Sunday, November 10, 2019

Ahobilam Trek - The final phase

After praying at Jwala Narasimhar Temple we climbed down the myriad steps again. We took a deviation leading to the Malola Narasimhar Temple. A narrow weather beaten boulder laden track with steps at periodical intervals, some rather steep, not regularly used by pilgrims. We were in the cocoon of nature completely isolated with no signs of human life, surrounded by sublime enchanting views. We encountered no rushing streams or gushing waterfalls, no sounds of swaying trees or rustling leaves. The silence was startling and the silhouettes and shadows chasing us were frightening. We trudged along bravely and within an hour we reached Malola Narasimhar an unpretentious non descript structure. The temple was about to close but the priest had been informed about our arrival and was waiting for us. As is usual we offered dry fruits to the Lord which after receiving the Lords blessings were returned to as prasadam.
Malola Temple
 This is yet another cave temple situated on the Vedathiri hills where Ma Lakshmi did penance. Malola means Ma(mother)-Lola(affection).Here Sri Narasimhar strikes an affectionate pose with four hands.He is in sitting position with folded left leg and Chenchu Lakshmi on his lap. The upper hands hold Sanku and Chakram. The lower right hand is in protective pose or Abhaya Hastham while the lower left hand is hugging the Goddess.
From here on wards it was a steep descent down a few dozen steps as we watched the glorious Bhavasini rive meandering below in tranquility. We reached Krodha or Varaha Narasimhar for a second time. But alas our luck was not on our side. The temple was closed once again and we we were not fortunate to receive the Lords blessings. Here the Lord appears with the body of Narasimhar and the head of Varahar and Lakshmi seated on his lap.
We returned to the base at Ahobilam deposited our bamboo sticks and prayed at Ahobilam. Out final stop was at Karanja Narasimhar around 1 Km from Ahobilam. Once again this temple was closed for repairs.
In conclusion this is by far the most amazing and awesome trek ever undertaken. Located in the lush green and dense Nallamala forest in the heart of the Eastern Ghats in Cuddapah district in Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh. A precipitous climb in pouring rain through rocky terrain wading through knee deep water in pebble strewn streams & witnessing multiple waterfalls. Reached the pinnacle after the arduous climb actually walking right through a waterfall fully drenched to witness the glorious sights of Jwala Narasimhar, the Ugra Sthambham & the Garudadri hills. An unparalleled, overwhelming,awe inspiring & hugely humbling experience.
Entrance to Karanja Temple

