Srikalahasti is usually a hurried halt en route to tirupati. What irony that we breez past like the wind from this panchabhoota shivasthala, one of the five magnificent temples where shiva is propitiated as air, water fire, earth and sky respectively. In Srikalahasti, Shiva presides as the vayu Lingam. Like the justly famous kalamkari paintings, which too draw attention to srikalahasti, this temple town is rich with colours and textures, steeped in tradition and history. It is said life changes for the better for one who visits the temple of srikalahasti. There is only one way to find out how true this is, and rushing by isn’t it.
LEGENDS and MYTHOLOGY
The name srikalahasti is derived from sri meaning spider, kala or serpent and hasti or elephant, speaks of the devotion of these three creatures to lord shiva. Urnanabha, son of the celestial architect vishwakarma, was such an excellent sculptor that he would copy whatever brahma created. Enraged, Brahma cursed him to be born as a spider but said he would be freed of the curse if he worshipped shiva at dakshina kailasam. Kala, the serpent, was banished to earth because of his delay in returning from the netherworld to adorn the neck of mitted to life on earth for his lack of propriety in disturbing the privacy of Shiva and parvati. All three attained liberation when they worshipped shiva at dakshina Kailasam. The temple is one of the 51 shaktipeeths, marking the spot where Goddess sati’s skull fell.
Adorned by three grand towers and flanked by the Durgambika, Kannappa and Kumaraswamy hills, the temple faces west, on the banks of the River swarna-mukhi. Despite the large crowds gathered for the morning worship, once you enter the precincts of the temple, the massive pillars, high ceiling and huge prakarams still your mind.
The sanctum contains a kavacha (armoour) topped by a serpent’s hood, beneath which lies the fragile swayambhu linga, shaped like an elephant’s trunk. The linga has never been touched by human hands. All offerings are made to bronze utsavamurti. The deity is surrounded by lamps, while the other lamps burn steadily, the lamp to the right of the deity moves constantly as if pushed by the wind in the otherwise airless sannidhi.
The priest explains that the flickering flame is shiva manifested as wind in the shrine. To the right of the sanctum is satimanifested as jalandhara (Top half of a body) or as Gnana Prasoonambika, the goddess of knowledge. To the left, as one walks from the northern gopuram, is a shrine for patala vinayaka. The idol was found on the bed of the Swarnamukhi, 35 ft below the ground.
The Rahu Ketu Sarpadosha Nivarana puja is considered to be efficacious for those wih astrological setbacks including sarpadosha (Planets in horoscope hemmed in between rahu and Ketu). This puja is performed daily between 6.30 am and 8.30 pm (Rs 250 – Rs 500, including puja materials). The grandest festival is Maha Shivaratri (Feb ), during which a Brahmotsavam is conducted for nine nights. The other important festivals are Navaratri and Vinayaka Chaturthi. On the third day from Sankranthi, the deity is taken round the hill in a procession in which the entire town joins in.
Localtions 2 km south-west of the bus stand Timings 6 am to 9.30 pm (9 PM on Tue, wed, Thu).
Special darshan costs Rs 50 and Cameras not allowed in inner prakarams.