chenchulakshmi shrine are on the upper portion. Let us see the Nava Narasimha temples/shrines in brief. They are Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple, Ugra (Ahobila) Narasimha Swamy temple, Malola (Lakshmi) Narasimha Swamy temple, Varaha (Kroda - Krodakara) Narasimha Swamy temple, Karanja Narasimha Swamy temple, Pavana (also pronounced as Bhavana) Narasimha Swamy temple, Yogananda Narasimha Swamy temple, Chatravata Narasimha Swamy temple and Bhargava Narasimha Swamy temple. Out of these Yogananda Narasimha Swamy shrine, Chatravata Narasimha Swamy shrine and Bhargava Narasimha swami shrine are in Lower Ahobilam and the remaining 6 are in upper Ahobalam. 

1.     Jwala Narasimha Swamy Temple

As the name indicates the Lord Narasimha Swamy here is fierce like a raging fire (Jwala).  It is the top most shrines among the Nava Narasimha temples. It is very difficult to go to that temple as the path is narrow with over 1000 steps, some very steep and ramp like gradients and partly very smooth making it slippery. One side of the path is a very deep gorge. Dollis are available for hire at about Rs 2000 per person. Even that is to some extent risky. This is a cave shrine. The temple has idols of a pillar broken and the Lord coming out of it, the lord in a sitting posture on door sill with the demon king Hiranyakasipu kept in lap and tearing the same with hands, an idol of Prahlada below the Lord, idols of planets Budha and Sukra.

2.     Ahobila Narasimha Swamy (Ahobaleswar) or Ugra Narasimha Swamy Temple

The village got its name from the name of the Lord of this temple. This is also a cave temple.  Here the idol of the Lord Narasimha is in extremely angry mood. There are the idols of Siva and Parvathi installed here. This temple is connected by a fairly good road and can be reached by vehicles.

3.     Malola Narasimha (Lakshmi Narasimha) Swamy Temple 

    The word Malola means – Ma (mother - goddess) and Lola means beloved – beloved to the  Lord. It is another name of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of the Lord. According to legend the gods requested goddess Lakshmi to calm the furious Lord. She took birth as a 'Chenchu' (tribal) and after the Lord killed the Demon King Hiranyakasipu approached the Lord. The Lord married her and became calmer. In this temple the idol of  the Lord is with the goddess Chenchu Lakshmi on his lap.He has a benevolent appearance here.
      4.   Varaha Narasimha (Kroda or Krodakara) Swamy Temple
Varaha - Kroda means boar. Lord Mahavishnu who took 4th incarnation as Lord Narasimha had his earlier (3rd) incarnation as Boar with huge tusks to rescue the earth from the Demon Hiranyaksha, who hid it. Hiranyaksha is the younger brother of Demon King Hiranyakasipu whom the Lord Narasimha killed. The idol of this temple is like a boar - human body with the head of boar. The consort goddess Lakshmi is there and he is lifting the earth balancing it on his tusks.  

5.     Kaaranja Narasimha Swamy Temple
Karanja is a tree known in English as Millettia pinnata (Jatropha). Here the Lord is under a Karanja tree. Hence he is known as the Karanja Narasimha Swamy. It is believed that Lord Hanuman wanted to have the darshan  or vision of Lord Narasimha as his Lord Rama and did severe penance here. The Lord was pleased and appeared here with a bow and arrow the weapon of Lord Rama in one of the hands and with third eye. Through the 3rd eye the Lord showed the visvaroopa darsanam (a vision of the whole universe) making Hanuman to realize that the Lords Narasimha, Rama etc are one and the same and are part of Lord Vishnu  . A small shrine with a tall Hanuman installed is there very near to the sanctum of this temple.   

          Yogananda Narasimha Swamy Temple 

Here the idol of the Lord Narasimha is in Yoga posture. It is the belief that the Lord taught Yoga and other knowledge to his devotee (Bhakta) Prahlada at this place. The Lord is in a very calm and serene pose in this shrine.

7.     Chathra Vata Narasimha Swamy Temple 

The Lord here was under a Banyan (Vata Vriksha) tree. Since the tree was like an umbrella to the Lord, the Lord is called as the Chathra Vata Narasimha Swamy. That tree is n o longer there now. Here one of the 2 left hands of the Lord is on the left lap indicating that he is enjoying music with tapping his thigh with palm to the rhythm of the music. All persons pursuing fine arts come here to take the Lord's blessings for proficiency in their pursuit. 

8.     Bharghava Narasimha Swamy Temple 

This temple is on a hillock. One has to trek about ½ km on rough path and climb about 130 steps, some steep. Most of the days the devotees themselves have to light lamps and do the worships. Just by the side of the hillock at the base, there is a small lake. The perennial lake is known as Bhargava Theertham (holy water). It is believed that the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Bhargava Raman – Parasuraman came and meditated here and the Lord appeared here and blessed the Bhargava Raman. Hence the Lord of this shrine is called Bharghava Narasimha Swamy.