Friday, November 8, 2019

Ahobilam - The Enchanting Trek

October 20: After completion of the nerve racking jeep ride we repaired to our rooms briefly. We had a commanding view of the Eastern Ghats from the balcony abutting our rooms. We were getting ready for the final phase of our Ahobilam trip. So far the weather had been kind and conducive and there had been no obstacles. As we gazed at the ghats we witnessed a swathe of cloud cover and torrential rain battering down on the hills and in no time there was heavy downpour all around us. While the sight of the rain was electrifying and enthralling it also threw a spanner in our trekking plans for the afternoon. In a conundrum and after a brief spell of vacillation we decided to move on. The car dropped us off at Upper Ahobilam around 8 Kms from our guest house located at an altitude of 2800 feet on the banks of the Bhavanashini river cradled between Garudathiri and Vedathiri hills. By then the rain had almost completely receded and we were naturally elated. 
In Ahobilam Narasimhar is a ferocious form as he wanted to give darshan to both Devas and Garuda in the same form as when he killed Hiranyakashipu. Garuda did penance so that he could worship the Lord in the Narasimha avatar. Hence one range is called the Garudathiri hills. Next to this is a smaller sanctum of Chenchu Lakshmi who is considered a reincarnation of Mahalakshmi. She was reborn into a hunter family and did penance in order to remarry Lord Vishnu in the current avatar. Hence the second hill range is called Vedathiri hills.
At Ahobilam we collected bamboo sticks (available for hire) to protect ourselves from possible simian attacks as also to help us to climb up rocky terrain strewn with small and large uneven boulders and cross small streams of water gushing along. We witnessed many waterfalls cascading from great heights intensified and propelled by the prodigious rainfall. Fascinating and picturesque scenery greeted us all around - sheer rock faces looming high, verdant lush forestry on either side. Intermittent rainfall coupled with panoramic & bewitching views added to our intoxication. Galvanized we continued on with a new surge of energy and determination. A sense of jubilation enveloped us and we felt the presence of omnipotent omnipresent and omniscient Narasimha all around us pervading into our very beings and souls. The feeling is indescribable and we rapturously transcended to sublime levels. In the midst of this a small faux paux, a minor mishap. I tripped while crossing a small stream, a momentary act of carelessness and I lost balance and fell down sideways onto a rocky face. A bewildering fall but amazingly I escaped unharmed devoid of any lacerations or contusions or broken bones. A small miracle. I got up as if nothing had occurred and undeterred continued the indefatigable march towards our destination. On the way we crossed the Krodha Narasimhar or Varaha Narasimhar. It was 2.00 pm and the temple was closed for the afternoon.
We crossed a couple of narrow steel bridges and during the final lap ascend around 1000 steps, and reached the dizzying pinnacle from where we could view the Jwala Narasimhar Temple, the Ugra Sthambam and the Garudhathiri hill peaks shaped like a garuda or brahminy kite with its head at the centre and wide expansive wing spans on either side.It was indeed a stunning spectacle, an awe inspiring sight. We had to cross a narrow rocky ledge behind a magnificent waterfall to reach the sanctum of Jwala Narasimhar. Some of us could lean out and get completely drenched in the falls while others cupped their hands to drink the heavenly nectar - exhilarating teertham or holy water from the Narasimhas. We reach Jwala Narasimhar sanctum. Here is the Jwala or fiery form of Narasimhar which the Lord assumed to kill Hiranyakashipu. The main temple is a rock cut cave temple. In the sanctum there are three statues. The main deity is Narasimha who has eight hands and holds Hiranyakashipu on his lap. One of the left hands holds the demon's legs while another pair of hands pierce into the stomach to extract Hiranyakashipus intestines. The upper two hands hold a chakra and a conch. The temple is very small so there is a bit of jostling for space. On our exit we are offered panakam or jaggery water by tribals. Photo credits: Satheesh Kumar Rajamanickam.
The trek begins at Ahobilam base
A stream crossing
The Nallamala forest
Some scenic pictures
The Ugra Sthambham
The enchanting waterfall overflowing the rocky ledge

Garudamalai or Garudathiri Hills

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pavana and Bhargava Narasimha Temples

20 October 2019: Our target for this morning was to visit Pavana and Bhargava temples. These can be covered by foot or by Jeep. Since the walking track is through dense jungle and steep & precipitous and time consuming, we decided to hire a jeep instead. An old battered willy's jeep with four wheel drive probably a wreck discarded from World War II and subsequently retrofitted presented itself. We packed ourselves into this contraption and proceeded towards our first mission - the Pavana Narasimha Temple. The first five kms was on good tarred road. Then we had to go off road and travel through the jungle for 14 Kms - a narrow undulating kuccha path. The path had disintegrated due to recent heavy rains leaving huge craters on slushy ground and the ride was extremely bumpy. It required great driving skills on part of the driver to keep this medieval beast in control. We crossed large tracts of bamboo forests en route - do not know if this is part of the natural vegetation of the Nallamala forest or subsequently planted by local tribes. Took us approximately an hour to reach our destination - the Pavana Narasimhar temple located on the banks of the river Pavana. This is the most peaceful form of all the Nava Narasimhars. The Lord liberates all devotees from all sins from past and present lives. Sage Bharadwaja rid himself of Brahma Hati dosham here. By trek this place is some seven kms from Upper Ahobilam Temple and you can witness some breathtaking sights in the Nallamala forest during the trek.
After praying at Pavana Narasimhar shrine we climbed up a rocky incline to the sanctum of Goddess Chenchulakshmi: a low roof cave temple where you need to bend considerably low to enter. She is considered as Mahalakshmi reincarnated as a tribal woman do that she could marry the Lord in the Narasimha avatar.
Next we retraced the route back to Lower Ahobilam and went off road again to visit the Bhargava Narasimhar Temple.There is a small lily pond at the base of the temple known as Bhargava Teertham. The temple is atop a small hill and is reached after a short trek and clambering up around 150 steps. Bhargava Rama performed his penance here and hence this temple gets its name. The shrine is only 2 kms from Lower Ahobilam and hence can be easily approached by walk.
For more details you may read this blog:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Prahladavaradar Temple Ahobilam

