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Sunday, April 23, 2023

Simhachalam - Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swami temple

There is a   towering mountain range (377 m)  nearer Waltair in Andhra Pradesh.  Visakhapatnam (popularly Vizag), is   located on the coast of Bay of Bengal in the north eastern region of the state of Andhra.  The city was ruled by Andhra Kings of Vengi and Pallavas. The city is named after Sri Vishaka Varma. The British captured Visakhapatnam after the 1804 Battle of Vizagapatam, and it remained under British colonial rule until India's independence in 1947 which was a part of the Northern Circars.  Part of the city is known by its colonial British name, Waltair; during the colonial era, the city's hub was the Waltair railway station and the surrounding part of the city is still called Waltair.


On the mountains is the beautiful temple - Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Simhachalam, 300 metres above the sea level in Visakhapatnam.  A beautiful temple situate atop a hill, vehicles can reach the Temple entrance.   Here Emperuman is Varaham + Nara + Simham. 

The local Sthala purana  states that the  foundation of the Temple relates to the well-known story of the demon King Hiranya-Kasyapa and his son Prahlada. Hiranyaksha, seized the earth and carried it to neither regions. Sriman Narayana annihilated him and retrieved  the earth from the clutches of the demon by taking  the Boar incarnation (Varaha Avatara). Hiranyakasipu wanted to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha. He wanted to become immortal and hence performed austerities (tapasya) to propitiate Lord Brahma.  Son of Hiranyakasipu,  Prahalada was a great devotee of Sriman Narayana right from his birth . Simhadri is thus the place where the Lord rescued Prahalada.


The form of Varahanarasimha (Dwayavathara) was assumed by him, on the prayer of his devotee, Prahalada,  according to Stalapurana, Prahalada constructed temple here.  Centuries later,  at the beginning of another life-cycle, the Lord once again was discovered by Emperor Pururava of the Lunar Dynasty. Pururava, with his spouse Urvasi, riding on an aerial chariot over the hills of the South, was drawn to Simhachalam by a mysterious power. He discovered the Lord on the hill lying imbedded in crests of earth. He cleared the earth around the image of the Lord. Then he was addressed by the akaasavani not to expose the image but cover it with sandal paste of almost 500 kgs. 

Here Emperuman in the form of Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha is worshipped in a form anointed with sandal paste all over and once a year,   on the third day in the month of Vaisakha his nijaswarupa can be worshipped  


The temple t contains an inscription, dating  back to 1098-99 A.D. of the Chola king Kulotthunga-I, who conquered the Kalinga territories, and it must thus have been a place of importance even by that period. Another inscription shows that a queen of the Velanandu chief Gonka III (1137-56)covered the image with gold a third says that the Eastern Ganga king Narasimha.   The Simhachalam temple  contains  inscriptions left here by Sri krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagara empire recounting his successes and relating how he and his queen presented necklace of 991 pearls and other costly gifts. 

Architecturally the temple is of a great finesse. This temple contain a square shrine surmounted by a high tower, a portico in front with a smaller tower above it, a square sixteen pillared mandapam (called the mukhamandapam) all made of dark granite richly and delicately carved with conventional and floral ornament and scenes from the Vaishna puranas. Some of the carvings are mutilated (by Muhammadan conquerors !!)   One of the pillars is called the kappa stambham or 'tribute pillar' has  great powers of curing diseases and granting children.   

Lord Narasimha to contain his ugram, is  kept covered with   sandal paste.  Once a year, , on Akshaya thritheeya day (3rd day of Vaisakhamasam) this sandal paste is removed  in a ceremony at the festival called Chandanayatra (Chandanotsavam) and Nija roopa darsanam of Swamy Vari is provided to devotees. 


Simhachalam is one of the 32 Narasimha temples in Andhra Pradesh.  It is an important centre of Thennacharya Srivaishnava sampradhayam – of  the medieval period along with Srikurmam and Jagannath Temple, Puri.   

Simhachalam temple resembles a fortress from outside with three outer courtyards and five gateways. The architecture is a mixture of the styles of the Kalinga Architecture, Chalukyas, Kakatiyas, and the Great Cholas.  The temple faces west instead of east, signifying victory. There are two temple tanks: Swami Pushkarini near the temple and Gangadhara at the bottom of the hill.    

Emperumanar Sri Ramanuajar visited this temple and did kalakshepam – and the place  inside the temple is revered as Hamsa moolai (where Lord graced as Hamsam  and listened to his discourses)  Ramanuja established  that the idol of Varaha Narasimha is in a posture in accordance with the Pancharatra Agama rules, even though, the  idol, when covered with sandalwood paste, resembles a Shiva Lingam. 

Epigraphists discovered nearly 500 inscriptions in the temple complex, most  of them were dana sasanas (donation records) which referred to the contributions made by the kings, their officers, and the citizens.  Majority of the inscriptions are bilingual, written in Sanskrit and Telugu languages. While some are exclusively in Sanskrit, there are 46 Odia and three Tamil language inscriptions.   

After the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Muslim states of Deccan  - Qutb Shahi dynasty began its rule with Golkonda as their capital; there were Islamic invasions.

In 1949, the temple came under the purview of the endowment ministry of the State Government.   The members of the Pusapati Gajapathi family of the princely state of Vizianagaram are the current hereditary trustees of the temple.  The members of the family are serving the temple for the last three centuries.


Now is the time for   Chandanotsavam, the annual festival of Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy at Simhachalam, from Saturday midnight with priests performing special rituals.  Around three lakh devotees are expected to visit the temple on the day, including from Odisha and Chhattisgarh.  Rituals of Chandanotsavam  begin at 3 a.m. this morning  after the first darshan. Prior to that, hereditary trustee and temple chairman P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju will offer silk robes to the deity, following which public will be allowed.  

Sri Kantha Krishnamacharyulu or Krishnamayya (12th-13th century CE) was the official songmaster, poet and bard of the Simhachalam Temple who composed around 400,000 keertana songs, in praise of Sri Varahalakshmi Narasimha Swamy.   He was contemporary to the Kakatiya king, Orugallu. There is a mention about Krishnamaacharyulu, his compositions and his miraculous life in Prataaapa rudra charitraand siddheswara charitra.  Though  Annamacharya of the 15th century is regarded as first vaggeyakara in Telugu,  Krishnamayya,  lived 300 years prior to Annamacharya.  Musicologists and scholars believe that Krishnayya’s writings bore an indelible influence on later poet-composers. For instance, the song, ‘Ye Kulajudaina Nemi’ was inspired by Krishnamayya.  
Here are some photos of the Simhachalam temple taken during a recent visit
adiyen Srinivasadhasan
Mamandur Veeravalli Srinivasan Sampathkumar

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