Srikalahasti Temple

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Srikalahasti Temple
Kalahasti temple1.jpg
Proper name Srikalahasthiswara Swamy vari Devasthanam[1]
Telugu శ్రీకాళహస్తీశ్వర స్వామి వారి ఆలయం
Coordinates 13°44′58″N 79°41′54″E / 13.74944°N 79.69833°E / 13.74944; 79.69833Coordinates: 13°44′58″N 79°41′54″E / 13.74944°N 79.69833°E / 13.74944; 79.69833
Country India
State/province Andhra Pradesh
District Chittoor
Locale Srikalahasti
Primary deity Srikalahasthiswaraswamy[2] (Shiva)
Gnana Prasunambika Devi[2](Parvati)
Architectural styles Dravidian
History and governance

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]

Srikalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The temple is also regarded as Rahu-Ketu kshetra and Dakshina Kasi. 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. Lord Shiva in his aspect as Vayu is worshiped as Kalahasteeswara.


Srikalahasti 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, it is believed that Lord Shiva gave them a boon that their names be merged with the Vayulinga and called as Srikalahasteeswara.[citation needed]

Temple Legend[edit]

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 fight 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.

Goddess Parvati's curse[edit]

There are several other legends connected to the glory of the temple. Prominent among them is of Parvati who was cursed by Lord Shiva to discard her heavenly body and assume the human form. To get rid off the above curse Parvati did a long penance here. Pleased with her deep devotion Lord Shiva again recreated her body – a hundred times better than her previous heavenly body and initiated various mantras including the Panchakshari. Consequent of this, Parvati gained and came to be known as Shiva-Gnanam Gnana Prasunamba or Gnana Prasunambika Devi.


Cursed to became a ghost Ghanakala prayed at Srikalahasti for 15 years and after chanting Bhairava Mantra many times Lord Shiva restored her original form.

The Devas[edit]

Mayura, Chandra and Devendra were also freed from their curses after taking bath in the river Swarnamukhi and prayed at Srikalahasti.


To Bhakta Markandeya, Lord Shiva appeared in Srikalahasti and preached that a Guru alone could make esoteric teachings and, therefore he is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara.


At Sri Kalahasti, Lord Shiva tested the unshakable devotion of Thinnadu (Later became Bhaktha Kannappa) before the sages gathered at Srikalahasti. With his divine power, Lord Shiva created a tremor and the roof tops of the temple began to fall. All the sages ran away from the scene except Kannappa who covered the linga with his body to prevent it from any damage.

In another incident, Kannappa plucked out one of his eyes and placed in the eye of Linga which was oozing with blood and tears. When the tears and the blood were still trickling from another eye, Kannappa decided to remove his second eye and placed one of his feet on the spot of the right eye of the Shiva Linga. Before he could pull out his second eye with the arrow, Lord Shiva appeared and restored his eye while granting him a boon to occupy a place close to him.

According to Swami Sivananda's book, Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints, pg. 44, some Saivite traditions believe that Kannappa was the reincarnation of Arjuna. Arjuna, worshipped Siva for seeking the Pasupatha Astra and failed to recognize Him in the form of a hunter. Thus, according to this tradition, Arjuna had to be born as a hunter and adore the Lord before attaining final liberation.


This temple is one of the most impressive Shiva temples in India. This temple features an enormous, ancient gopuram (entrance tower) over the main gate. The tower is 36.5 m (120 ft) high. The entire temple is carved out of the side of a huge stone hill.

The initial structure of this temple was constructed by the Pallava dynasty in the 5th century. The Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings also gave great help for the temple development. Like other great temples, the construction period of Srikalahasthi temple lasted centuries. Around the 10th century, the Chola kings renovated the temple and constructed the main structure.

The 120 feet (37 m) high main gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam were constructed by Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara king in 1516[citation needed].

According to R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, Srikalahastiswara temple has a recorded history that goes back to a minimum of 1600 years and is closely associated with the "unparalleled devotion" of hunter-prince Kannappa to Lord Siva. "Kannappa’s devotion is an outstanding story in the Saivite literature and he is venerated as one of the 63 Saivite Nayanars(saints),[4]

Srikalahastiswara temple held a special appeal for the Chola kings, who lavished it with gifts and kept expanding it with additional structures and converted it into a big complex that it is today. The temple complex abounds in lithic records (stone inscriptions) of Chola kings such as Rajaditya (regnal years 947-949 CE), Raja Raja Chola (regnal years 985-1014 CE), his son Rajendra Chola (1012-1044 CE), his son Rajadhiraja (1018-1054 CE), Kulottunga I (1070-1120 CE) and Kulotunga III (1178-1218 CE).

The temple is also replete with the inscriptions of later Pandyas and almost all the rulers belonging to the Vijayanagara dynasty. While the inscriptions of the Chola and the Pandya kings are in Tamil, those of the Vijayanagara dynasty are in Telugu. The story of Kannappa is fully told in a long inscription of the Cholas. The inscriptions of the Chola and Pandya rulers provide a wealth of information on the donations they made to the temple for its maintenance, for performing pujas and celebrating festivals.

During the Chola rule, Srikalahasti fell under the revenue division of Attrur Nadu of Perumbanaipadi, which was a sub-division of Tiruvenkata Kottam (Tiruvenkata Circle) under the larger division of Jayamkonda Cholamandalam. Raja Raja Chola had a soft corner for the Srikalahastiswara temple, and according to Dr. Nagaswamy, the emperor sent a golden diadem to the deity from his capital of Thanjavur, which was carried with VENERATION by his army commander and officials. The temple has bronze portrait sculptures of Chola Mahadevi, one of the queens of Raja Raja Chola, and of Kulotunga III, with inscriptions on their pedestals.

