Among the various incarnations of Sriman Narayana, there are a few which are endeared by mortals – Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Narasimha, in no particular order of preference.
Perhaps, this is because of a simple reason that these three Avatars have the most number of shrines on the Earth. While Rama & Krishna are closer to devotees because of their human-like form and qualities such as having a normal family, affectionate towards their friends, duty-bound to elders & parents, mischief like other kids, having a Guru and following their orders and so on, Lord Narasimha is always considered as among those incarnations who can bless devotees the most due to his benevolence. Although Lord Narasimha took this role to protect his ardent devotee in a fierce form, HE is also considered the most loving and peaceful deity, with his various forms such as Sri Lakshmi Narasimha, Sri Yoga Narasimha & Sri Prahlada Varada Narasimha, etc. and is believed that HE would give any and every boon or wish when HIS devotees seek with earnest devotion.
It’s been my lifetime desire to visit Ahobilam where the Narasimha Avatara is supposed to have occurred. Incidentally, while all Avatars took many decades to begin and end, this one Avatara of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is supposedly the shortest, which is to have completed in less than 45 minutes according to various transcripts and experts, since the mighty Lion King came out of the Pillar around sunset time and it was all over within minutes ahead of moon rise.
This Independence Weekend, we travelled by road from Chennai to Ahobilam in my SUV and were blessed by the Almighty to get HIS darshan and blessings. There are Nine shrines at Ahobilam where Lord Narasimha appeared and these are Swayambu idols here.
Let me explain one by one, with my limited knowledge of reading & hearing from various sources. Do pardon me if there are any errors in my understanding of the Bhramanda Purana which explains the formation of the holy avatar of Lord Narasimha.
This is the place where Lord Narasimha tore apart King Hiranyakashipu – at the doorstep of the latter’s palace as per his boon received from the creator Lord Brahma, that he cannot be killed inside or outside a tenement. The only solace that Brahma had at the time was the boon included anything and everything created by Him cannot destroy Hiranya, much to His relief, since He knew that Sriman Naarayana was anyway around to take care, who is none other than the Creator’s Creator. Perhaps, Brahma was the first one to use the coinage “*Conditions Apply” while executing this offer to his beloved Hiranya!
The Lord is seen here in a seated position with Hiranya on his lap tearing him with the nails of a Lion – Vajra Naka. Also seen with him are other deities of Lord Narasimha appearing out of the Pillar, Lord Narasimha displaying his valor with Hiranyakashipu, Lord Narasimha with Sage Sukracharya and another of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu.
Thus, completes the sloka –
“Ugram, Veeram, Maha Vishnum, Jwalantham Sarvatho mukam…”
Right atop this shrine is the Pillar which was split across when the Lord appeared as prayed by Prahlada, that HE manifests anywhere and everywhere – known as Ugra Sthambha. Apparently, the entire area of Ahobilam was the Palace of Hiranya which was completely destructed during the rage with which Lord Hari appeared in this most fierce form.
Outside this shrine, one can also see the “Rakta Kunta” – the place where Lord washed his hands after killing Hiranyakashipu. The water stream which reaches here from atop the upper hills is red in color but becomes colorless once it reaches the small pit. The hill is also known as Garudadri – the Lord appears in this Avatara as is to his vahana Garuda as per the latter’s wish since Garuda wasn’t present during the previous three Avataras.
This is the first Shrine among the Nine Shrines in Ahobilam and is the toughest to reach by foot. The climb to Ugra Sthambha from this shrine is nothing short of a terrific trek which I didn’t attempt although a few people do try and make it once in a while.
From the Upper Ahobilam point beyond which vehicles cannot drive any further, the walk to this Temple would take about one hour. It’s a very, very steep climb, intermittent with rocks and cement steps. There was neither heavy rains nor water alongside rive Bhavanashini which flows all along from the Ugra Sthambha, so the climb was relatively easier.
Kids below 10 years and adults above 50 years and those with other health ailments could find it difficult, although the climb can be achieved with passion - “vairagya” and of course only and only with HIS blessings.
After killing Hiranyakashipu, Lord Narasimha arrives at this spot to calm down and is seen with Prahlada standing opposite to Him. When Prahlada asks Lord Narasimha where was his father, HE tells Prahlada that Hiranyakashipu is on his lap and can be seen here in the same form. It is said that Lord Shiva performed prayers here to calm down Lord Narasimha after the massive destruction of Hiranyakashipu. The temple also has a separate shrine to Goddess Chenchu Lakshmi, which is located right next to the Lord. Chenchu Lakshmi is the official consort of Lord Narasimha in this Avatara.
The shrine is actually a cave inside which the presiding deities are present and the temple structure as it is seen now has been carved outside the cave by successive Kings and devotees. The temple is quite a large precinct and is undergoing a lot of renovation work with scaffoldings all over and the place where this temple is located is known as “Upper Ahobilam” where vehicles are parked for devotees to climb up to other shrines.
