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Simhachalam Varahalakshmi Narasimha Temple Sthalapuranam, Legend, Architecture

Simhachalam Varahalakshmi Narasimha Temple Sthalapuranam:

The local Sthala purana contains a mythical account of the foundation of the Temple which relates to the well-known story of the demon King Hiranya-Kasyapa and his son Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha who are brothers and mighty demon lords bent upon disturbing the peace of the world.

Hiranyaksha, seized the earth and carried it to neither regions. Lord Vishnu killed him and delivered the earth from the clutches of the demon by assuming the Boar incarnation (Varaha Avatara). Hiranyakasipu wanted to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha. He wanted to become immortal and hence performed austerities (tapasya) to propitiate Lord Brahma. However, Lord Brahma said that was not possible so Hiranyakasipu asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon so that he could not be killed by either animal or a man neither in the morning nor in the night, by any weapons, neither in sky nor on the earth. Hiranyakasipu wanted the entire world to worship him. He added to his might the power of penance and began to punish the gods and sages, the devotees of Lord Vishnu.

Son of Hiranyakasipu, named Prahalada became a devotee of Vishnu even from his birth and thus brought upon himself the wrath of his father. Hiranyakasipu tried to mend the ways of his son, but when he found him to be adamant, made him undergo severe hardships. He made the elephants trample over him and set poisonous snakes against him. Prahalada, protected as he was by divine grace, stood firm Hiranyakasipu as a last resort, asked his servants to throw his son into the sea and place huge mountain over him. His servant choose to drop Prahalada in the sea near the mount Simhadri with a view to place the mountain over him. But before they could complete their act Lord Narayana rescued him by jumping over the hill and lifting up Prahalada from the sea. Simhadri is thus the place where the Lord rescued Prahalada.

The form of Varahanarasimha (Dwayavathara) was assumed by him, on the prayer of his devotee, Prahalada, who wanted to see both the incarnations of the Lord, the one by which he had already killed Hiranyakasha and the other by which he would kill Hiranyakasipu.

According to Stalapurana, Prahalada was the first person to construct a temple round the Deity. He accomplished this after his father’s death at the hands of Narasimha. But at the end of that life-cycle (Krita yuga), the temple was neglected and began to decay. Even the Deity was not taken care of and crests of earth slowly gathered round the image.

But, at the beginning of another life-cycle, the Lord once again was discovered by Emperor Pururava of the Lunar Dynasty. Pururava, with his spouse Urvasi, riding on an aerial chariot over the hills of the South, was drawn to Simhachalam by a mysterious power. He discovered the Lord on the hill lying imbedded in crests of earth. He cleared the earth around the image of the Lord. Then he was addressed by the akaasavani not to expose the image but cover it with sandal paste. It also added that the Lord should be worshipped in this form, and only once in a year, on the third day in the month of Vaisakha his nijaswarupa can be revealed. Acting under the instructions of akaasavani, king pururava applied over the image an amount of sandalwood paste which is equal to the mud he had removed, worshipped the deity, and built the temple once again around the image. The temple continued to flourish ever since.

Simhachalam Varahalakshmi Narasimha Temple History:

The exact age of the temple is not known, but it contains an inscription, dated as far back as 1098-99 A.D. of the Chola king Kulottunga-I, who conquered the Kalinga territories, and it must thus have been a place of importance even by that period. Another inscription shows that a queen of the Velanandu chief Gonka III (1137-56)covered the image with gold a third says that the Eastern Ganga king Narasimha.

I built the central shrine,the mukhamandapam,the natyamandapam, and the enclosing verandah in black stone in the later half of 13th century and other grants inscribed on its walls (the Government Epigraphist’s lists for 1899 give not less than 125 such inscriptions) make it a regular repository of the history of the district.

The Simhachalam temple still contains in inscriptions left here by Sri krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagara empire recounting his successes and relating how he and his queen presented the yod with necklace of 991 pearls and other costly gifts.