9.     Pavana (Bhavana) Narasimha Swamy Temple 

This is the farthest of the 9 temples. This temple is also on a hillock and has to be reached through forest. The path is very rough, tough, uneven and only Jeeps can go there. Since it is very difficult reach there even by jeep the Archaks (priests) stay here in small houses. There is no electricity here. The priests have to get the provision from lower Ahobilam about 8 km away. The rivulet Pavana also spelt as Bhavana passes by the side of this shrine. Hence the Lord here is called as Pavana (Bhavana) Narasimha Swamy.
In addition to the above 9 temples there are other 4 places connected with the Lord
Ahobaleswar. They are:
Ugra Sthambam: Ugra Sthamba means fierce pillar. This is on top of the Vedadri (Vedachal) mountain in Nallamalai range of Eastern Ghat. It is the belief that Lord Narasimha came out of this Sthamba to kill Demon King Hiranyakasipu. It is highly dangerous to attempt to climb to this place as the path is steep, slippery and narrow. This can be seen from half way to the way to Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple.
Prahlada Mettu – Prahlada Padi – Prahlada School: This is a small structure supposed to be the place where Prahlada and his companions were tried to be taught the Asura way (demonic way) of life by demon teachers without success. Very few devotees visit this. It is in between Jwala and Ahobila Narasimha Swamy temples.
Chenchu Lakshmi shrine: This is near Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple. To reach there people may have to crawl through tunnel like path for some distance. This is a shrine worshiped by the local Tribes people. It is the belief that in order to calm the Lord Narasimha from anger, goddess Lakshmi took birth among the tribes people and after the Lord killing Hiranyakasipu seduced the Lord and married him and brought down his anger.

Lower Ahobilam – Ahobalam Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Prahlada Varada Narasimha Swamy temple:

Though this is not part of the original Nava Narasimha temples, is a very important temple. It is well connected with road and is at the base of the hills known as Ahobilam or Ahobalam. As some of the Nava Narasimha Kshetras – temples were extremely difficult to approach, a temple was built here to offer daily worships to the Lord. For the reasons of security and difficult approaches to most of the Upper Ahobilam temples, the Utsva murthis (processional idols) and costly worship articles are kept in this temple. Since the main deity is with his consort Sri Lakshmi he is known as Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. As he blessed his Bhakta Prahlada he is known as Prahlada Varada Narasimha Swamy. The Lord is seen as in a very pleased mood.

The whole temple complex is under the management of a Vaishnav organization known as Ahobila Mutt. This was founded by one Adivan Satakopan. He was the first head of the Mutt and the head of this Mutt is known as Jeeyar. Now the 46th Jeeyar is heading the Mutt. 

Reaching Ahobilam/Ahobalam:

Nearest Airport is Hyderabad which is about 300 km. Chennai and Bangalore will be around 380 km.
Rail Road: Nearest railway station from Mumbai, Chennai etc will be Kadappa. From here people have to reach Ahobilam by Road of about 114 km – about 2 to 2 & 1/2 hours. On Bangalore Vizag route Nandyal is the nearest station. From here it is about 80 km and may take about an hour and half to Ahobilam. From Kurnool the District headquarters (under which Ahobalam is) the distance is about 145 km and may take about 3 hours. From Srisailam another important pilgrim center the distance is about 245 km and may take about 5 hours by road. From another important pilgrim center of Thirupathy this place is about 180 km and may take about 4 hours. Frequent bus services are provided to Ahobilam from all the above centers in AP.

Some shrines in the complex are difficult to reach except by jeeps. Jeeps on sharing basis or for hire are available. Guide is must for some of the shrines.

Accommodation at Ahobilam – Ahobalam   

There are not good private lodges available here.  But the Ahobila Mutt is having an office and guest house with double and single room facilities. Of course these are limited in number and will be advisable to book in advance to avoid hardships. Those who can reach early in the morning may be able to complete the darshan of the Nava Narasimha Kshetras in one day and may return in the evening.  

Contact Details: 
Malola Guest House
Ahobilam 518 545, Kurnool District, A.P
Phone: 08519 – 252 025/0252 045
094905 15284/094407 9273 
The name of the main person is Sri Badri Narayanan - a very good person willing to help.

