After staying for just a day, Ahobila looked so endearing to us. Nowhere do we feel as close to this godhead of Nrsimha, most revered and senior of incarnations, as we do in the wooded environs of Ahobila. Situated only a hundred miles from the busy commercial centre of Cuddapah, we enter an entirely new world in the small unspoilt village of Ahobila. Surrounded by densely covered hills on all sides, it is easy to believe that God would have assumed a half-lion form in order to save his devotee and instil terror in the little boy’s enemy, his own father.
Jwala Nrsimha Swamy
This is about four kilometres from the Upper Ahobila temple. The shrine of Jwala Nrsimha Swamy lies higher up between the two hills, Garudachala and Vedachala and in a small mountain cave known traditionally as Achalachayya Meru. This place is said to be the actual spot where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore open Hiranyakashyapu. The lord is seated over Garuda peeta. Lord Nrsimha has ten hands; the upper two hold Chakra and Shankha. Two hands hold Hiranyakashyapu on the lap of the lord who is in the sukhasana pose with his left leg folded and the right leg at ease. His other hands are carrying various weapons of destruction and show tearing out the intestines of the demon to destroy him. Prahalada is in Anjali hasta pose to the right of the Lord.
A shrine to the right shows Lord Nrsimha with the Goddess Chenchu Lakshmi, who is carrying a sword and a shield. On the left is seen the shrine of Lord Nrsimha emerging out of the pillar ready to kill Hiranyakashyapu. These three shrines comprise the main sanctum in the Jwala Nrsimha Swamy temple.
Lakshmi Nrsimha Temple at Lower Ahobila
The temple surrounded by three prakaras in the Lower Ahobila is dedicated to Prahalada Varada i.e., the Lord whose grace bestows on Prahalada. With Vijayanagara style temple architecture noticeable in the structure, there are a number of mandapas outside the temple. A shrine dedicated to Sri Venkateshwara exists to the south west of this Nrsimha temple and lends view to the episode that Lord Venkateswara obtained the blessings of Nrsimha just before his marriage with Padmavathi. The Mukha Mandapa is now used as the Kalyana Mandapa of Nrsimha Swamy. With Lakshmi Nrsimha as the presiding deity, the main temple consists of a sanctum, Mukha Mandapa and Ranga Mandapa 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 murthys of Prahalada Varada, Pavana Nrsimha and the processional idols of Jwala Nrsimha endowed with ten hands and with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi on his either side. A small idol of the first Jeeyar, Sri Adivan Satakopa Swami is also kept before them.
At the entrance of this temple, we saw a man dressed like Mahatma Gandhi, with silver paint all over his body, standing like a statue. His name, he told was ‘Koteeswaran’ (means Crorepati). It seems he has been begging for alms dressed in this fashion since a long time. He showed a photo album where he posed with local politicians and Corporators. And as a coincidence, a local MLA came to visit the temple and all of us were hushed away to a corner by the security personnel. We saw the politician talking to Gandhi for a while.
How to reach
Situated in the Nallamalai Hills, Ahobila is about 24 Kms. It is 112 Kms from Allagadda Taluk Headquarters (Cudappah) and 65 Kms. from Nandyala in Andhra Pradesh. There are direct buses to Allagadda from Bangalore. From there, you need to take another bus to Ahobila. After reaching Ahobila, lots of jeeps and autorickshaws are available that take you till the Lower Ahobila, from where you can either climb till Jwala Nrsimha shrine or take a ‘Dholi’, with 6 bearers carrying you till the topmost shrine.
Food is not a problem as there are enough hotels and also a ‘Annadana’ choultry that serve you sumptuous food. Only thing is that you need to tell them before climbing up the hill as to how many of will be coming for lunch. They will prepare the food minutes before you come, so that it is fresh and hot. They don’t charge you for the food, but it is upto you to pay whatever you wish so that the devotees who come after you can also have food. And the manner in which the food is served is remarkable. The men and women who serve do it so patiently, which is such a rare thing to see today, with everyone in a fast forward mode.
It seems till some years ago, Ahobila was not easily accessible. Even today, this is partially true since the area and the hills are covered with thick vegetation, thorny bushes and forests where leaves rustle and crickets screech. Also, it is not easy to make a journey up the hills unless one is accompanied by a group of like-minded devotees. Ahobila is in two parts – one called Eguvu Ahobila (Upper Ahobila) with Nava Nrsimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobila (Lower Ahobila) with a single shrine for Lakshmi Nrsimha connected by a road, stretching a distance of about 12.8 Kms. from Lower Ahobila to Upper Ahobila. From there, the other shrines are to be reached only by trekking and managing difficult terrain, flowing streams and slippery rocks. The nature is bounteous there affording plenty of water by way of ponds, brooks and resting places under shades of forest growth. One can witness several cave like rocks on the way. Quite an adventurous trip indeed to be enjoyed, if one has faith, will-power and devotion. Lions dwell in the forest and no wonder the half-lion manifestation that Nrsimha took, chose to dwell in similar surroundings. If one can undertake a strenuous traverse of 8 Kms. from Upper Ahobila, one can see the Ugrasthambha and have a darshana of the Ukkukambamu (pillar) on the mountain said to be the one from which Lord Nrsimha emerged in response to Prahalada’s prayers.
All of us were thoroughly satisfied about the pilgrimage. The weather was not too hot, although the place was very humid. It also rained the day we were to leave. We made a trip to Yaganti caves where we had the darshana of Lord Venkateshwara inside a cave. In an adjoining cave was the Agastya sthapitha Eshwara linga. These two caves are magnificient. In the cave that has the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara, one can see the face of Lord Nrsimha in the rock formations. The steps are too steep and you have to hold the railing while climbing up as well as coming down. After climbing the Ahobila hill, the muscles in the legs had become loose and while climbing down, we felt as if the earth is pulling us down and we hardly had control while keeping our feet on the steps. The feet kept going further and lower, much faster than the body!
We reached Nandyala by evening and at 7.30 pm, we got into our bus after having slight snacks and ‘Goli Soda’. We were back home in Bangalore at 7 am the next morning (25th).
When I was a kid, my father used to tell me the story of Prahalada a lot. I have preserved the letter he wrote to me where he has briefly written the story of the child devotee. I remembered him a lot on this journey. With aching limbs, but fulfilled minds, we thanked god for having brought us home safely from the pilgrimage. The satisfaction of having seen Ahobila will stay with us forever. (Concluded)
Visit to Ahobila – I