Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ahobilam yatra ( Part-1)

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The abode of Nine Narasimhars
நவ நரசிம்மர் தரிசனம்

Ugram Veeram Maha Vishnum Jwalantham Sarvathomukham
Narasimham Beeshanam Badram MruthyOr Mruthyum Namamyaham

( Bow to thee, Lord Narasimha, ferocious, chivalrous, Maha Vishnu, radiant faced, omnipresent, bestower of auspiciousness and remover of birth and death cycles.)

When my friend when he mentioned that he is planning for a visit to Ahobilam I told him that I will also join him. But he forgot and there was no room in the van, when I insisted again he reluctantly took me as an extra passenger causing inconvenience to others. But when I completed the tour of three days we were completely satisfied, it was a complete journey spiritual , adventure which involves about 8 Kms of trekking in jungles laden with bamboo and teak and criss crossing wild rivers and also trek along river and also about three Kms of rock climbing to reach the highest point. As you don’t have even cellphone connectivity you are completely cut off from the hustle bustle of the city and are one with nature bathing in pleasant waterfalls thus the trip is a complete one. The trip was akin to what we undertook in the mighty Himalayas minus the cold.

The significance of Ahobilam situated among the Nalla Mala Hills (Black Hill ranges) of eastern Ghats in Andhra pradesh’s Kadappah district is that it is the Narasimha Kshteram ( Abode of Lord Narasimha ). Narasimha is one of the Dasavatharams ( ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu the preserver according to Hindu mythology . To save His child devotee Prahalada and to kill the asura (demon) Hiranya Kasiphu, Lord took this incarnation of half man and half lion . Thus he proved the words of Prahalada that Lord Vishu is omnipresent.

The legend of Lord Narasimha is as follows, the demon king Hiranyakashipu was angry with Lord Vishnu because He killed his brother Hiranyakshan who hid the mother earth in the nether land. At that time Mahavishnu took the Varaha (Boar) incarnation killed Hiranyaksha and liberated Mother earth from the clutches of the demon. To take revenge on Lord Vishnu Hiranyakashipu did severe penance and obtained boon from Lord Brahma, the creator which made him almost invincible. He obtained boon that he will not be killed by man, demon, celestial, animal or bird. He will not be killed during day or night. He will not be killed on ground or air. He will not be killed either inside or outside . He will not be killed by any weapaon. Beacause of this boon he started tormenting everybody including the celestials and declared that he is God and asked all his subjects to woeship him only and not to worship Lord Narayana.

ஜ்வாலா நரசிம்மர்

Now to the legends of Ahobilam. According to Hindu Mythology Eastern Ghats is considered to be the celestial thousand hooded serpent Adi Seshan ( Sesh Nag) in which Lord Vishnu sleeps in milk ocean. Tirumala being the head portion, Ahobilam the middle and Sri Sailam being the tail portion. Maha Vishnu took Narasimha Avatar at that instant when Prahalada wanted ie in a hurry so other servants of the Lord did not accompany Him. So Garuda the mount of the Lord wanted to have darshan (holy vision) of Lord as Narasimha and did severe penance in these hills . Pleased with the penance Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and gave darshan to Garuda and manifested himself in these hills. Even today one of the mountain known as Garudatri resembles the shape of eagle with folded hands and beak in the middle and two wings on either side. The Pavava Narasimhar shrine is situated on the Garudatri hills and we trek for about 7 Kms to reach this shrine.

The other importance of this place is the Lord is swayam vaktha ( self formed – not man made) here. He gives darshan as Nava Narasimhar (Nine forms) ranging from Jwala Narasimhar ( the ferocious) to Santha Narasimhar ( the peaceful ).