Part Two about Ahobilam/Ahobalam  

Other Factors making Ahobilam/Ahobalam important

There is an episode in Puranas to the effect that Lord Venkateswara/Srinivasa came here and worshipped Lord Narasimha here to obtain blessings from him before marriage with Goddess Padmavathi.  To give credence this, there is a shrine of Sri Venkateswara Perumal, to the south west of Narasimha Swamy temple.
There is another reference to the effect that the lower Ahobilam temple was originally founded by Lord Venkateswara/Balaji/Srinivasa. Before marriage Lord Srinivasa wanted to get the blessings of the Lord Narasimha. Since the Ahobaleswar (upper Ahobilam) is Ugra, Lord Srinivasa built a shrine and installed ‘Soumya’ Lord Narasimha with consort Lakshmi.
As per a legend Lord Brahma worshipped the Lord Narasimha with Ahobila Mantra and Rudra (Siva) worshipped the lord (with Sri Mantra Raaja Pada Sthothram, Ahirbudhnya Samhita, and Pancha Raathra Aagama). Sri Rama worshipped the Lord according to Vaalmiki Ramayana and got his blessings.
There are references as the heads of the ‘Thrimathasthas’ i.e. the institutions following Adwaith, Visishta Adwaith and Dwaith have come to the Narasimha Kshetras. The Ahobila Perumal, Narasimhar was well sung and praised by Aadi Shankarar, Udayavar Ramanujar and Sri Madhavachariyar, all the 3 top most heads/founders of the 3 sects of Hindu Religious namely the Adwaith, Visishta Adwaith and the Dwaitham. 3 more of the Vaishnavites (Alwars) stalwarts Garudalwar, Pragaladhalwar and Thirumangai Alwar had also sung in praise of this Lord Narasimha. It is believed that all these great personalities came here to avail the blessings of the Lord.
Brahmanda Purana mentions Ahobilam/Ahobalam as the place where Lord Vishnu took incarnation as Lord Narasimha to kill the wicked demon king Hiranyakasipu.
This is the only temple or Kshetra the same god is worshipped in all his different ‘Bhavaas’ or aspects.
As mentioned earlier, this is a place where the Lord Siva worshipped this Lord and the images of Lord Siva and his consorts are there in the shrine/temple of Upper Ahobilam or Ahobaleswar along with some others.
Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Mahavishnu, was worshipped by other incarnations of Mahavishnu, namely the Lord Bhargava Rama and Sri Rama. Sri Rama’s ardent devotee Hanuman also worshipped Lord Narasimha.
As the legend, it is here that Lord Siva explained to his consort goddess Parvathi, the 9 Bhavaas or aspects of the Lord Narasimha by way of Sri Narasimha ‘anushtup’ mantra (hymn – Sanskrit Stothras): ‘Ugram veeram mahavishnum    Jwalatham sarvatho mukham; Nrusimham  bheeshanam  bhadram   Mruthymruthyum namamyaham’ (meaning – my salutations to the Narasimha who is fierce, heroic,  Mahavishnu, who is burning, whose face is everywhere, who is half lion and half man, who is fearful, safe  and death & deathlessness).

One each of the 9 roopas (Bhavaas or aspects) of Lord Narasimha is the aaradya devatha of the Nava Grahas (9 Planets) namely - Surya Bhargava Narasimha Swamy; Chandra Karanja Narasimha Swamy; Mangal/Kuja Jwala Narasimha Swamy; Budha Pavana Narasimha Swamy; Guru/Brihaspathi Ahobila Narasimha Swamy; Shukra Malola Narasimha Swamy; Shani Yogananda Narasimha Swamy; Rahu Kroda (Varaha) Narasimha Swamy; Ketu Chatravata Narasimha Swamy. The nine planets are believed to have worshipped these nine Lord Narasimhas to get relief from Rakshashas (demons) and curses of sages for their actions. This is as mentioned in the poem “Nrisimha Puranam” by the great Telugu poet Erranna. It is believed that Navagrahas powers as planets were obtained by their worship of Lord Narasimha and if people worship the Lord Narasimha, the ill effects of planetary positions will be reduced/removed.

The Nallamala hills stretching in Kurnool and Chittoor Districts of A P, are part of the Eastern Ghat. It is compared to the Serpent King Adi Seshan lying in a coiled form with the hooded head in Thirupathy Venkatagiri where Lord Vrenksteswarn is present, the middle portion of Vedadri (Vedagiri) and Garudadri (Garudagiri) being Ahobilam where Lord Nava Narasimha is present and the tail portion at Sri Sailam where Lord Siva is present.

As per the evidences resent in the lower Ahobilam, Krishna Devarayar; Pratapa Rudra and other kings of Kakatheeya kingdom are actively associated with this temple complex and its improvement.
Till about 3 – 4 generations back, The Upper Ahobalam area was thick forest with wild animals living. Therefore only groups of people are allowed to visit the shrines. Thirumangai Alwar has mentioned this place as very difficult and only gods can visit. But the 44th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt with the active help of A P Government and Philanthropists repaired and renovated the place and now most of the Nava Narasimha Kshetras can be visited by healthy persons. Only 2 of them, Jwala Narasimha and Pavana Narasimha are very difficult to visit.   

For the above reasons Ahobila Narasimha is praised as “Periya Periya Perumal" in Tamil.

Nava Narasimhas 
As mentioned earlier Nava Narasimhas means 9 Narasimhas (9 aspects of Narasimha Swamy). The place consists of a cluster of 9 temples or shrines dedicated to Lord Narasimha (4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu to protect the good from the wicked) in various aspects or forms assumed to satisfy the wishes of his devotees. Though it is mentioned as Nava Narasimhas there are 13 places within a radius of about 10 km.  Some of them are nearly impossible to visit by normal healthy people and some are very difficult to visit even by vehicles. Some of these temples/shrines are caves or n caves.
Let us see them one by one.

