A day trip from Chennai

Tuesday. Morning 6:30 am, we set off from Chennai.

Destination: The temple town of Sri Kalahasti.

Except for the spaghetti  traffic crush at the Padi junction, the ride is smooth, and we are soon cruising past Redhills, down the Nellore-Calcutta national highway. Somewhere on the highway we stop at a toll gate. The toll tariff for ‘same-day-return’ is just Rs 15/-.

A few kilometers before a place called Tada, there is a road branching left to Kalahasti, by the side of an overpass.   We were doing good time, making it here in just over an hour.

The road to Kalahasti was not bad at all. Pretty much motorable.  This is a forty plus few kilometers stretch, with fields on both sides, ..

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Soon we had hills in the horizon, and far on the right we could see the top of a temple tower..

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Sometime around 8:45 am or so, we were in Kalahasti town. Took a room in a hotel near the temple. Some pongal-vadaiu breakfast later, we set out for the temple.

Here is a picture of one of the temple entrance Gopurams.

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The temple is a huge one, spread over around 5 acres. It is on the banks of Swarnaukhi river, which is now, sadly,  a trickle. Going past the first Gopuram, we enter a long shopping street inside. Nice bustle, like a village fair. A riot of colors, little shanty shops, shopkeepers chanting sales mantras, it is a real consuming experience.

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At the end of the shopping street, there is an official ‘leave your footwear here’ place on the right.

We enter the temple proper, and there is a smaller gopuram on our right, leading to the shrines of Kasi Vishwanatha and Annapurneshwari, Going straight down, we find a long queue of people, leading to the Patala Ganapati shrine – the underground shrine of Vinayaka. Lots and lots of people with heads clean shaven. On the right is a mandapam where expert barbers offer tonsure services. There is a small two-pillared mandapam, in front of a shrine of Ganapati built flush into the temple wall.

We enter the hundred pillared hall built by Krishna Deva Raya. It is adorned with wonderful sculptures. Somewhere along the way we see Nandi, the bull, facing the temple wall – in fact facing an opening in the inner wall of the temple, with a direct view of the Lord of the Kshetra, Sri Kalahasteeshwara.

We enroll for Rudrabhishkea. The sankalpa performed by the temple priests is awesome. The temple reverberates with the power of the mantras that they chant. First abhishekam is to the Goddess of the Kshetra, Jnanaprasoonambika. A beautiful, tall idol of the Goddess is bathed with sacred waters, accompanied by prayer chants. What an ambiance!

Next, we proceed to the main sanctum-sanctorum, of Lord Sri Kalahastishwara. This place is one of the panca-bhoota-sthala, the five primary places of worship of Lord Siva, associated with the primary elements. Kalahasti is Vayulinga, associated with ‘wind’ element. Inside the sanctum, there are lamps whose flame are always flickering, blown by wind, indicating the presence of Vayulinga. The physical idol is a tall Siva linga, at least around 4 or 5 feet high, narrow, with a jagged top, resembling hoods of a snake. The name Sri Kalahasti comes from three unique devotees – Sri the spider, Kala the snake, and Hasti the elephant, who worshipped Siva here. The priest shows the marks of these three in the idol in the sanctum-sanctorum. The abhishekam of the Lord to the accompaniment of Rudra chant is a very elevating experience.

Around 1 pm, we step out of the temple to have some lunch. We get back to the temple by 2:30 pm or so. This temple is really huge, and takes some seeing. Around 3 pm, one sees long rows of people performing kala-sarpa-dosha-nivarana puja. People  who have to appease the effects of Rahu-Ketu dasha come here and offer worship to Rahu-Ketu.

There are so many shrines and idols. There must be scores of Siva lingas all over. A thousand faced siva linga, a hundred and eight faced siva linga, and so on. A temple well (now closed) has the waters of Patala Ganga. The temple has seen the contribution of several lines of Kings, starting from the Pallavas, followed by Tondaman, Kulothunga Chola, down to Krishna Deva Raya and more. Nattukottai Chettiars are also said to have contributed a great amount to the temple.

All in all, this sacred Siva Kshetra is a must see. It can be easily done as a day trip from Chennai. The temple does draw large crowds, so it may be better to go on a non-holiday. Next to the temple is a hill, steps leading up to the temple of the great Saivaite saint Kannappa Nayanar – the hunter saint. It is to Kalahastishwara that Kannappa offered his very eye. The temple has heard the singing of Appar, Sundarar, and Jnana Sambandar. No wonder the temple is known as Dakshina Kailasha .

Signing off this post with a picture of one of the old trees in the temple.

Nama Sivaya!

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