Ahobila Kshetra is a group of temples located on the Ahobila Hills (also known as Garudadri or Garudachala and Vedachala). The presiding deity being Ahobila Nrsimha Swamy or Prahaladavarada. Lord Nrsimha Swamy in Swamyambhu (self manifested form) is located generally in a rock cavern (Bila) as he is personified as half lion (a source of infinite energy as paramatma) and half man (limited energy of a soul).
Nallamalai hills or Sri Parvatha, whose range extends from Tirupati at one end via Ahobila in the middle to Srisaila at the other end is conceptualized as Adisesha, with Tirupati representing the head, Ahobila the body, and Srisaila the tail, hence called Sheshachala.
Ahobila is unique in that all the nine Nrsimha forms are worshipped on the Ahobila Hills. That is why it is called Nava Nrsimha Kshetra. The upper Ahobila temple is about 2,800 ft above sea level and is located in a valley between two hills: Garudadri and Vedadri (near the sacred river Bhavanasini). These two hills are conceptualized as the separation of the pillar from where the ferocious Lord Nrsimha Swamy emerged to destroy Hiranyakashyapu. There are three caves in the Southern side, the central one is the main one containing Ugra Nrsimha or Ahobila Nrsimha depicted as though ripping open the abdomen of Hiranyakashyapu. On the eastern side of the entrance there is a shrine of Varaha Nrsimha. On a steep incline half a mile away from the Varaha Nrsimha is the shrine dedicated to Lord Prahalada Nrsimha.
Inside the cave, the Lord is depicted in a “Soumya” or graceful form with Sri Mahalakshmi on his lap (Malola Nrsimha). Close by there is a shrine dedicated to Yogananda Nrsimha, where the Lord is in a Yogic posture. Close to the Deity is a slab known as Prahalada Bande (stone slab), where Bhakta Prahalada is set to have sat for his yoga lessons from Lord Yogananda Nrsimha.
Higher up about two miles from there is the Ugrastambha, from where Lord Ugra Nrsimha had emerged to destroy Hiranyakashyapu. A mile and a half from there is the Jwala Nrsimha shrine.
Our journey, which mainly had us climbing the rocks, crossing the stream and going up the steep steps, was smooth until we reached the shrine of Krodha Nrsimha. After that, we started sitting near the stream, drinking the sweet and cool water, which looked really crystal clear. We were all climbing up very cautiously but one of my aunts was a bit too cautious, I think, because she slipped on one of the rocks, trying to avoid a tree branch, which was parallel to the ground. She sat there for a while, some of us giving her company, and saying a few encouraging words. She looked cheerful after a while and started climbing up, with renewed enthusiasm!
We were all chanting the different stotras of Lord Nrsimha. The nine forms of Lord Nrsimha are: Jwala; Ahobila (Ugra); Malola; Krodha; Karanja; Bhargava; Yogananda; Chatravata and Pavana.
Ahobila Nrsimha or Ugra Nrsimha
According to the Sthalapurana, Garuda performed penance for a number of years on a hill, which later came to be known as Garudachala, to obtain the divine grace of Lord Nrsimha. The Lord in His infinite grace, manifested Himself in a rock cavern (Bila) on the hill. Garuda then worshipped Lord Nrsimha and praised Him as “Ahobilam Mahabalam”. It is believed that it is this Lord who is worshipped regularly by Lord Brahma and other celestial Gods. It may be noted that this is the only full fledged temple in Eguva (or Upper) Ahobila with Prakaras, Galigopura, Dhwajastambha, the Lord’s consort (Sri Chenchulakshmi), Alwars, and Acharyas. It is also well maintained with Nitya worship while the remaining Nrsimha murthys on the Ahobila Hills are more or less exposed to nature or meagerly covered with shelter.
It has been a common belief that in the ancient times people were afraid to face the fierce deity of Ugra Nrsimha in the sanctum sanctorum. It seems when a stack of grass was left in front of the deity by the priest, it would soon result in fire and one could witness the smoke from a distance. This was attributed to the intensity of heat emanating from the Lord Ugra Nrsimha.
Krodha Nrsimha Swamy or Varaha Nrsimha Swamy
The temple of this Lord is one kilometre away from the main temple of Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobila. There is a small temple cavern, not far from Ahobila Nrsimha Swamy temple, on the banks of the Bhavanasini river, dedicated to Krodha Nrsimha or Varaha Nrsimha Swamy facing South. There are two shrines in this temple, one a Sthanaka(standing) of Sri Varaha Nrsimha Swamy with Goddess Bhudevi on his shoulder and the other shrine of Sri Lakshmi Nrsimha Swamy with Goddess Lakshmi on his side.
It is interesting to note that while Varaha and Nrsimha avataras are considered as separate avataras in Dasavataras, we sometimes come across the combined form, namely Sri Varaha Nrsimha Swamy. The popular shrine of Sri Varaha Nrsimha Swamy is located at Simhachala in Vishakapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.
One plausible interpretation for this combination of both the avataras may be that since the two occured in the same Yuga( Satyuga), one in the form of Bhu Varaha to protect the earth from the menace of Hiranyaksha and the other in the form of Lord Nrsimha to kill his brother Hiranyakashyapu, they may have been combined as Varaha Nrsimha. However, since only Lakshmi could calm down lord Nrsimha, his avatara was complete only with his divine consort (Mahalakshmi) by his side (hence Lakshmi Nrsimha Swamy).
Another interpretation is that since Maha Vishnu is always with his divine consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, by combining Varaha and Nrsimha Swamy, we get Bhu Devi from Varahavatara and Sri Devi from Nrsimhavatara that would result in Sri Varaha Nrsimha Swamy. Whether or not this interpretation is right is left to the discretion of the vedic scholars. (To be continued…)
Visit to Ahobila – I