Srikalahasti is a holy town in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The town is a part of Tirupati Urban Development Authority, which is located on the banks of the River Swarnamukhi.  The town is famous for an ancient temple that is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva as a personification of one of the primary elements of nature – Air.

Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sri Kalahasteeswara and his consort Goddess Parvati as Sri Gnanaprasunambika Devi.  In the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, there is a lamp with a wavering flame throughout the day and night without any traces of wind to facilitate its flickering. This indicates the presence of Lord Vayu. The Shiva linga is white and is said to be self-manifested – Swayambhu.

The main lingam is not touched even by the priest, even to date it remains untouched. Hence, abhisheka is not offered to the main lingam but the holy mixture of water, milk, sandalwood, flowers, camphor, and other key ingredients is offered to the Utsava Murthy.

 There is a large shrine of Gnana Prasunambika (‘the giver of knowledge or the Mother of all knowledge’) who represents the ‘wealth’ i.e., freedom from limitation conferred by self-knowledge. The statue of the Goddess assumes great importance here, as this is considered to be one of the 108 Shakti Peeths of Goddess Sati. It is believed that the skull of Goddess Sati fell here at Srikalahasthi.

The name Srikalahasti was derived from a myth that stated that a Spider (Sri), a Snake (Kala), and an Elephant (Hasti) worshipped Lord Shiva in the town to attain Moksha. The core of this mythology was considered a sign by many religious believers and hence, in the 5th Century during the Pallava period, the Srikalahasti Temple was built.

The shape of the Lingam further authenticates the legend if you look from the top, it appears like a snake with five hoods; while from closer, it looks like an elephant’s trunk with tusks on both sides; there is also a figure resembling Spider at the bottom of the lingam.

Further expansion of the temple complex, renovations, and some latest structures were built during the reign of the Chola Kingdom during the 11th Century and the Vijayanagara Dynasty during the 16th Century. The works of a Tamil Poet, Nakkeerar, have references to the temple proving its existence during the Tamil Sangam Dynasty. Nakkeerar and another famous Telugu Poet, Dhoorjati, wrote numerous stanzas in praise of Srikalahasteeswara.

Legend of Srikalahasti Temple 

The most famous legend states that during the initial phases of the creation of the world, Lord Vayu performed penance to please Karpoora Lingam for thousands of years. Lord Shiva, delighted with Lord Vayu’s devotion, granted him three boons. Lord Vayu thus asked for him to grant him worldwide presence, to be an essential part of every living being on the planet, and to be given permission to rename the Karpoora Ligam as Samba Siva. These three requests were granted by Lord Shiva, and Vayu (Pran Vayu or air) has ever since been an integral part of life on earth, and the lingam was worshipped as Samba Siva or the Karpoora Vayu Lingam.

Another legend states that Goddess Parvati was once cursed by Lord Shiva and was made to abandon her divine avatar and take the form of an ordinary human. Goddess Parvati performed penance for several years at Srikalahasti to liberate herself from the curse. Lord Shiva was immensely pleased with her devotion and dedication, and he recreated Parvati in a heavenly avatar which is known as Gnana Prasunambika Devi or Shiva-Gnanam Gnana Prasunamba.

 According to another legend, Kannappa who was one of the 63 Saivite Saints who devoted all their lives to Lord Shiva. Kannappa willingly wanted to offer his eyes to cover the blood flowing from Lord Shiva’s lingam. When Lord Shiva got to know about this, he stopped the saint and granted him release from the endless cycle of birth and death. Some say Ghanakala was cursed to take the form of a ghostly spirit. He offered his prayers to Srikalahasti for 15 years and chanted the Bhairava Mantra to please Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva was pleased with Ghanakala’s devotion, he restored her to her previous form.

Architecture of Srikalahasti Temple 

The Srikalahasti Temple is a beautiful illustration of the Dravidian Style of architecture that was built during the Pallava period in the 5th Century. The temple complex is located at the base of a hill. Some even believe it is a monolithic structure. The grand temple complex has its entrance facing the south, while the main shrine faces the west. The white stone Shiva Lingam inside this shrine resembles the shape of an elephant’s trunk. The main gopuram of the temple is about 120 feet high.

The mandap in the temple complex has 100 intricately carved pillars that were built during the reign of a Vijayanagara King, Krishnadevraya, in 1516. The shrine of Lord Ganesh in the complex is a 9-foot-tall rock-cut shrine. It also houses shrines for Jnanaprasanammba, Kasi Viswanatha, Suryanarayan, Subramanya, Annapurna, and Sadyoganapathi that are adorned with images of Ganapati, Mahalakshmi Ganapathi, Vallabha Ganapati and Sahasra Lingeswara. The temple area also has two more mandaps, the Sadyogi Mandap,the Jalkoti Mandap, and two water bodies Chandra Pushkarani and Surya Pushkarani.

Religious importance 

The temple is revered as one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalam where the presiding deity is worshipped as Vayu linga (air). This temple is considered the “Kashi of the South”.

Saivaite saints of the first century sang about this temple. This is the only temple in India that remains open during Solar and lunar eclipses, while, all other temples are closed.

This temple is famous for Rahu-Kethu pooja. It is believed that performing this pooja will relieve the people from the astrological effects of Rahu and Kethu. As per Hindu legend, Kalahatiswara was worshipped at this place by Brahma during all four Yugas. Arjuna, the Pandava prince during Mahabharata is believed to have worshipped the presiding deity.

The temple also finds mention in the works of Nakeerar and the Nalvars, namely, Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar, and Manickavasagar in the canonical works of Tirumura.  As the temple is revered in Tevaram, it is classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam, one of the 275 temples that find mention in the Saiva canon.


Some of the festivals celebrated at Srikalahasti temple are:

  • The Mahasivaratri Brahmotsava is the most important and auspicious festival of the temple. Innumerable devotees gather in the temple during this time. This 12-day festival is celebrated during the Kartikmonth on an annual basis. Mahasivaratri, Nandi Seva, Lingodbhavam, Rathotsavam, Teppotsavam, Sri Swami-Ammavarla Kalyanotsavam, Palki Seva are some of the most vital aspects of this festival
  • The Aadi Krithika festival is for the worship of Lord Kumaraswamy. The Krithika star day of the Aadi month marks a rejuvenating occasion to rebuild one’s positive energy. Pilgrims gather at the Vignana Giri to worship during this festival
  • Kedaari Gowri Vratham is celebrated on Diwali at the temple premises. Thousands of women gather in this temple every year to worship the goddess Prasunambika.




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