This temple is a few steps away from the parking area and is quite accessible to people of all ages. There are a few shops here which sell snacks, beverages etc. and this is also the place where the Trek to Jwala Narasimha Shrine begins. After this place, one cannot buy anything to eat or drink. There is a Bhojanashala here which offers free food to devotees all day.
Ma refers to Goddess Lakshmi and Lola means the beloved. Malola Narasimha is Her Beau in a peaceful form as Lord Narasimha. After tearing apart Hiranyakashipu, the Lord is seen seated here along with Mahalakshmi on his lap and the reason for His peaceful form is none other than the Goddess. Also, since the official consort of Lord Narasimha is Chenchu Lakshmi, Goddess Mahalakshmi is not too happy and hence Lord Narasimha can be seen pacifying Her.
This temple could be reached in two ways – while climbing up from Ahobila Narasimha shrine or while climbing down from Jwala Narasimha shrine, although the trek on both ways is extremely arduous and one must be extra careful while climbing up or down.
In this shrine, Lord Narasimha is seen alongside an idol of Sri Varahaswamy. The two Avatars of Lord Varaha and Lord Narasimha happened for the same purpose; and Sriman Narayana took these two incarnations to destroy the brothers Hiranyaksha & Hiranyakashipu. Interestingly, the brothers are none other than the Lord’s securitymen – Jaya Vijaya. Due to a curse by Sanatkumaras, the duo were to be away from the Lord for 100 births. However, the duo pleaded to the Lord that they could never stay away from Him for so long. So, the Lord offered a choice – be away from me for 100 births as my devotees or my enemy for 3 births. Despite being born as Asuras, the duo chose the latter and were born as Hiranya Brothers, Ravana & Kumbakarna and Shishupala & Dantavaktra.
Hence, the Lord appeared in both forms of Varaha & Narasimha to bless the duo and the devotees who would throng the place in future. This is the only such shrine where both Avataras can been seen together and is a boon for devotees like us to see HiM this way.
This shrine is on the way from Ahobila Narasimha Shrine to Jwala Narasimha Shrine and is on the banks of the river Bhavanashini, which flows all the way from the Ugra Sthambha.
This is perhaps the only shrine of Lord Narasimha in a unique form. Let me explain how.
Lord Hanuman arrived at Ahobilam to pray and perform penance in this forest through which Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana had once travelled during their “vanavas”. While Hanuman was chanting “Ram, Ram”, Lord Narasimha appeared in front of him. Lord Hanuman rejected this form asking Him not to disturb his penance, to which Lord Narasimha appeared with a Bow and also opened his “Third Eye” to prove HE is none other than Sriman Narayana much to the happiness of Hanuman. There is also a separate shrine for Lord Hanuman here.
This temple is on the way from Ahobila Narasimha Temple towards Lower Ahobilam and can be quite easily reached by road through personal or local transportation.
This is the shrine where Lord Parasurama also known as Sage Bhargava is said to have prayed to Lord Narasimha where we wanted to have darshan of Sriman Narayana in the same form as HIS avatar.
It is here that the sage created a tank which is known as Akshaya Tirtha, where the water never recedes and till date, can be seen with water coming from underground. Sage Bhargava would fetch water from this tank daily to offer prayers to Lord Narasimha here.
This shrine is not accessible by foot. One has to hire a jeep from Lower Ahobilam to reach this place which is a treacherous drive as well.
Ever since his father was destroyed by Lord Narasimha, the Lord took the role as a father to Prahlada and taught him several Life skills including Yoga and thus, this shrine is named Yogananda Narasimha where the Lord is also in a happy form.
This shrine is about 3 kms from Lower Ahobilam and can be easily accessed by any three / four wheel vehicle (self-driven or local transportation).
Another unique posture of Lord Narasimha which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world.
Once upon a time, famous Gandharva duo Hahaa-Huhoo came here and performed music much to the delight of the Lord. Hence, here Lord Narasimha is seen seated with one hand on his lap as though he is tapping it, enjoying the music of the Gandharvas.
This shrine is about 3 kms from Lower Ahobilam and can be easily accessed by any three/four wheel vehicle (self-driven or local transportation).
Chenchu Lakshmi is the Lord’s consort, who grew up in the forest. Located on the banks of the river Pavana, the name of the shrine therefore is Pavana Narasimha. Legend has it that Sage Bharadwaja absolved his sins at this shrine. Therefore, it is believed that one would absolve themselves of all sins committed knowing or unknowingly by visiting this shrine.
Since Chenchu Lakshmi is a tribal woman, some people offer animal sacrifice here till date.
The ride to this shrine is perhaps the most arduous of all, since it can be taken up only through inside the dense forest areas in a jeep which is available from Lower Ahobilam. The drive time is approximately 50-55 mins. Brace yourself if one of the 20+ year old Mahindra Armada Jeeps breaks down mid-way only to be rescued by another jeep from Lower Ahobilam. Alternatively, there is a walking pathway from the Ahobila Narasimha shrine although many people say it would take more than an hour to reach here and the trek is extremely difficult too.