The nine forms in which Lord Narasimha has manifested here are as follows

By the will of God his own son Prahalada was born as a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, when his teacher tried to teach him to praise Hianyakashipu, Prahalada worshipped Lord Narayana with the sacred eight syllable mantra “OM Namo Narayanaya” and made other students also to chant this mantra. Infuriated by the behaviour of his son Hiranya tried to kill him in many ways but failed . Blind with rage Hiranya tormented his son and asked him where is Your Vishnu, for which Prhalad replied calmly and with conviction that my Lord is omnipresent He is the indweller of all the living beings. Enraged by the reply Hiranya hit the pillar with his hands and thundered if your Vishnu is here. Then Prahalada replied “He is there in the pillar and also in the speck” . As if to prove the words of His devotee Lord came out of the pillar in the Narasimha form ferociously, He was neither animal or man or celestial, the time was evening time so it was neither day or night, the Lord caught hold of Hiranya and pulled him the door steps of his palace which was neither inside nor outside . He placed him on His thighs which was neither ground nor air. He used his nails which was not a known weapon to tore open the stomach of Hiranya and garlanded himself with his intestine and thus the demon was subdued and the significance of devotion to the Lord was established.

Jwala Ahobila Malola Kroda Karanja Bhargava

Yogananda Chatravada Bavana Nava murthyaha

1. Jwala Narasimhar – Jwala means flame , the Lord is at His most ferocious form here. There are three idols in this shrine in the first one He is depicted as He emerges out of the pillar to kill Hiranya. In the second one the Lord is depicted with eight hands, with two hands He is tearing open the stomach of Hiranya and with other two hands He is garlanding himself with the intestine with two hands he is holding the legs and head firmly in place on His thigh in the other two hands He is wielding His divine weapons of Conch and discus. The third idol depicts the fight between the Lord and the demon. To visit this shrine we have to cross a beautiful water fall, falling from the top of the Vedatri mountains. We cannot miss the conjunction that the shrine of the Jwala Narashimhar is situated just below the Ugra sthamb ( The ferocious pillar) the peak of this mountain resembles a split pillar on one side it is full there is a gap and the other one is half.

2. Ugra Narasimhar ( Ahobila Narasimhar) : Ugra means ferocious . This temple is at upper Ahobilam and the Lord is self formed inside a cave to give darshan to Garuda here he is depicted with Hiranya on His lap. The idol of Prahalada is in front of the Lord. Adi Sankara and , Thirumangai Alwar has sanctified the Lord with their hymns. There is a shrine for Senju Lakshmi also in this temple.

3. Malola Narasimhar : Maa means Maha lakshmi and Lola means Lover. In this form the Lord give dharshan along with His consort Mahalakshmi seated in His left thigh. He is depicted as Santha ( peaceful) Narasimha showering His blessings to the devotees.

4. Kroda Narasimhar : Kroda means the extruded teeth, the Lord is depicted as the Varaha Narasimhar ( boar) . indicating his previous incarnaton. He is holding mother earth in His teeth.

5. Karanja Narasimhar : Karanja is a tree . Hanuman did penance to see Lord Rama ( Another incarnation of Vishnu) here as the Lord appeared as Narasimha Hanuman requested him to give darshan as Rama. So the Lord gave darshan along with bow and arrow with the celestial serpent as umbrella to hanuman hereunder the Karanja tree. So he is called as Karanja Narasimhar.

6. Bargava Narasimhar : Bargava is Parasurama, who did penance to see Lord in his Narasimha form Vishnu . Lord Vishnu appeared as Ugra Narasimha to and also showed all His Dasavatharam ( ten incarnations ) to Parasurama.

7. Yogananda Narasimhar : Here the Lord is depicted in a yogic posture with His legs crossed and the hands in yogic posture. The legend is that He taught the nuances of yoga to prahalada here.

8. Chatra vad Narasimhar : Chatra means umbrella and Vad means banyan tree the Lord is here depicted in His jolly mood enjoying the music of Ahaa and Uuhu two divine singers unser the banyan tree.

9. Pavana Narasimhar : Here again the Lord gives darshan along with His consort Senju Lakshmi. Senju are the tribals of this mountains the legend is that the Lord married Senju Lakshmi to grace the tribals.