Nava Narasimhas 

As mentioned earlier Nava Narasimhas means 9 Narasimhas (9 aspects of Narasimha Swamy). The place consists of a cluster of 9 temples or shrines dedicated to Lord Narasimha (4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu to protect the good from the wicked) in various aspects or forms assumed to satisfy the wishes of his devotees. Though it is mentioned as Nava Narasimhas there are 13 places within a radius of about 10 km.  Some of them are nearly impossible to visit by normal healthy people and some are very difficult to visit even by vehicles. Some of these temples/shrines are caves or n caves. 

Let us see them one by one.

Jwala Narasimha Swamy:

Jwala means fire - flame. The name itself suggests the nature of the deity. This deity is in a cave on a mountain called as 'Achalachaya Meru'. Achalachaya Meru means mountain which does not cast any shadow at any time. Hence the mountain is known as Achalachaya Meru. This shrine - cave – cavern - temple is very difficult to reach. One has to walk about 4 km (a major portion of it by way of climbing up the mountain – some places with steep steps and at other places with ramp like gradients) from the shrine of Ugra Narasimha Swamy or Upper Ahobilam Narasimha Swamy – Ahobaleswar up to which the vehicle can go. Portion of the stretch is with smooth rocks making it dangerous due to the tendency of slips. Major stretch of the distance is paved with steps, but in some places the stones used are loose and one has to be careful to avoid tripping. There are more than 1000 steps to climb, besides the ramp like gradients. There are also some descending stretches before reaching the shrine. 

Here the Lord is seen as coming out of a Pillar struck by the Demon king as a gesture of mocking his son Prahlada (a staunch devotee of the Lord Vishnu). By the side of this idol is another idol where the Lord Narasimha keeping the demon king Hiranyakasipu on his lap and tearing into bits and pieces. Just below the Lord is Prahlada's idol in standing posture. A little apart from these idols one can see idols of Budha and Sukra. This shrine of the Ugra – Jwala Narasimha is a cave cut out of a huge rock. There is a legend to the effect that if green grass is put in the cave where the lord manifested, the same will burn to ashes. This is supposed to be part of the Palace of Hiranyakasipu which through time became dilapidated and destroyed. There is also a mention of a volcanic eruption having taken around the place.    

It is believed that this is the place where the Lord gave darshan - vision of himself to Garuda (Lord Vishnu’s carrier - vehicle). To have the darshan of his Lord in the form of the Narasimha Avatar (incarnation), Garuda did penance. Garuda did his penance from the top- of a hill with thick forest. This hill where Garuda did penance is known as Garudachal – Garudadri – Garuda Sailam. The hill (parallel or opposite of Garudachal) where the Lord Narasimha appeared to Garuda in the cave is known as Vedachal or Vedadri. These 2 are part of the Nallamalai ranges in Kurnool District forming part of Eastern Ghats. 

There is a belief among a section of the devotees that this shrine is a proxy of the original Jwala Narasimha shrine. The original was at the mouth of a Volcano.

Ugra Narasimha Swamy or Upper Ahobilam Narasimha Swamy - Ahobaleswar

This temple is about 5 km below the Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple at the top. It is about 8 km from Lower Ahobilam (base of the hills) at a height from ground level. This is the earliest and the main of the 9 temples of Ahobilam. The presiding deity is Ugra Narasimha.  Since the Lord Narasimha is in a fierce aspect, he is called as Ugra Narasimha. The Lord is also known as Ahobila Narasimha Swamy as the deity is in a cave; and Ahobala Narasimha Swamy as he is in a powerful – strong form. The idol is believed to be 'Swayambhu' (self-manifest) here. Here the Narasimha is in his angriest manifestation for killing and after killing the tyrannical demon king Hiranyakasipu. The Lord was so fierce in form and aspect that he tore the demon king to pieces with his nail. On seeing the Lord the gods and others were terrified and awe inspired. To make him gentle, they prayed to goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu, to bring him to normal stature and temperament. The request to goddess Lakshmi was due to the fact that the Lord Narasimha was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi is consort of Lord Vishnu. The Lord is very much devoted to his devotees (Bhaktas). So the gods also requested Prahlada (a staunch devotee of the Lord) to plead with the Lord to assume normal posture and form. With the combined efforts of these 2, the Lord assumed normal posture and temperament so that all can worship him without fear. Lord Siva is said to b e the author of Manthra Raaja Pada Stothram and he with his consort Parvathi has a Sannidhi here. A Brindavanam (pedestal) for the 6th Jeeyar Azahagia Singar (Shashta Parankusa Maha Desikan) is also found in this shrine. It is believed that he entered the cave, shed his mortal remains an joined the Lord. 

