Not only Mahabharatha; but also ancient puranas like Koorma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana mention about Ahobila and its presiding deity Nrsimha. In fact, Brahmanda Purana says that this place was once the palace of Hiranyakashyapu who was slain by Sriman Narayana manifesting as Nrsimha from a pillar there for the sake of his staunch devotee Prahalada. Vagaries of time brought about the destruction of the then existing structures yielding place to nature’s creation of the mountain range that preserved the site of incarnation as “Svayam Vyakta Kshetra” of Lord Nrsimha.
According to Stala Purana, there are two popular legends for the derivation of the word ‘Ahobila’. It is stated that the Devas (Gods), while witnessing the terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the lord took on in order to tear to pieces Hiranyakasipu sung in His praise as ‘Ahobala’ (Lo: the strength). Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobila. In support of this, there is a prapatthi sloka about-Ahobila that reads:-
Aho Veeryam Aho Souryarn Aho Bahuparakramah
Naarasimham Param Daivam Ahobilam Aho Balam
The other version is that because of the great cave, the Ahobila, where Garuda worshipped, did penance and realised the lord, the place itself has come to be called Ahobilam.
Sri Ramanuja shrine
Next on our way, we visited the shrine dedicated to Sri Ramanuja. It is very close from Varaha Nrsimha Swamy temple. After the minor hiccup where my aunt slipped and fell, there were no more anxious moments. We continued our journey to the top.
Malola Nrsimha Swamy
Nearly two kilometres from the main temple of Upper Ahobila, is the famous shrine of Malola Nrsimha Swamy. Not far from Krodha Nrsimha Swamy temple is a small cave dedicated to Malola Nrsimha Swamy on the banks of the great river Kanakabhaya. The deity here appears in “Soumya” or graceful form. As the Lord is seen with his consort, Mahalakshmi, he is known as Malola Nrsimha Swamy. The word Malola is actually ‘Ramalola’ which means the beloved to Mahalakshmi. It may be noted that the Vedadri hill in Upper Ahobila area was designated as Lakshmi Kshetra by Lord Sri Maha Vishnu as he gave prominence to Mahalakshmi in this place.
The lord is seated here in the Sukhasana pose with his left leg folded while his right leg is at ease. The Lord’s two upper hands, right and left hold the Chakra and Shankha, respectively while the two lower hands show the Abhaya Hasta mudra and the other is around his Consort. Mahalakshmi, with her hands, one in Kataka and the other in Prasarita Vama Hasta mudra, is shown seated on his lap.
The small shrine, situated in a cave on the hill, is in between Ugra Sthambha and the Upper Ahobila. It is dedicated to Prahalada Nrsimha Swamy. The image of the Prahalada is installed in a small cave. It is believed that performing a child’s ‘Aksharaabhyasa’ here is very auspicious.
There are a number of holy ‘theerthas’ (water ponds) surrounding this place. Of these, Rakthakunda is the most important. It is stated that Lord Nrsirnha after killing the demon Hiranyakashyapu, washed his hands in this ‘theertha’ and hence the water is still reddish in appearance.
This is the most difficult place for one to reach at Ahobila. At a distance of eight kilometres from the Upper Ahobila temple, we can see a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. It is a long-held view that from the cleft, the Lord appeared in the form of Nrsimha and this cleft is known as ‘Ugra Sthambha’.
Yogananda Nrsimha Swamy
This temple is to the south-east of Lower Ahobila at a distance of 2 kilometres. On the Western side of Vedadri Hill, near Lakshmi Kshetra, facing South is Yogananda Nrsimha Swamy. It is believed that at this place Prahalada learnt Yogabhyasa and Rajanithi from Lord Nrsimha. Hence, he is called Yogananda Nrsimha Swamy. The Lord is shown with his two upper hands holding Chakra and Shankha while the lower hands are seen resting on the Yoga-Patta.
Karanja Nrsimha Swamy
This shrine is situated at a distance of one kilometre from the Upper Ahobila and one furlong from the road leading to Lower Ahobila. On the Western side of Garudadri hill under the shade of the great Karanja Vriksha is located the temple of Karanja Nrsimha Swamy. The Lord is seen seated in meditation under the canopy of Adisesha. He is holding a Sarnaga or bow. located next to this temple is the shrine of Lord Anjaneya.
Chatravata Nrsimha Swamy
The Chatravata Nrsimha devasthana is about three kilometres from lower Ahobila. Near Karanja Nrsimha Swamy shrine, under the shade of the great Chatravata tree, is located the temple of Chatravata Nrsimha Swamy. It has a six-pillared Mukha Mandapa in front of the sanctum. The pillars have square adhistanas and bear bas-reliefs of Sri Nrsimha Swamy, Anjaneya, etc. The deity carved out of black basaltic stone is very beautiful. The lord is seated in Padmasana pose. The two upper right and left hand holds abhaya hasta and kati hasta poses. Various decorations on the Lord as well Yagnopavita are clearly seen.
Pavana Nrsimha Swamy
Nearby to the Lakshmi Nrsimha temple at lower Ahobila, is the shrine of Pavana Nrsimha. People say visiting this temple and having darshana of Uthsava murthy (Pavana Nrshima) at lower Ahobila is equalent to visiting the temple which is 6 kms above Upper Ahobila.
On the Southern side of Garudadri, situated on the banks of the river Pavana, is the shrine dedicated to Pavana Nrsimha Swamy under the canopy of the seven-hooded Adishesha. Lord Lakshmi Nrsimha Swamy is seen with his two upper hands, right and left, holding Chakra and Shankha respectively while the lower right hand is in Abhaya hasta mudra and the lower left hand is holding Sri Mahalakshmi seated on his lap. The Lord is shown in the Sukhasana pose with His left leg folded while the right leg is shown bent at the knee and at ease.
Bhargava Nrsimha Swamy
The Bhargava Nrsimha Swamy is situated at a distance of two kilometres from the Lower Ahobila, on a hill, near the sacred pond, known as ‘Bhargava Theertha’, where Bhargava Rama (Parashurama) performed his penance. This place is located on the hill near the sacred pond “Bhargava Tirtha’ at a distance of about 1 mile from the lower Ahobila. It is believed that Bhargava Rama performed penance at this place. He visited and worshipped Lord Nrsimha during his tirtha yatra.
Hence, the shrine here is known as Bhargava Nrsimha Swamy. The Lord is shown with the two upper hands, right and left, holding Chakra and Shankha, respectively. The lower two hands is depicting destruction of Hiranyakashyapu by opening his stomach and wearing the intestines as garlands. Hiranyakashyapu is shown with his right hand holding a sword. Sri Prahalada is shown on the right side of the Lord in sthanaka, Anjali hasta pose. The crown on Lord Nrsimha as well as the Dasavatara bas-relief on the thorana forms an integral part of the sculpture. There is an Akshaya Tirtha close by which provides water at all times.
Sri Veda Vyasa, who visited this place, called it Akshayam Rakshakam Bhuvanascha (the water from Akshaya will safeguard the needs of the Universe). It is believed that visiting this place and Akshaya Tirtha is equivalent to visiting Ganges. In doing so, one can be assured of salvation after life. (To be continued…)
Visit to Ahobila – I