The temple surrounded by three prakarams in the Lower Ahobilam is dedicated to Prahlada Varadar. With Vijayanagar style noticeable in the structure, there are a number of mandapas outside the temple. A shrine dedicated to Sri Venkateswara exists to the south west of this Narasimha temple and lends view to the episode that Lord Venkateswara obtained the blessings of Narasimha just before his marriage with Padmavathi. The Mukha Mandapam there, is now used as the Kalyana Mandapam of Narasimha Swamy. With Lakshminarasimha as the presiding Deity, the main temple consists of a sanctum, Mukhamandapam and Rangamandapam with numerous pillars intricately carved and carrying rich sculptures. There are also three smaller shrines for Lakshmi, Andal and Azhwars. In the sanctum are also kept the Utsava idols of Prahlada Varadar, Pavana Narasimhar and the processional idols of Jwala Narasimha endowed with ten hands and with his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi flanking him. A small idol of the first Jeeyar, Sri Adivan Satakopa Swami is also kept in the sanctum. Both at Upper and Lower Ahobilam, one can see on the pillars sculptures of Lord Narasimhar wooing His consort Chenchulakshmi. The Lord chasing Hiranyakasipu in one pillar and bursting forth from another pillar to tear him are very realistic.There is a tall Jayasthambham erected in the spacious ground outside the temple walls to mark the victory of Krishnadeva Raya. The Kakatiya Kings especially Prathapa Rudra has also contributed towards additional structures and maintenance of this Ahobilam complex.
The Jayasthambam
The Entrance Gopuram
The newly erected Ramanujar Mandapam

The holy water tank or teertham
The gold plated Dwaja Sthambam
An 80 year old man stands smeared in silver paint. He has been doing this for the past 15 years to earn his daily bread
The well illuminated pillared mandapam looks so magical

Chennai to Ahobilam

19 October 2019: We embarked to Ahobilam around 5.00 am in a Toyota Innova - two families comprising six adults and 2 kids. This much awaited trip had been planned months in advance. Ahobilam is the land of the Nava Narasimhas nestling in the Eastern Ghats and located in Kurnool District approx.360 Km north (with a slightly westerly slant) of Chennai. Around 9.30 am we stopped over by the road side beneath the canopy of a sprawling tree. The ground was a bit slushy and slippery due to light incessant overnight rain. We consumed delicious idlis/molakapadi/coconut chutney/parathas & tomato thokku. Having satiated our hunger we continued our journey on NH5. The rest of the drive was largely uneventful and the weather was conducive - cool with slightly overcast sky. The driver was a pleasant but uninteresting guy, his driving a wee bit extra cautious. He was not a conversationalist and he had a tendency to slouch over the steering wheel at times. But overall he was in control and his eyes focused on the road and maintained a speed limit of between 80-100 Kmph. After a brief stop over for some coffee & a washroom break at one of petrol filling stations we motored on. We finally reached Lower Ahobilam around 3.30 afternoon. Due to heavy rush of pilgrims rooms were not available in the temple guest house. Rajasekhar & Satheesh went scouting for rooms elsewhere and were successful in locating two good rooms in a private guest house. Rooms were large and clean with attached bathrooms - and sufficient beds,pillows and bed linen to house 4 persons per room. Accordingly we segregated - ladies and kids were herded into one room and men into in the other. The owners are primarily caterers and live in the ground floor portion. They are contracted by the temple to cook massive amounts of food to be offered to pilgrims. They had kept ready a huge multiple tiered tiffin carrier similar to what film shooting crews used to carry in times of yore. We were famished and wolfed down the generous quantity of food served to us on paku plates. The food was so tasty - rice sambar, rasam, poduthooval, poriyal & butter milk. 
We visited the following three temples at Lower Ahobilam in the evening: Chatravata, Yogananda & Prahlada Varadar.
Chatravatha Narasimha Swamy: The deity is installed under a peepul tree and surrounded by thorny bushes. The temple was undergoing thirupani or renovation and was temporarily closed.
Yogananda Narasimhar: The legend is that after killing Hiranyakashipu the Lord taught Prahlada several yogic postures and hence the deity gets this name. Another special feature of this temple is the in the Navagraha sanctum there are also idols of Nava Narasimhars installed.
Prahlada Varadar Temple: We also visited this temple in the late evening. But more about this in the next post.
Some interesting and informative blog sites you may wish to read to learn more about Ahobilam:

Enroute to Yoganarasimhar Temp


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