Srikalahasti

Srikalahasti is a holy town and a municipality near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Srikalahasti is located on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. It is also informally and wrongly referred to as Kalahasti. Recently,it has been included in the TUDA (Tirupati Urban Development Authority) region.

This is the only Hindu temple opened in the times of Solar Eclipses and Lunar Eclipses in the whole world. It is one of the important ancient Shiva Kshetras (Shiva Temples) of Southern India. The Srikalahasti Temple occupies the area between the river bank and the foot of the hills and is popularly known as Dakshina Kailasam. The three lofty Gopurams of the temple are remarkable for their architecture. This temple was originally built during Pallava period and current structures are built by Chola Tamil King Kulothunga Cholan I, II and III during 11th century. A huge hundred pillared mantapam was built by Krishnadevarayar during 16th century, which is another important feature of this shrine.

It is one of the ancient temples included in the Saiva pilgrimages and is fairly close to the famous hill temple of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati, one of the richest and famous temple cities in the world. It is also the origin of the popular textile painting art called kalamkari.

The 500-year-old 'Rajagopuram' or main gate of Srikalahasti Temple in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor District collapsed on 26 May 2010. Srikalahasti is popularly known as "Dakshina Kaashi".

Srikalahasti Temple
Srikalahasti Temple is located in the town of Srikalahasti, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is one of the most famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Lord Siva stopped him and granted him mukti.[3] Sri Kalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The inner temple was constructed around 5th century and the outer temple was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings. Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshiped as Kalahasteeswara.

This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the five Panchabhootha stalams (temples celebrating Lord Shiva as the embodiment of the five primary elements), air (wind) being the element in this case; the other elements being water at (Thiruvanaikaval), fire at (Annamalaiyar Temple), earth at (Ekambareswarar Temple) and space at (Chidambaram Temple) that Shiva embodies.These five lingas are praised by Muthuswami Dikshitar in his celebrated Panchabhuta Kirthis.

There is a lamp inside the inner sanctum that is constantly flickering despite the lack of air movement inside. The air-linga can be observed to move even when the priests close off the entrance to the main deity room, which does not have any windows. One can see the flames on several ghee lamps flicker as if blown by moving air. The linga is white and is considered Swayambhu, or self-manifested.

Kalahasti is surrounded by two sacred hills. The Durgama temple is on the northern hill. On the south hill there is the shrine of Kannabeswara, in memory of the Sage Kannappa, who offered his eyes to the Lord Shiva. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya on one of the surrounding hills.

The main linga is untouched by human hands, even by the priest. Abhisheka (bathing) is done by pouring a mixture of water, milk, camphor, and panchamrita. Sandal paste, flowers and the sacred thread are offered to the utsava-murti, not the main linga.

Sri Kalahasti is named after the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. They were the Spider (Sri), the Serpent (Kala) and the Elephant (Hasti). Appeased with their unflinching devotion, Lord Shiva gave them a boon that their names be merged with the Vayulinga and called as Sri Kalahasteeswara According to Hindu mythology, the elephant or Hasti used to clean the Shiva deity by watering the idol with the help of river-water carried in his trunks and pray for him by placing Bilva leaves. The spider or Sri tried to protect the deity from external damage by weaving his web and to provide shelter for the Shiva lingam. The snake or Kala used to place its precious gem on the linga to adorn the lord. In this way, they all worshipped the Vayu linga separately without knowing what the other was doing.

One day, the spider had built a very big and thick web around the deity to protect it from dust and weather while the snake places its gem. The elephant not knowing this and assuming that this form of puja by Sri and Kala is a desecration by the seeming miscreants, pours water on it and cleans it up. This causes a war between the three. The snake punishes the elephant by entering its trunk and in the process kills itself while the elephant runs amok and hits its trunk and head against the shiva linga. During this struggle, the spider is squashed against the linga by the elephant's trunk and the elephant dies due to the snake's poison. Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all three of them for their selfless devotion. The spider takes rebirth as a great king while the elephant and the snake reaches heaven for satisfying all its karma.

This king continues his good work from his previous birth and builds a variety of temples that seeks to protect the underlying deity with tons of stones. It is interesting to note that all his temples, keep the deity beyond the access of an elephant. In this temple, access to the deity is through a narrow passage in the side of the building that prevents an elephant from extending its trunk over the lord from any side.