The famous temple of Malola Narasimha Swamy is at a distance of about 2 kilometres and at a higher level from the main temple of Upper Ahobilam (Ahobaleswar Swamy temple). The meaning of the word ‘Malola – Ma Lola’ is beloved mother. Here, mother is meant to be goddess Lakshmi and Lola means dear or beloved. She is beloved to the Lord and due to her being with him, the deity is known as Malola Narasimha Swamy. Since the Lord is in a pleased mood due to the presence of his consort, the deity here appears in 'soumya' or gentle (graceful) form. As per a legend the 'utsva moorthy’ of this famous shrine of Malola Narasimha Swamy appeared to Adivan (first - founder) Satakopa Jeeyar, the first Jeeyar (head pontiff) of Ahobila Mutt. From the founder Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt till now - the 45th pontiff (Srivan Satakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Narayana Mahadesika) the present Jeeyar, the utsavamoorthi of Malola Narasirnha Swamy is worshipped and is carried by them on any religious tours to anywhere.


The temple of Lord Kroda – Krodakara - Varaha is about a km away from the main temple of Ahobila Narasimha Swamy – Ugra Narasimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobilam, at the foot of Vedadri - Vedachal. Kroda means (tusks) the 2 protruding teeth of Varaha - wild boars. In this Kroda Narasimha Swamy temple, the Lord is installed in the form of half human and half Varaha or Boar with the 2 tusks - protruding teeth - holding the Bhoomi Devi (mother earth). This is to symbolize the Varaha Avatar – Boar incarnation -3rd incarnation out of the ‘Dasaavathar’ of Lord Vishnu. He took the incarnation to retrieve Bhoomi Devi from the Rasaatala (one of the 7 universes) were the earth was hidden by the Demon king Hiranyaksha – brother of Hiranyakasipu. The Lord in the form of Boar fought with Hiranyaksha, killed him and lifted the earth with his tusks and restored it to its place from the bottom of rasaathala Loka. The image of the deity has the face of a boar holding the earth on his tusks and lifting. Lord Vishnu’s consort goddess Lakshmi is with him here.  Because of his appearance as a Boar the Lord of the temple is known as Krodakara (Varaha) Narasimha Swamy. Incidentally, Hiranyakasipu brother of slain Hiranyaksha vowed to avenge the killing of his brother by gods and started his tyrannical rule over gods and demigods. To rescue them from the demon Hiranyakasipu, Lord Vishnu took the next – 4th incarnation or Avatar as Narasimha. A rivulet Bhavanasini which starts from Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple flows by the side of the KRODA - KRODAKARA (VARAHA) NARASIMHA SWAMY shrine. Since this rivulet is flowing through many herbs amidst the forest it is believed to have medicinal properties. The Theertham or water from this stream has the effect of calming down tension and anger. According to a legend the ‘Akasha Ganga’ – the goddess Ganga descended at this place and flowed down to calm down the anger of Ugra Narasimha from the side of Ugra Sthambam hill. Most of the devotees have dip or take bath in this rivulet water as it is c considered sacred. 


The temple or shrine of Karanja Narasimha Swamy temple is about 1 km from upper Ahobilam – Ahobalam temple and is an ancient or old one. Here the Swamy is in a rare form. The shrine is under a Karanja tree (also known as Pongamia pinnata, Ponga tree, Honge tree). According to a legend Hanuman wanted have the darshan (vision – sight) of his Lord Rama and did penance for the same. The Lord Narasimha appeared to Hanuman under a huge Karanja tree in meditation pose sitting in Padmasana. As the Lord appeared under the Karanja tree, he is called as Karanja Narasimha Swamy. The peculiarity or rarity of the deity is that unlike in any other place, the idol has a third – 3rd eye (Trinetra known as ‘Palanetra’) like Lord Siva. He is seen under the canopy of the hooded Serpent King Adi Sesha with 4 hands holding shanka, chakra and Sarang (bow and arrow). One of the 4 hands is in resting posture. Through the 3rd eye the Lord gave visvaroopa darshan to Hanuman. The shanka, chakra and Sarang (bow and arrow) and visvaroopa darshan was to convince Hanuman that he (Lord Narasimha) and his bellowed Lord Sri Rama are all one and the same but different incarnations or aspects of Lord Vishnu and the Lord blessed Hanuman. Near to the sanctum of the Lord Karanja Narasimha Swamy there is a separate enclosure (small shrine) with a huge Hanuman idol. 


