Srimad payonidhi nikethana chakra pane
Bhogeendra Bhoga mani rajitha punya moorthe
Yogeesha shaswatha sharanya Bhabdhi potha
Lakshmi Nrsimha Mama Dehi Karavalambam
[excerpted from Sri Adi Shankaracharya’s Lakshmi-Nrsimha Karavalamba Stotra]
Meaning: Oh Great God Lakshmi Nrsimha, Who lives in the ocean of milk, Who holds the holy wheel as weapon, Who wears the gems on the head, Of Adhishesha as ornaments, Who has the form of good and holy deeds, Who is the permanent protector of sages, And who is the boat which helps us cross, This ocean of misery called life, Please give me the protection of your hands.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that for protection of the virtuous, destruction of the wicked and establishment of Dharma (righteousness), He takes Avatara (incarnations) in every Yuga. And whenever there is decline in Dharma and rise of Adharma (unrighteousness), he comes to re-establish Dharma. Of the 10 principal Avataras thus taken by Lord Mahavishnu, popularly known as Dasavatara, three of them stand out.
The Ramavatara is noted for showing how man should conduct himself, by self-example; the Krishnavatara for preaching how man should conduct himself, through Bhagavad Gita; and the Nrsimhavatara for the spontaneity with which the Lord appeared to protect His child-devotee, Prahalada. Yet another speciality of the Nrsimhavatara is that it lasted for only a brief while, whereas Rama and Krishna stayed in this world for much longer periods.
The story of Hiranyakashyapu and his son, Prahalada, and the circumstances that led to the emergence of Lord Nrsimha from a pillar are too well known to be repeated here.
The state of Andhra Pradesh is fortunate to have been endowed with some of the ancient and most famous temples dedicated to Lord Nrsimha Swamy. Of course, the temples dedicated to Lord Nrsimha in Karnataka are also popular, and the first we think of are the ones in Melukote and Hampi.
Epigraphic sources indicate that there were 79 ancient temples dedicated exclusively to Lord Nrsimha Swamy in Andhra Pradesh of which 27 temples have received continuous temple worship from ancient times. Chief amongst them are the Ahobila Kshetra (in Kurnool district) followed not in any particular order by Simhachalam, Mangalagiri, Yadagiri, Yadvadri, Antharvedi, Vedadri, Khadri and Gutti, Nagari and the list goes on.
Ever since I had heard of the ‘Sthala purana’ of Ahobila, I wanted to visit it. My mother-in-law, who knows the purana-punya kathes (mythological stories) in and out, told we could go to Ahobila provided we had a sizeable crowd, as it was a thick forest. Going in ones and twos was a strict no-no. A dozen of my family members got together and planned the trip. We left Bangalore by bus at around 8.30pm on Friday (22nd) to Alagadda (Andhra Pradesh). My son had a fun time in the bus. We reached Alagadda at 6am. With no proper drainage system in the city, the place was full of mosquitoes. We were afraid we may all be infected with Chikungunia. Fortunately, nothing has happened to any of us till today, i.e. Tuesday (25th). We wanted to clear the place as early as possible. But the first bus to Ahobila was at 6.30 am. We got the bus and reached Malola Guest house run by Sri Ahobila Mutt around 7.15 am. We had booked rooms. The room and bathroom were clean although there were mosquitoes and bed-bugs. We did the morning duties and went to a Brahmin’s Hotel next to the Mutt for our breakfast. We had Pongal, Idli, Vada and washed it down with hot filter Coffee. Sadly, the waiter was terribly stingy while serving Chutney.
One of my relatives, who had visited the place before, had a few friends, which made things relatively easy for us. We had a young Guide whom our relative knew. A ‘Guide’, as we made out, was a boon because Ahobila, as I told before, is a forest and if you lose your way, it is really difficult to track your back. We hired a jeep and reached Upper Ahobila. The roads were really narrow. It had rained the previous day and the muddy roads were really bad to drive. The ride reminded me of the fun rides that I enjoyed in Amsterdam way back in the early 1990s.
All of us, except my M-I-L, walked from thereon. We arranged a ‘Dholi’ for my M-I-L, carried by 6 bearers. And they were really quick manoeuvering the rocks, streams and steep steps. Climbing these on bare feet was a difficult task even for the local people who are used to the dry and humid weather. And you don’t have steps everywhere. You need to climb on slippery rocks, cross streams with water gushing down and the stream is full of pebbles, rocks and tiny fish!
Imagine the plight when a person falls trying to climb the slippery rocks. And this is what happened… (To be continued…)
Visit to Ahobila – II