Raja Raja Chola founded a big commercial centre near Sri Kalahasti under the name Mummudi Cholapuram. This commercial centre was in existence for more than 500 years and was active even up to 1600 CE – till the decline of the Vijayanagara empire.

The temple has an interesting inscription which refers to a Brahmin from a village called Tiruindalaur, near Mayiladuthurai (Tamil Nadu), who made donations to the temple. Recently, an 85-copper plate charter issued by Rajendra Chola and 12 exquisitely beautiful bronzes were unearthed from the Kailasanatha temple premises at Kazhukkanimuttam in Tiruindalur.

Dr. Nagaswamy said another interesting inscription is about a local chieftain who killed 150 tigers in the forests around the hills and protected the people from attacks by the animal. This inscription in Tamil, dated to Saka year 1289 (that is 1367 CE), refers to "Valli Arasan, the lord of Ayodhyapuram," who killed 150 tigers and also assumed a title.

What is of relevance now is an inscription in Telugu, of Krishnadeva Raya, which clearly states that it was he who built the Rajagopuram of the temple. This lithic record is inscribed on the western wall of the second prakara (corridor) and is dated to Saka year 1438 (that is, 1516 CE). The dhamma sasanam (inscription) talks about how Sri Krishnadeva Maharayalu built the peddha gopuramu (the big tower) for the Lord in "Srikalahastiswarani temple."

There are inscriptions that talk about local chieftains who had the title "Yadavaraya" and controlled the area around Sri Kalahasti. Called "Sri Kalahasti deva," they were proud that they were devotees of both Sri Venkatachalapathy of Tirumala and Sri Kalahasti Natha. The Nagarathar community (Nattukottai Chettiars) of Devakottai in Tamil Nadu have liberally donated for Sri Kalahastiswara temple’s maintenance.

There is a temple called Sri Mani Gangisvara (Sri Manikanteswara) temple behind the main temple complex and it dates back to the Raja Raja Chola Chola period, said Dr. Nagaswamy. On the rock surface near this temple is a series of beautiful bas reliefs, representing various manifestations of Lord Siva. Unfortunately, they have been garishly painted over in a riot of polychromatic colours.[4]

Temple Architecture[edit]

Raja gopuram constructed by Vijayanagara King and collapsed on 26 May 2010

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. 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.[citation needed] 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.

Deities in the Temple[edit]

There are two major shrines within the temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati. Lord Siva exists in the form of Linga facing south which represents Vayu(air) and hence the name Vayulingeswara. The Linga also bears the name Srikalahasteeswara. Parvati is in the standing posture facing North and is called by the name Gnana Prasunamba. There is a small shrine dedicated to Dakshinamurthy at the entrance of the temple who is regarded as the Guru of Lord Shiva. Other than these there are many deities and idols dedicated to Venkateswara, Vinayaka, Nataraja, Subhramanya, Surya, Nayanars and also replica Lingas of other famous Shiva temples all over India.

Festivals and sevas[edit]

Maha Shivaratri is the most important festival when lakhs of devotees offer prayers to seek the blessings of the Lord. Mahasivaratri Brahmotsavams are celebrated in par with Maha Shivaratri for 13 days during which the Utsava murtis of Siva and Parvati will be taken on Vahanams in a procession around the temple streets.[5] Nithya Kalyana Seva,a paid service, is conducted to Sri Siva – Parvathi daily along with abhisheka aradhana.

Religious importance[edit]

This temple is considered as the Kailash of the South or Dakshin Kailash[citation needed] and also as Dakshina Kasi.[6] Saivaite saints of the first century sang about this temple.

Panchaboothasthalam(Vayu Linga)[edit]

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

Rahu Kethu Kshetra[edit]

Srikalahasteeswara Swamy Temple is reputed as the Rahu Kethu Kshetra.[6] People who have Rahu Kethu Doshas and Sarpa Doshas, the unmarried and couples without children and those who are facing various problems for long period will perform Rahu – Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja in this Temple. It is believed that all the Doshas get removed and desired results occur. Thousands of Devotees from the country and abroad will visit the temple to perform this puja and to fulfil their vows. While you can perform pooja at any time, performing pooja during rahu kalam is considered to be auspicious. Sunday and Tuesday are believed to be the best days to perform pooja as Sunday and Tuesday are the days considered to be for Rahu and Kethu.

Nithya Annadanam[edit]

Sri Gnana Prasunambika Devi Nithya Annadana scheme was set up to provide free food to the devotees visiting the sacred temple of Srikalahasthi, no fewer than 2000 devotees are provided with food daily under this scheme. Annadanam is completely based on Donations from donors.

Temple tower collapse[edit]

The RajaGopuram of Srikalahasti Temple collapsed on 26 May 2010. According to sources, vibrations from bore-well digging in the vicinity directly contributed to the collapse.[7][8] Archaeologists and experts, looking into the reasons of the imposing structure crashing down, found that it stood on a foundation that had a depth of only one-and-a-half feet.[9]



  1. ^ "Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams-Arjitha Sevas". Retrieved 2015-08-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Srikalahasti Temple History". 
  3. ^ Sree Kalahasti – One of the Pancha Bhoota Shrines of Shiva. Retrieved on 1 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Srikalahasti gears up for Mahasivaratri Brahmotsavam". Retrieved 2015-11-19. 
  6. ^ a b "Sivaratri Brahmotsavams begin". Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  7. ^ Srikalahasti temple tower crashes . the Hindu (27 May 2010). Retrieved on 1 September 2012.
  8. ^ The tower with the cracks before the crash Archived 28 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ P Neelima (27 September 2010). "Srikalahasti 'rajagopuram' an architectural wonder," The Times of India

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