The temple of BHARGAVA NARASIMHA SWAMY is about 2 km to the left of the lower Ahobilam – Ahobalam. It is on a hill top. There are steps (numbering about 120 – some very steep making it a bit difficult to climb) to reach this temple. Near to the base of the hill there is a sacred pond – tank. This tank is known as Bhargava Theertham/Akshaya Theertham. It is believed that Bhargava Rama, the 6th avatar or incarnation of Lord Vishnu did penance here to have the Darshan of Lord Narasimha in this form of samhara roopam (pose of killing of the demon). Hence this pond is known as 'Bhargava Theertham' and the temple or shrine is known as Bhargava Narasimha Swamy. Bhargava Narasimha Swamy idol is with 4 hands like most of the Lord Vishnu idols. 2 of the hands are holding Shankha and Chakram (Discus ring of Lord Vishnu) and the other 2 hands are shown as tearing the body of Hiranyakasipu. It is a bit surprising to note one Avatar of Lord Vishnu worshiping another Avataram. But the reason may be that while Bhargava Rama (also known as Parasurama) is only a partial avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Avatar of Narasimha is one of the full avatars of the Lord.  This deity is mainly by the devotees/pilgrims themselves. The Utsva Moorthy (the panchaloha – made of a mix of 5 metals - idol which is taken out during temple ceremonies and festivals) of this shrine like most others of the Nava Narasimha shrines is kept on the lower Ahobilam – Ahobalam Narasimha Swamy/ Prahlada Narasimha Swamy Temple. The shrine of Bhargava Narasimha Swamy carvings of Dasavatara can be seen. It is the belief that devotees worshiping this lord after taking a bath in the Bhargava/Akshaya Theertham will be blessed with all round prosperity. 


Yogananda Narasimha Swamy temple is about 2 km South East to Lower Ahobilam. According to Puranas (Vedic scripture books) Lord Narasimha Swamy, after killing the demon king Hiranyakasipu, taught Yoga and Rajya tantra (administration of kingdom) at this place. The idol of the Lord YOGANANDA NARASIMHA SWAMY is in a blissful yoga posture. For these reasons the Lord in this aspect (posture) is called Yogananda Narasimha Swamy. There is a legend to the effect that Prahlada meditated the Lord Narasimha here and got all prosperity. It is the belief that this place is very suitable for meditation and the devotees who seek relief from difficulties will be helped by the Lord. This temple is near to the CHATRAVATA NARASIMHA SWAMY Temple. Here all the 9 forms (Nava Narasimha forms) are installed in addition to the Yogananda Narasimha Swamy idol. These 9 idols are connected to the 9 planets or Navagrahas. By offering appropriate worships here to the appropriate deities, the ill effects of the respective placatory positions are removed according to the belief of the devotees. 


Chatravata Narasimha Swamy temple is roughly about 3 km from lower Ahobilam – Prahlada Varada Narasimha Temple. The deity was installed under a Peepal tree surrounded by thorny bushes. But now the thorny bushes are cleared and the Ahobila Mutt which maintains the Nava Narasimha temples have repaired renovated the shrine with a compound wall around it. The Peepal tree which was like an umbrella giving shade to the deity, gave the shrine its name as Chatravata Narasimha Swamy (chatra means umbrella and Vata is for Vata Vriksha – Peepal tree). This shrine is very close to the temple of Yogananda Narasimha Swamy temple. The deity here is seen with one of his left hands on his left lap as if taping to the rhythm of music as classical musicians do while singing. One more distinction is that the face of the deity has a beautiful smile. There is a legend to the effect that 2 Gandharvas (celestial bodies) lost their ability to sing. They came to Chatravata Narasimha Swamy temple and offered worship. The Lord pleased with their worship blessed them with celestial voice. Artists from all over come here to get the blessings of the Lord for their proficiency in their respective arts. It is believed that the planet Ketu have come here, worshiped the Lord was blessed by him.


Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple is on the bank of the rivulet ‘Pavana’. The shrine is about 6 km down from Upper Ahobilam/Ahobalam – Ugra Narasimha Swamy temple. Since the shrine of Pavana Narasimha Swamy is on the bank of rivulet ‘Pavana’, the deity is called Pavana Narasimha Swamy. Earlier one has to walk to go t the temple. Now the Ahobila Mutt and the State Government have made a rough and tough road. Though only jeeps can negotiate the road to some extent, some autos also can be seen plying. The ride to the temple by jeep itself will be back breaking and hence the ride in autos might be nightmare. The deity of the Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple is said to be the most peaceful one in the group of the Nava Narasimha Temples. However, there is a practice of offering sacrifice of animals here on certain days by the tribal people of the area. Therefore it is possible to witness such sacrificial rituals or come across the remains of the animals sacrificed occasionally. Since the route to the temple is through stretches of thick forest, people going by walk/trek are advised to go in groups and preferably with a guide to avoid encounter with any possible wild life or missing the tracks. The deity here is with his consort ‘Chenchulakshmi’.  ‘Chenchulakshmi’ is believed to be ‘Bhu Devi’ (Bhoomi Devi) taken birth as a tribal girl and wooed and married the Lord, after his killing the demon king Hiranyakasipu. The deity of Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple is seen under the hoods of the 7 headed ‘Adi Sesha’. Because of this feature the Lord is also known as ‘Paamuleti Narasimha Swami’. An idol of Bharadwaj Maharishi is installed at the feet of the Lord. The Archaks of this temple is staying near to the shrine itself as it will be practically impossible for anyone to come here on a daily basis to offer the daily poojas, due to the tough route. The house is small and without electricity. This shows that the archakas are dedicated to the lord and their profession. The priests may be very happy if someone takes provisions for them. There are some legends about this temple. One of the legends is that when Adi Shankaracharya was troubled by the ‘Kapalika Tantric’. The Tantric Kaplika wanted to sacrifice Shankaracharya to appease his goddess Kali.  He could not get rid of this trouble by any means. He then came to the Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple and the Acharya created and recited the Stothras (hymns) of ‘Narasimha Karavalamba’ for his protection from the Tantric. After this the Acharya got release from the wicked Kapalika Tantric’. Later one of the Shankaracharyas Adi Shankaracharya or another one did a commentary to the ‘Narasimha Tapani Upanishad’ at this place.  This temple of the ‘Paamuleti Narasimha Swami’ is considered as the ‘Kshetra Ratna (jewel among the temples) by sages. According to the sages, by offering worship here the Lord removes the sins of past lives and present life of the devotees. It is a belief among the local people that Pavana Narasimhaswamy returns half of the Prasad offerings back to the devotee.