Apart from the Nava Narasimha Shrines, there are two more important places to visit.
Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha
The family deity of Kali Yuga’s pratyaksha Lord Sri Srinivasa (Tirumala fame) is none other than Lord Narasimha. Legend has it that after HIS celestial wedding that happened amid much fanfare at Tirupati (at Srinivasamangapuram to be precise), the divine couple visited Ahobilam and the Lord installed the idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha and offered his obeyance. The temple has been further built by King Krishnadevaraya and his successors and has a resplendent temple architecture seen in the other parts of India, of the erstwhile era of the Rayas.
There is a separate shrine for Goddess Mahalakshmi here as well. This is the temple right in the town of Ahobilam.
King Hiranyakashipu was a staunch Shiva bhaktha although he believed that he was the most powerful creature on earth after receiving a boon from Lord Brahma. Therefore he expected his son Prahlada to chant his name all the time to which Prahlada refused and argued there is only one creator of this world which is none other than Sri Hari, Sriman Narayana, Maha Vishnu. Irked by this, Hiranyakashipu tortured Prahlada and in one instance, was pushed atop a hill to fall down, where he was rescued by a Lion which was residing in a cave.
At this place, one can see the cavern from where Prahlada was pushed and rescued by Lord Narasimha in the form of the Lion. In the same hill, there are transcripts, apparently written by Prahlada himself that there is only one God and that is Sri Hari.
The shrine can be reached after an arduous 20 minute trek from Malola Narasimha Shrine and one has to pass through the rocks, sometimes which would have River Bhavanashini flowing and then climb up a narrow step to reach the cave inside which the Lord can be seen along with Prahlada, Lord Sudarshana and Lord Maha Vishnu.
The Nine Planets have also visited Ahobilam and prayed to each of the Nine Narasimha Shrines and have been blessed by the Lord Himself.
On the Poorva Aradhana Day of Sri Raghavendra Swamy, we were blessed to visit this punya Kshetra where Sriman Narayana appeared to save and bless His ardent devotee Prahalada who reincarnated in this Kali Yuga as Sri Raghavendra Swamy. I am blessed to write and file this article on the Main Aradhana day and seek the Blessings of the Almighty to protect us from evil forces and bless us with abundance.
Om Namo Narayanaya. Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya. Hari. Hari Hari.
There are multiple group tours which are organised from Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc. to Ahobilam. The trip cost depends on the operators. There is nothing here as Government supported Public Transport albeit there are buses which pass through Ahobilam once in a while. Within the town, there are 3 / 4 wheeler private vehicles which ferry people around.
If you are driving down yourself, the onward journey would take about 8-9 hours depending on where and when you start your trip at Bangalore or Chennai. On day One, assuming you arrive by 2pm, after completing a quick lunch, one could complete the visits to Pavana Nararimha and Bhargava Narasimha shrines, which would together take about 3 hours by local jeeps to complete.
On Day two, the trek to Jwala Narasimha shrine may begin by 7am after a quick bite and would be back in town by 2pm during which one would complete visits to 5 shrines including Jwala Narasimha, Ahobila Narasimha, Kroda Narasimha, Malola Narasimha and Karanje Narasimha. This trip can be undertaken in your own vehicle or through local vehicles.
Post Lunch, one can complete the visit to the shrines of Chatravata Narasimha and Yogananda Narasimha by 5pm and then visit Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha to complete the trip.
Please note that all Hill shrines open at 7am and close by 5pm with a brief Lunch break in between which the Priest decides basis the crowds thronging the shrines. The two temples in Lower Ahobilam open at 7am and close at 6pm. The Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha temple is however open every day until 8pm.
Ahobila Mutt has a few rooms which are available for a nominal rent. One can call the office of Ahobila Mutt and enquire room availability. They also offer hygienic & tasty Satvik breakfast, lunch and dinner if informed in advance and subject to availability of the Cook cum Priest. Alternatively, there are private guest houses which charge Rs. 1,500 onwards per night for a double-bed room with attached toilet & a/c, but the room rates are seasonal and may fluctuate.
Apart from bottled branded water, juices, snacks & fresh tea / coffee, there is not much hygienic food available in public areas, save for Ahobila Mutt or private guest houses.
Best season to visit Ahobilam is from July onwards although Aug-Sep is usually rainy season and it could get too cold during winters and the early summers, mid-summer could be extremely hot and would make the treks and climbs impossible due to the heat.
There are local guides who are available to escort the pilgrims and charge upwards of Rs. 1,000 per day to take the devotees through the terrain and also explain about the temples.
The nearest Fuel station is located 9 kms away from Ahobilam and the nearest bigger town is Allagadda which is about 20 kms from the holy shrine.
I hope the above description of Nava Narasimha shrines at Ahobilam would be useful to you and those who seek detailed information about the place. Do pardon me if there are any mistakes in my research and writing and help me correct wherever possible. Please send me your feedback and queries, if any to email@example.com