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Acharyas of Ahobilam - 3

Jay.Bharadwaj_at_nrecatao.nreca.org
Date: Fri Dec 01 1995 - 18:13:57 PST

AHOBILAM - THE ABODE OF NAVA NARASIMHAS.

The Himalayas rise high to the everest in the north while the far
south of India shows the deep sea - rather the communion of the three
oceans.  The western region and the eastern region of Peninsular
India, on the otherhand, while tapering towards Kanyakumari, exhibit
a wide range of maountains known as Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats
respectively.  While the Western Ghats present wholesome sceneries
and adventurous travel both by rail and road, the Eastern Ghats
display not only picturesque view but demonstrate divinity as well.
The Eastern Ghats are likened to the great serpent Adisesha basking
in the sun with His head (or hood) at Thirumala, His middle at
Ahobilam and His tailend portion at Srisailam- all the three with
famous temples on them.

The subject we have before us is Ahobilam.  Ofcourse, Thirupathi and
Srisailam are also frequented pilgrimage centres.  Ahobilam because
of this special issue.  Not only Mahabharata; but also ancient
Puranas like the Kurma Purana, Padma Purana and Vishnu Purana mention
about Ahobilam and its presiding deity Narasimha.  In fact, Brahmanda
Purana says that this place was once the palace of Hiranyakasipu who
was slain by Sriman Narayana manifesting as Narasimha from a pillar
there for the sake of His staunch devotee Prahlada.  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 Kshetram" of Lord
Narasimha.

According to Sthala Purana, there are two popular "legends" (the
appropriateness of terms like legend, myths or mythology etc in
relation to Shastras is questionable) for the derivation of the word
'Ahobilam'.  It is stated that the Devas while witnessing the
terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the Lord took on in order to tear to
pieces Hiranyakasipu sung His Praise as 'Ahobala' meaning Lo] The
strength.  Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobilam.  In
support of this, there is a Prapatti shloka about ahobilam that
reads:  "ahovIryam ahosauryam
         ahobAhu ParAkramah:
         nArasimham Param daivam
         ahobilam ahobalam"

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.  The ahobilam Kaifiyat gives
support to this "legend".  The Ahobilam Kaifiyat forming part of
Mackenzie collections gives very valuable information regarding the
Ahobilam temples.  Kaifiyats - the digests from 'Kaviles' or village
registers containing information on the political, social, religious
and other conditions of the villages in Deccan were prepared by
Pandits and Mussaddis working under Col. Mackenzie.  The Ahobilam
Kaifiyat is in Telegu and available in the state Archives at
Hyderabed.

As per this record, "On one of the mountains in the Nallamalai hill
rage, eight amadas from Srisaila Kshetra, Garuda commenced silent
penance to obtain a vision of Lord Narasimha who destroyed
Hiranyakasipu.  The Lord in His grace, after long years of the tapas
of Garuda, manifested Himself in the cave of a mountain.

"Ten Paravus to the northeast of the mountain, where Garuda was doing
Penance, a vision of His manifestation was then granted to Garuda,
who after obtaining a sign of the location of the mountain cave,
gladly travelled thither and saw the embodiment of the Satswaroopa,
Mahapurusha, Lord Jwalanarasimha not easily accessible to common
people.  Garuda then worshipped the Lord, and praised Him that
'ahobilam is mahabalam' (Ahobilam is a great sustainer with
strength).  The Lord's Divya Mangala vigraha was worshipped by Him
with several stotras.  Garuda then considered Himself as blessed
after a vision of the Lord.  This divine place thereafter obtained
the deserving name of Ahobbilam.

"The mountain on which Garuda performed Tapas became famous as
Garudachala.  In the days of yore when truth and dharma prevailed,
great heat was observable near the mountain cave of Ahobila;
according to "legend" when green grass was put in the cave, it would
catch fire and smoke would be emitted.  Several great Rishis lived
there for a time; after sometime with the knowledge that great places
would become common Janapadas in the Kali age, they left for northern
lands, covering up the Narasimha cave with boulders.  Traditionally
therefore this place is being called the Narasimha Kshetra.  There
are thus nine Narasimha places - Nava Narasimhas, Rishi-installed and
worshipping areas:
             Jwala Ahobila Malola
             Kroda Karanja Bhargava
             Yogananda Kshatravata
             PAvana nava Moorthayaha.

The nine Narasimha sthalas are (1)Jwala narasimha (2) Ahobila
narasimha (3) Malola Narasimha (4) KroDa narasimha (5) Karanja
narasimha (6) Bhargava narasimha (7) YogAnanda narasimha (8)
Kshatravata narasimha and (9) PAvana or Holy narasimha.

Before visiting these nine shrines, let us see how we approach this
place.  Situated in the Nallamalai hills, Ahobilam is about 24
kilometers from Allagadda Taluq Headquarterrs, 112 kms from Cuddappah
and 65 kms from Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh, and can be reached by bus
from Hyderabad and also by rail via Kurnool and then by bus from
there.  Thirumangai AzhwAr has sung the SingavEl Kunram is accessible
to none but Devas.  This is partially true even today since the area
and the hills are covered with thick vegetation, thorny bushes and
forests where leaves rustle and crickets chirp.  The whole complex is
in two parts- one called Yeguvu Ahobilam or upper Ahobilam with the
Nava Narasimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobilam or lower
Ahobilam with a single shrine for Lakshim Narasimha connected by a
road, stretching a distance of about 12.8kms. from Lower Ahobilam to
Upper Ahobilam.  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 shdes of
forest growth.  One can witness several cave like rocks on the way.
Quite an adventureous 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 Narasimha took chose to dwell in similar
surroundings.  If one can undertake a strenous traverse of 8kms from
Upper Ahobilam, one can see the Ugrastambham and have a darshan of
Ukkukambamu (pillar) on the mountain said to be the one from which
Lord Narasimha emerged in response to Prahlada's prayers.

  To be continued  Detail descriptions of the Nava Narasimha shrines.
Source  Acharyas of Ahobilam 1992 Special Nrsimha Priya issue.
Jaganath