Simhachalam Temple History
Simhachalam Sthala Puranam
The local Sthala purana contains a mythical account of the foundation of the Temple which relates to the well-known story of the demon King Hiranya-Kasyapa and his son Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha who are brothers and mighty demon lords bent upon disturbing the peace of the world.
Hiranyaksha, seized the earth and carried it to neither regions. Lord Vishnu killed him and delivered the earth from the clutches of the demon by assuming 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. However, Lord Brahma said that was not possible so Hiranyakasipu asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon so that he could not be killed by either animal or a man neither in the morning nor in the night, by any weapons, neither in sky nor on the earth. Hiranyakasipu wanted the entire world to worship him. He added to his might the power of penance and began to punish the gods and sages, the devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Son of Hiranyakasipu, named Prahalada became a devotee of Vishnu even from his birth and thus brought upon himself the wrath of his father. Hiranyakasipu tried to mend the ways of his son, but when he found him to be adamant, made him undergo severe hardships. He made the elephants trample over him and set poisonous snakes against him. Prahalada, protected as he was by divine grace, stood firm Hiranyakasipu as a last resort, asked his servants to throw his son into the sea and place huge mountain over him. His servant choose to drop Prahalada in the sea near the mount Simhadri with a view to place the mountain over him. But before they could complete their act Lord Narayana rescued him by jumping over the hill and lifting up Prahalada from the sea. 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, who wanted to see both the incarnations of the Lord, the one by which he had already killed Hiranyakasha and the other by which he would kill Hiranyakasipu.
According to Stalapurana, Prahalada was the first person to construct a temple round the Deity. He accomplished this after his father’s death at the hands of Narasimha. But at the end of that life-cycle (Krita yuga), the temple was neglected and began to decay. Even the Deity was not taken care of and crests of earth slowly gathered round the image.
But, 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. It also added that the Lord should be worshipped in this form, and only once in a year, on the third day in the month of Vaisakha his nijaswarupa can be revealed. Acting under the instructions of akaasavani, king pururava applied over the image an amount of sandalwood paste which is equal to the mud he had removed, worshipped the deity, and built the temple once again around the image. The temple continued to flourish ever since.
The exact age of the temple is not known, but it contains an inscription, dated as far back as 1098-99 A.D. of the Chola king Kulottunga-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.
I built the central shrine,the mukhamandapam,the natyamandapam, and the enclosing verandah in black stone in the later half of 13th century and other grants inscribed on its walls (the Government Epigraphist’s lists for 1899 give not less than 125 such inscriptions) make it a regular repository of the history of the district.
The Simhachalam temple still contains in inscriptions left here by Sri krishna Devaraya of Vijayanagara empire recounting his successes and relating how he and his queen presented the yod with necklace of 991 pearls and other costly gifts.
Architecturally the temple apparently deserves high praise. 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) facing this, and an enclosing verandah, all made of dark granite richly and delicately carved with conventional and floral ornament and scenes from the Vaishnavite puranas. Some of the carvings are mutilated (by Muhammadan conquerors, it is said). One of the pillars is called the kappa stambham or ‘tribute pillar’. It is credited with great powers of curing diseases and granting children. In the verandah is a stone car with stone wheels and prancing stone horses.
Outside this inner enclosure there is the excellent natyamandapam on the north side of the temple, where the god’s marriage is performed. This is supported by 96 pillars of black stone, arranged in sixteen rows of six each, which are more delicately carved than any others in the temple, are all different in the details of their design, and yet avoid incongruity of effect by adhering to one general type – especially in their capitals, which are usually of the inverted – lotus shape.
The deity is kept covered with an unctuous preparation of sandal paste. Once a year i.e, on akshaya thritheeya day (3rd day of Vaisakhamasam) this sandal paste will be removed in a ceremony at the festival called Chandanayatra (Chandanotsavam) and Nija roopa darsanam of Swamy Vari will be provided to devotees. It is the most important festival in this temple.
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