Sri Kalahasthi ( Telugu: శ్రీ కాళహస్తి) is a temple town in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Located here is one of the famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa, one of the 63 Saivite Nayanars, was ready to offer his last remaining eye to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Lord Siva stopped him and granted mukti. Sri Kalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu deva temple, which is the only shrine of the god of wind in India. Constructed in the 12th century by the Chola king, Rajendra Chola, Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshipped as Kalahasteeswara.
The temple is also associated with Rahu and Kethu (of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme). The river Suvarnamukhi takes the northerly course at Sri Kalahasthi almost washing the west wall of the famous Sri Kalahasthi temple in the Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh. Inside this very large temple situated between two steep hills - Sripuram and Mummidi-cholapuram - is the Sivalinga set to represent the element of Vayu (air or wind), whose presence is evident by a continuous flame which flickers though there is no loophole for air to enter the temple.
Sri Kalahasthi Temple is in fact considered as the Kailash of the south or Dakshin Kailash. The protector of devotees, the granter of boons, the merciful Lord Siva, the Three-eyed, manifested in the form of Vayu linga in the Bilwaka grove on the banks of river Suvarnamukhi. Lord Siva, manifest in the form of Vayu linga, is known to the devotees as Sri Kalahastheeswara. Worship of lord siva was there in India even before Christian era. Saiva saints of first century sang about this temple. The initial stracture of this temple was constructed by the great Pallava dynasty. Tamil Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings also gave great help for the temple development. Like other great temples, the construction period of Srikalahasthi lasted centuries. Near about tenth century, the Chola kings renovated the temple and constructed the main structure. The outer walls and the four gopurams were constructed in the period of Sri Veera Narasimharayar in twelfth century. The 120 feet high main gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam were constructed by Krishnadeva Raya, the great Vijayanagara king in 1516. Nattukkotta Chettiyar of Devakkotta, developed the structure what we see today by spending on million dollar in 1912. This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Siva is one of the panchabhootha stalams (temples celebrating Lord Siva as the embodiment of the primary elements), air being the element in case here, the other five temples being Tiruvannamalai (fire), Chidambaram (space), Thiruvanikkaval (water) and Kanchipuram (earth) respectively.
In another story, the temple is said to be the place where an elephant and a snake were fighting over their offerings to the Siva linga. The elephant had poured water over the Siva Linga while the snake offered jewels. A fight ensued between them over the nature of their offerings to the Lord. Siva, pleased with the their worship, stopped both of them and granted mukti or salvation to both.
It seems that the animals retained evidence of their past lives as humans or intelligent beings in order for them to be steadfast in their devotion to the Lord.
Kalahasti is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements, 1) wind (Kalahasti), 2) water (Thiruvanaikaval), 3) fire (Tiruvannamalai), 4) earth (Kanchipuram) and 5) space (Chidambaram) that Siva embodies.
This is an important temple dedicated to Lord Siva. This temple has one of the elemental lingas, the vayu (air) linga. 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 pujaris 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 Durgamba temple is on the northern hill. On the south hill there is the shrine of Kannabeswara, in memory of the Sage Kannappa, who offered an eye to the Lord. When he tried to offer his other eye as well, the Lord mercifully stopped him. There is also a temple dedicated to 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.
This temple is one of the most impressive Siva temples in India. It features an enormous, ancient gopuram (tower) over the main gate. The tower is 36.5m (120 feet) high. The entire temple is carved out of the side of a huge stone hill. It was built in 1516 by King Krishnadeva Raya.
The temple is run by neatly dressed Saivite Brahmins, who conduct the worship of the various deities inside. Inside the temple you will find the tremendously ornate and splendid architecture that South India is famous for. Elaborately designed pillars, altars, and paraphernalia abound.
As the legend goes, the town got its name because of the temple named after Sri ( spider ) Kala ( serpent ) hasti ( elephant) after the three animals, who were ardent devotees of Lord Siva. These three animals attained divinity through worshipping Lord Siva.
The spider was Vishwakarma's (architect of the deva ganas) son Oornanabha. He was replicating Brahma-the creator's job and an annoyed Brahma cursed him to become a spider.
The snake was once cursed by Siva himself.
The elephant was a gana (Hasti) cursed by Siva's wife, Parvathi, when he intruded their privacy!
The Siva linga at Srikalahasti is an amalgamation of the three animals.
Kalahasti is one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the 5 elements, 1) wind (Kalahasti), 2) water (Tiruvanaikka), 3) fire (Tiruvannamalai), 4) earth (Kanchipuram) and 5) space (Chidambaram) that Siva embodies.
According to Swami Sivananda's book, Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints, pg. 44, some Saivite traditions believe that Kannapa 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 belief is not adopted by all Hindus.
 Tourist Information
The rahu ketu sarpa dosha nivarana puja is a very popular puja undertaken by devotees at this temple. This is offerred in three variations (different prices starting at Rs 250), all of which serve the same purpose but offer varying degrees of comfort and special treatment for the devotee. The basic version will do as well as the others.
The puja is performed starting about 7.00 am, in large batches. Allow 2 hours between batches (one hour for the puja, and 30 minutes each for assembly and dis-assembly). Puja tickets can be purchased inside the temple at the designated counter (starting at 6.30 am). All materials required for the puja (except flowers) are included in the ticket price. Flowers and vilva leaves (both used during the puja) are sold for a nominal price right outside the ticket counter. Beware of vendors trying to persuade you into buying all kinds of things for the puja - none of these can/will be used. The officiating priest provides instructions in Telugu and Tamizh.
A free temple run cloak room facility is available right outside the main gate (after entering through the gopuram).
Reasonably priced accommodations are available very close to the temple
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