Ahobilam has been sanctified by the hymns of Thirumangai Alwar and is one of the 108 Divya Desams of Lord Maha Vishnu. The Adi Guru ( preceptor) Sankaracharya regained his cut hand after visiting this place so he is installed a Shivaling( symbol of Lord Shiva) and has also written a hymn on Lakshmi Narasimaha. This place is the seat of the Ahobilam Mutt on the four mutts of Vaishnavism which is supposed to be formed by the Lord himself.

Lower Ahobilam is about 400 Kms from Chennai and 350 Km from Hyderabad and can be reached by road . The nearest town is Allagadda. We a group of about 16 started from Chennai by van to Ahobilam in the night. Through Renikunta, and Kadappah we reached Mahanandi a sleepy temple town early in the morning and completed morning rituals in that temple. The holy bath in the ponds of the temple was really refreshing unlike other temple ponds these ponds had flowing water the origin is not exactly known. Also had the darshan of Maha Nandi ( big Nandi) the mount of Lord Shiva and worshipped Shiva as Mahanandeeswarar and Mother Parvati as Kameswari and proceeded to Ahobilam.

கீழ் அஹோபிலம் இராஜ கோபுரம்

The place is situated in two tiers at the plains we have the lower Ahobilam where a magnificent temple is built for Prahalada Varathar also called Laxmi Narasimhar and Santha Narasimhar . The temple is built in south Indian style with grand architectural design and the sculptures in the pillars and walls are worth mentioning here. We also see a pillar called Vijaya sthambam built after the victory over muslim rulers who captured this temple by Vijaya Nagar kings. Tourist homes are there in lower Ahobilam where we can stay comfortably, South Indian food is available on order at the tourist homes. But you don’t have good hotels here. Beware of monkies which will snatch any thing which you carry in your hands. The famous Ahobilam mutt is also situated here.

After worshipping the Lord and Mother Lakshmi in this temple we visited the Bargava Narasimhar shrine which is about three kilometers from here. Though we can trek to this shrine, as it was raining and will if we trek it will more time and will extend our stay we decided to go by auto. As it was monsoon time and the route was slippery we had a real skating auto journey though it was risky we also enjoyed the auto journey here we have commend the skill of the auto drivers who drove the auto in those slippery routes. During non monsoon period jeeps also ply to this. The Bargava Narasimha shrine is situated atop a small hill with about 132 steps and there is beautiful pond with lot of lotus flowers at the foot of the hills. I was wonder stuck to see a beautiful pond in the midst of forest.

பார்க்கவ நரசிம்மர் புஷ்கரணி

We returned to lower Ahobilam then had the darshan of Chatra Vada Narasimhar and then traveled to Yogananda Narasimhar shrine. A free choultry here provides free meals for all the pilgrims 24 hours started by a philanthrophist. After taking lunch here we traveled towards Upper Ahobilam the base camp for the pilgrimage for next two days and in between we visited the shrine of Karanja Narasimhar. From here we can see the formation of the mountains which resemble the rounded forts and is believed to be the fort of Hiranya. As it was raining we rushed to Upper Ahobilam. A big water fall greeted us and our choultry in which we stayed was situated nearer to the water fall.
மேல் அகோபிலம் இராஜ கோபுரம்

The temple of Ugra Narasimhar ( Ahobila Narasimhar) is situated here it is the base camp of sorts for the next two day’s trekking expeditions. No hotels are available but food is provided in the choultries itself on payment basis. A good thing happened here, our cell phones stopped ringing. As upper Ahobilam is situated in the valley formed by mountains on all the sides cell phone was also cut off also there is no land line connection also available at Upper Ahobilam, if any communication has to be made we have to go to Lower Ahobilam only autos connect both the places throughout the day . We visited the Ahobila Narasimhar shrine , situated on the banks of the Bava Nasinin ( Destroyer of births) river, a small temple with a three tier Rajagouram and worshipped Ugra Narasimhar and Senju Lakshmi. In the 7th centuries when this place would have been thick woods Adi Sankara and later Thirumangai Alwar has visited this shrine. Thus the first day of the trip ended in an eventful note.

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