Sri Kalahasthi is an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is situated in Chittoor district of Andra Pradesh. The Sivalingam is said to be a ‘Vayu lingam’ representing one of the five elements, air, (vayu-air) and is one of the Panchabootha sthala of Lord Shiva. This temple is also called ‘Thakshina Kailash’ meaning the abode of Lord Shiva in the south. The river Swarnamuki running near this temple gives this place an added sacredness.
The temple is about 3 km from Kalahasthi railway station but the easiest way to travel to this temple is by road either from Chennai or Tirupathi. There are frequent bus services from both these towns.
The temple occupies an area of about 5 acres and the tall towers are visible from miles around. The presiding deity is called Sri Kalahatheeswarar and the consort is worshipped as Gnanaprasunambika. There is also a small shrine to Lord Vinayagar that is reached by descending steep steps through a narrow opening. As the deity is installed below ground level the deity is known as ‘Pathala Vinayagar’
There are many legends associated with this temple. A spider, an elephant and a snake were living in the vicinity of the temple. All three were devotees of Lord Shiva. The spider wove beautiful objects with its silk like web and offered them to the Lord in prayer, the elephant brought flowers and water and washed the idol and offered the flowers, while the snake brought precious stones from underground and adorned the idol with them.
The elephant seeing these precious stones adorning the Lord cleared them away and after washing the Lord decorated Him with flowers and leaves. From this ensued an affray between the elephant and the snake. The snake bit the elephant and the elephant trampled the snake. The spider got caught in the middle of this brawl and all three died. Because of the devotion with which each one of them had spent their days worshipping, the Lord made these three souls to merge in Him and took the name Sri-Kala-Hasthi which denotes the conjoining of the spider (Sri), the snake (Kala), and the elephant (Hasthi) thus becoming Sri Kalahatheeswarar.
The Story of Kannappa Nayanar
Kannappan was a hunter but an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He never failed to perform his daily worship. He brought water from the river in his mouth and ‘bathed’ the image of the Lord by emptying his mouth on the lingam. Then he would chew bits of meat to ascertain its suitability and offer it to his deity. He would only proffer the choicest pieces of meat. One day he saw a yellowish discharge from the left eye of the image. He in his deep devotion wanted to cure the defect in the eye of his Lord. So he gouged out his eye from its socket and put it on top of the eye of the idol. He then noticed the same discharge from the other eye. He then decided to offer his other eye too, to the Lord. He realised that he would not be able to see once he had pulled out his other eye. So he put his shoed leg to mark the spot where the other eye would go and was about to pull out his eye when the Lord appeared and stopped him from self mutilation. The Lord pleased with his devotion granted him eternal bliss.
The goddess in this temple is worshipped as Gnanaprasunambika. This name was given to her for receiving the ‘Panchaksara manthra’ from the Lord himself. Before receiving this hallowed and potent ‘manthra’ she had to undertake severe penance and meditation.She arrived in Kalahasthi and started Her penance. Pleased with Her penance Lord Shiva imparted to Her the supreme knowledge and the ‘Panchaksara manthra’. Goddess Parvathy who was in the mortal form then attained her original form and stayed in Sri Kalahasthi as Gnanaprasunambika .
Opening Hours and Festivals
The temple opens its doors in the morning at 6 am and closes at 9 pm. The major festival takes place in February/March spread over 13 days. The other major festivals take place during December/January and during ‘Navarathry’ in September/October