Architecturally the temple apparently deserves high praise. This temple contain a square shrine surmounted by a high tower, a portico in front with a smaller tower above it, a square sixteen pillared mandapam (called the mukhamandapam) facing this, and an enclosing verandah, all made of dark granite richly and delicately carved with conventional and floral ornament and scenes from the Vaishnavite puranas. Some of the carvings are mutilated (by Muhammadan conquerors, it is said). One of the pillars is called the kappa stambham or ‘tribute pillar’. It is credited with great powers of curing diseases and granting children. In the verandah is a stone car with stone wheels and prancing stone horses.

Outside this inner enclosure there is the excellent natyamandapam on the north side of the temple, where the god’s marriage is performed. This is supported by 96 pillars of black stone, arranged in sixteen rows of six each, which are more delicately carved than any others in the temple, are all different in the details of their design, and yet avoid incongruity of effect by adhering to one general type – especially in their capitals, which are usually of the inverted – lotus shape.

The deity is kept covered with an unctuous preparation of sandal paste. Once a year i.e, on akshaya thritheeya day (3rd day of Vaisakhamasam) this sandal paste will be removed in a ceremony at the festival called Chandanayatra (Chandanotsavam) and Nija roopa darsanam of Swamy Vari will be provided to devotees. It is the most important festival in this temple.

Simhachalam Varahalakshmi Narasimha Temple Architecture:

The Simhachalam temple is one of the most ancient temples, in Andhra Pradesh, situated. The place has a pleasant climate all over the year. The temple has an unique and agelong mythological background. The temple is neither disturbed not distracted from the agelong conventions, traditions, and ritualistic performances inspite of many economical, political or religious controversies or conflicts in the region.

It is an unparalled and uncomparable temple of its kind not only in the North Circars or Uttarandhra, but in the entire Telugu speaking regions. Though every village in the Telugu nadu is hailed at least by a small Rama Mandiram, the next place goes to Narasimha Temples. Most of them are happended to be ancient temples. In seemandhra, in Telangana, in Rayala seema, and even in the farther Southern regions, presence of a number of Narasimha Temples supports this statement.

There may be Narasimha Temples as at Korukonda (E.G.Dist.), Agiripally and Vedadri (Krishna Dist.), Mangalagjri (Guntur Dist.) Ahobilam (kurnool Dist.) and Yadagiri gutta (Telangana). There may be Varaha Temples as we find at Tirumala. But a temple with the moola virat being a dual incarnation (Ugalavatara), a combination of the third and the fourth incarnations (avataras) named as SRI VARAHA LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY is not found elsewhere. As such it has been hailed by scholars and the general public alike for centuries together.

From days unknown till today a good number of functions like the annual, half yearly, quarterly, fortnightly, weekly and daily ritualistic functions are observed in this temple verbatim. The traditions and conventions stay very hard here and are never disturbed either by the day to day increasing flow of the pilgrims or by the local political disturbances. This ancient temple, which has undisturbed traditions and customs preserved for centuries together, has an, unparalleled and uncomparable place in the history of Sri Vaishnavaite culture. Hence, isihc need for the Historical study of the temple in all its aspects.

Automatically needless to mention that it throws much light on the study of the religious development in the entire Uttarandhra, as there are many internal links among these temples in many aspects.

The long prefaces given in the Telugu works of the poets of the medieval period, throw much light on the glory and pomp of the temple. The works of KuchimanchiTimma Kavi (Simhachala Kshetra Mahatyam), Adidam Sura Kavi (Chatu padyalu), Gokulapati Kurmanadha kavi (Simhadri Narasimha Satakam), have much to speak about the history, tradition and glory of the temple.

The role of Sri Kantha Krishnamacharya Vachanams in establishing the temple at the supreme level is quite remarkable. He is the first to write prose lyrics in Telugu (Pradhama Andhra Vachana Kavitacharya – as praised by Tallapaka chinna Tirumalacharya) and in his time there was a thoroughfare from Simhachalam to Orugallu (Warangal), the capital of Kakateeyas and Sri Prataparudra, was the ruler at that time.