Other temples/shrines around the Nava Narasimha Kshetras

Ahobilam/Ahobalam is synonymous with Nava Narasimha Kshetras – 9 temples of Narasimha Swamy in different aspects. But there are also other shrines in Ahobilam which are not considered as important as the Nava Narasimhas with the exception of one of them known as Lower Ahobilam or Prahlada Varada Sannidhi. The shrines other than the 9 temples of Narasimhas (Nava Narasimhas) are 1) Ugra Sthamba, 2) Prahlada Padi or Prahlada Mettu, 3) Chenchu Lakshmi shrine and 4) the most important of all temples of the entire Ahobilam – Ahobalam, the Lower Ahobilam temple also known as Prahlada Varada Sannidhi and Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Sannidhi. Let us have a look at them:


There is a cleft of the mountain at the top. The appearance is like a huge pillar split in to 2 parts with a gap in between. As per the legends this structure was a pillar of the Palace of Demon King Hiranyakasipu. It was stuck by the demon king with a mighty sword and mighty force to mock his son Prahlada. It was the contention of Prahlada that the god is omnipresent and is found in everything including the pillars of the Palace. To disprove this, the demon king stuck the pillar. At the striking, the pillar split and from the gap came the Lord Narasimha, the 4th incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu with a terrific sound, form and force. The huge pillar like structure from where the Lord came is called as the Ugra Sthambam. It is called as Ugra Sthambam because of the terrific sound it produced when split and from the gap of the cleft came the terrific form of the Lord. The Lord lifted the demon King Hiranyakasipu to a doorway during the sun set and tore the king into pieces by his nails. 

The Ugra Sthambam is about 8 km above the Upper Ahobilam Ugra Narasimha Swamy temple. It is also above the Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple. The approach to the Ugra Sthamba is extremely difficult. The steps are steep, narrow and slippery at many places. Hence only very few people venture to go and out f them many have to return without being able to climb to top. I wanted to try, but my guide said that neither he nor I can climb and dissuaded me from the attempt. But the Ugra Sthambam can be seen clearly from a bridge half way between Upper Ahobilam and the Jwala Narasimha Swamy temple. There is an iron pole fixed on to the split pillar and a saffron flag is tied to it. It is the belief that going around the pillar 3 times is very auspicious.

PRAHALADA METTU, Prahlada School or Prahlada Padi

Prahlada Mettu or Prahlada Padi is a small shrine in between the Upper Ahobilam and Ugra Sthambam. The shrine is in a cave on the hill. There is an idol of Prahlada installed in the shrine.  It is dedicated to Prahlada Narasimha Swamy. This shrine is also known as Prahlada’s school. This is the place where the asura (demon) teachers tried to teach Prahlada and his co-students (all asuras or demons) the asura culture and exhorted them to chant ‘Hiranyaya namaha’. But Prahlada and his class mates were chanting Narayanaya Namaha” instead. Prahlada had to undergo innumerable torture and murder attempts by his father for this. With the blessings of the Lord he survived al these unhurt. It is difficult to climb to this place and is not considered as an important point to visit by devotees. Hence few people visit this shrine.

Chenchulakshmi - Bhu Devi - Bhoomi Devi

Above the Pavana Narasimha Swamy temple and about 1 km from there is a small cave shrine where the tribals worship the ‘Chenchulakshmi’ (Bhu Devi - Bhoomi Devi). Chenchulakshmi - Bhu Devi - Bhoomi Devi is from the local tribal population born (Goddess Mahalakshmi took avatar in Chenchu – Chenju tribe and hence known as Chenchulakshmi) to marry the Lord and bring down his anger after slaying the demon king Hiranyakasipu at the request of the gods. Part of the stretch one has to crawl to reach the shrine and one may come across remains of the animals sacrificed. Only very few people go there.

LOWER AHOBILAM - Prahaladavarada

Ahobilam – Ahobalam is consisting of 2 parts. One part of Ahobilam is on the higher level on the mountain slopes and top, the other in the base of the mountain range. These portions are known as Upper Ahobilam (Eguvu Ahobilam in local language) and Lower Ahobilam (Diguvu Ahobilam). Most of the original temples known as Nava Narasimha temples (group of 9 temples) are on the Upper portion.  Some years back the portion where the Nava Narasimha temples are situate were in dense forest and on difficult terrains. Most of the temples were inapproachable to not only the normal persons but even to most of the robust. Hence pooja and worship on regular and daily basis was impossible. So a temple was built to offer daily rituals and poojas to the Lord Narasimha and the deities are installed in the lower Ahobilam well connected by Road. Now the utsva moorthys and other items of the nine shrines difficult to approach are kept in this temple. This temple is known as the Prahlada Varada Sannidhi (as the Lord bestowed his blessings on his Bhakta Prahlada), Lakshmi Narasimha Sannidhi, Lakshmi Narasimha temple (Lakshmi Narasimha is the presiding deity here) and Lower Ahobilam. This is a medium sized temple with 3 prakaras (spaces between walls); the inner most prakaras surrounding the sanctum, a middle one with other deities and the outer most one. According to a legend the main deity of this Lower Ahobilam - Prahlada Varada Sannidhi – is installed by none other than the Venkateswara/Srinivasa. He came to Ahobilam to seek the blessings of Lord Narasimha before wedding with Sri Padmavathi. On finding the Lord Narasimha in fierce form at the Upper Ahobilam, her installed the Lord in a peaceful form in the Lower Ahobilam temple and offered his worship.     
The Utsava Moorthys (idols used for processions) of the lower Ahobilam Prahlada Varada Narasimha Swamy, Pavana Narasimha  Swamy and the idol of the Jwala Narasimhaswamy (with ten hands, with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi on his either side) and a small idol of the 1st Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt Sri Adivan Satakopa are  kept in the Sanctum. Since the temples of Jwala Narasimha and Pavana Narasimha are extremely difficult, their Utsava Moorthys are perhaps kept in the Lower Ahobilam temple to bless those devotees who cannot reach to these temples.
In addition to the main shrine for the main deity of Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy there are also smaller shrines for other deities. They are for Lord Venkateswara, Lakshmi, Andal and Alwars.

Utsavam or Festivals at Ahobilam:

Narasimha Jayanthi is celebrated as a grand festival annually.   

The birth star of Lord Narasimha is Swathi. Every month on Swathi Nakshatra (star) day ‘Abishekam’ (sacred bathing of Lord) known as Thirumanjanam is performed to the deities of all the Nava Narasimha Kshetras. On these occasions devotees from all over the country throng this place to witness and take part. 

On Saturdays and Sundays worship by priests are done in all the shrines. On other days pooja is n not done in some of the shrines due the difficulty in reaching the shrines. The Utsava deities of these temples are kept in the sanctum of Lower Ahobilam to offer worships to these deities and for the get the blessings from these deities just by visiting the lower Ahobilam. 

The annual Brahmotsavam is celebrated for 10 days during the month of Masi which falls during mid February to mid March every year. The last day of the Utsavam will be on the Pournami (full moon day) of Masi month. It is grand event and the deity of Lakshmi Narasimha/Prahlada Varada will be taken in procession around on various vahanas (vehicles). 

The day on the Jeeyar of the Ahobila Mutt prays/worships at the temple known as performing Mangalasasanam is also celebrated as Utsava day.
The tribals celebrate the birth of Chenchu Lakshmi annually at Chenchulakshmi shrine near Pavana Narasimha shrine annually. On some specific days they offer animal sacrifice at this temple.

Theerthas (holy water bodies) at Ahobilam/Ahobalam

At various places in Ahobilam area there are several Theerthas. They are Pavanasini near Pavana Narasimha shrine, Bhargava Theertha near Bhargava Narasimha shrine, Indra Theertha, Nrisimha Theertha, Gaja Theertha and Raktakundam. Pavanasini is a stream at the beginning and later swelling into a river joining River Krishna. Pavanasini is called so due to the fact that it was supposed to have cleared Ahobilam of the blood and flesh remains of the Demon King Hiranyakasipu on his slaying by Lord Narasimha. Raktakundam is a very small Theertha like small collections of water at 32 places. One place is slightly bigger like a granite tub. Of the others one is like a small cave where a hand may reach and the other is a small one with only 2 – 3 mugs of water. The name Raktakundam came from the fact that this water is slightly reddish tinged. It is supposed to be so due to the Lord Narasimha washing his hands to remove the blood after his ripping the body of the asura king Hiranyakasipu.  Near to this there is a water flow from the rocks above like water flowing from  water tap partially opened. By drinking this water the fatigue will be removed.

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