Not only the literary sources but traditions, conventions, customs, statutory observations accumulated over centuries and passed from one generation to another in a strict guruparmapara, establish the temple at its heights. The numerous pilgrims that visit the temple are mostly fascinated by (l)the mythological stories, legends, the literary references to the temple, (2) the vast and voluminous endowments made by kings belonging to the Chola, Chalukya, Padmanayaka, Reddi Raja, Rastrakuta, Kakateeya, Ganga and many other royal dynasties and their assistants, (3) the origin and development of the temple, (4)the history of the temple management from the earliest days to the present,(5) the role played by the functionaries and the management, (6)the life around the temple, (7)the style of architecture and sculpture of the temple which is a blend of Kakateeya, Chalukya and Ganga styles, (8)the various endowments made by the agelong royal families including those of famous Sri Krishna Devaraya of Hampi Vizianagaram, their chieftains, general and followers, (9) the Historical back ground of the Vaishnavaite religion round about Simhachalam, (10)the natural topes and the presence of various fruit and nut bearing trees around the valley, (11)the pleasant fragrance that comes from the flowers like ponna, pogada and especially the champaka(Simhachalam sampangi), which is a patent flower of Simhachalam area and (12)the jack and pineapple groves around.

Hence the study of the temple has to look into a variety of source material like the epigraphical wealth in the temple besides the study of the inscriptions from other regions, which have a bearing on this temple. In support of this, it may be noticed that many inscriptions found at Srikurmam of the Srikakulam District help in this connection to establish the political and cultural history of the various religions in this region.

The epigraphical wealth and the characteristic features of the inscriptions are to be brought to the understanding of the pilgrims, lest they should not, understand the exact background or the correct picturesque description of the temple. Hence is the need for a historical study of the temple in all its aspects. Incidentally a study of the history and culture of the region in the Uttarandhra also is needed, and it is to be based on a variety of source material, which the temple itself supplies for the study of its architecture and sculpture which owe their inspiration to the contemporary monuments in the regions to the North, to the South, and to the West of Simhachalam.

Thus it involves a study of the main temple-complexes of South India. The knowledge of the texts like Bhuvana Pradeepa, Tantra samuchchaya, and Manasara is of immense help to understand the architecture of the temple, in which both the Northern Ganga style and the Southern Chalukya style are blended. Bearing all the above in his mind, Dr. K Sundaram of Andhra University, has undertaken “The study of Simhachalam Temple” as a subject for his Ph.D., and had presented the thesis.

Later a revised and enlarged edition of that thesis was published with the financial assistance of Simhachalam Devasthanam and the work was taken up almost half – a – century ago. Unfortunately all the copies are exhausted and no copy lasts except in the libraries. Of late, many pilgrims and visitors insist on a detailed book about the history of the Simhachalam temple. As is suggested by the Commissioner for Endowment department, Hyderabad, to compact with the wishes of the pilgrims, it is decided by the management of the Simhachalam temple that the book of Dr. K. Sundaram is to be reprinted.

In this regard the pains of the Raja Saheb of Vizianagaram, Dr. Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Hereditary Trustee of Simhachalam Devasthanam are quite remarkable. Under his guidance a great effort also is being made to bring the Simhagiri Narahari Vachanams of Sri Kantha Krishnamacharya into lime light.

Of course there is a vote from the general public to have such a book in vernacular also and it is also in the consideration of the Simhachalam Devasthanam. Arrangements will be made to publish such a book very soon in Telugu also.

Hope this work supplements the wishes of the devotees to a great extent and helps the pilgrim to have a better idea about the temple and its history and tradition.

Also Read:

Simhachalam Temple: Timings | Calender | Do’s and Dont’s | Daily Schedule | Poojas & Sevas | Cost Details | Accommodation  | Festivals

Simhachalam Varahalakshmi Narasimha Temple Sthalapuranam, Legend, Architecture

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