Ahobilam is located in Karnool district of Andhra Pradesh in the hills of the eastern ghats, about 400 km northwest of Chennai.
The temple consists of nine shrines to Lord Nrisimha located around a 5 km circle. In addition to the nine shrines, there is a temple for Prahaladavarada Varadhan in the foothills of the mountain. Due to security reasons and the difficulty in performing daily worship, many of the utsava vigrahas of the nine shrines are kept in this temple.
Garuda wished for a vision of Lord Nrisimha in the form of the Avathara. To fulfill his wish, the Lord settled in the hills around Ahobilam in the midst of dense forests in nine different forms. For this reason this hill came to be known as Garudadri, Garudachalam, and Garudasailam.
Ahobilam is the place where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada. Mahalakshmi took avathar as Senjulakshmi among the Senju, tribal hunters of the hills, and married the Lord.
Sri Ahobila Matam, one of the most important Sri Vaishnava religious institutions in India, was established by Sri Athivan Satakopan at the instructions of Lord Lakshmi Nrisimha of Ahobilam. In fact, the utsava moorthy of the Malola Nrisimha temple, one of the nine shrines of Ahobilam, is the presiding deity of Sri Ahobila Mutham. Sri Malolan accompanies Srimad Azhagiya Singar, the spiritual and titular head of Sri Ahobila Mutham, on his travels.
Thirumangai Azhvaar has sung ten verses about this temple in Periya Thirumozhi.
Perumal (Lord): Ahobila Nrisimha – Sitting posture in Chakrasana facing East (Main temple)
Thayar (Consort): Lakhmi, Senjulakshmi
Other shrines: Jwala Nrisimha, Malola Nrisimha, Kroda Nrisimha, Karanja Nrisimha, Bhargava Nrisimha, Yaogananda Nrisimha, Kshatravata Nrisimha, Pavana Nrisimha
Pushkarani : BhavaNasini, Bhargava, Indra, Nrisimha,Gaja Theerthams
Vimanam: Guhai (Cave)
Pratyaksham: Prahalada, Adivan Satakopan
The Himalayas rise high to the Everest in the north while the far south of India shows the deep sea – rather communion of the three oceans. The western region and the eastern region of the Peninsular India, on the other hand, while tapering towards Kanyakumari, exhibit a wide range of mountains known as 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 Adhisesha basking in the sun with its head (or hood) at Thirumala, its middle at Ahobilam and its tail- end portion at Srisailam – all the three with famous temples on them.
The subject we have before us is Ahobilam. Of course, Thirupathi and Srisailam are also frequented pilgrimage centres. Ahobilam because of this special issue. Not only Mahabharatha; but also ancient puranas like Koorma 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 Stala Purana, there are two popular legends for the derivation of the word ‘Ahobilam’. It is stated that the Devas (Gods), while witnessing the terrific aspect (Ugra Kala), the lord took on in order to tear to pieces Hiranyakasipu sung in His praise as ‘Ahobala’ (Lo: the strength). Hence this place has come to be known as Ahobilam. In support of this, there is a prapatthi sloka about-Ahobilam that reads:-
“Aho Veeryam Aho Souryarn Aho Bahuparakramah
Naarasimham Param Daivam Ahobilam Aho Balam.
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 Mussadis working under Col. Mackenzie.) The Ahobilam Kaifiyat is in Telugu and available in the State Archives at Hyderabad (vide “Ahobila Narasimhaswamy temple” – Monograph by P. Sitapati, Commissioner of Archives).
As per this record, “On one of the mountains in the Nallamalai hills range, 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 ‘Paruvus’ to the north-east 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 traveled thither and saw the embodiment of the Sathsvaroopa,’ 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 sthotras- Garuda then considered himself as blessed after a vision of the Lord. This divine place thereafter obtained the deserving name of Ahobilam”.
“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 Narasimhasthalas 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
Before visiting these nine shrines, let us see how we approach the place. Situated in the Nallamalai Hills, Ahobilam is about 24 Kms. from Allagadda Taluk Headquarters, 112 Kms. from Cudappah 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. Long long ago, the Tamil mystic bard, Thirumangai Azhwar sang that Singavel Kunram (Ahobilam) was accessible to none but Gods.
Due to the efforts of the current 45th Srimad Azhagiyasingar, the access routes to several of the shrines have been greatly simplified such that people of different age groups are now able to visit the places easily. The whole complex is in two parts – one called Eguvu Ahobilam (Upper Ahobilam) with Nava Narasimha shrines and the other called Diguvu Ahobilam (Lower Ahobilam) with a single shrine for Lakshmee Narasimha connected by a road, stretching a distance of about 12.8 Kms. from Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam.
The Sthalapurana of Ahobilam in Sanskrit gives an account of nine forms of Narasimha, worshipped here. They are: –
1. BHARGAVA NARASIMHA SWAMY
The Bhargava Narasimha Swamy is situated at a distance of two kilometres from the Lower Ahobilam, on a hill, near the sacred pond, known as ‘Bhargava Theertham’, where Bhargava Rama performed his penance. Hence the Lord of the temple is known as Bhargava Narasimha Swamy.
2. YOGANANDA NARASIMHA SWAMY
This temple is to the south-east of Lower Ahobilam at a distance of 2 kilometres. The popular legend is that after killing Hiranyakasipu, Lord Narasimha taught Prahlada several yogic postures. Therefore, the Lord in this aspect is called Yogananda Narasimha.
3. CHATRAVATA NARASIMHA SWAMY
About three kilometres from lower Ahobilam, the image of the deity is installed under a peepal tree, surrounded by thorny bushes. Hence, the Lord is called as Chatravata Narasimha Swamy.
4. AHOBILA NARASIMHA SWAMY
The temple, situated on the Upper Ahobilam, at a distance of eight kilometres from the Lower Ahobilam, is the main temple and the earliest of all the nine temples there. The Lord here appears in his fierce aspect, called Ugra Narasimha, who is the presiding deity of the temple and is known as Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy. It is firmly believed the Lord Narasimha was ‘Svayambhu’ (self-manifest) here.
5. KRODAKARA (VARAHA) NARASIMHA SWAMY
The temple of this Lord is one kilometre away from the main temple of Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobilam. The image of the deity has the face of a boar (varaha or kroda) and the Lord is seen along with his Consort, Lakshmi. Hence the Lord of the temple is known as Krodakara (Varaha) Narasimha Swamy here.
6. KARANJA NARASIMHA SWAMY
This shrine is situated at a distance of one kilometre from the Upper Ahobilam and one furlong from the road leading to Lower Ahobilam. The image of the deity is installed under a tree, called ‘Karanja Vruksham’. Hence this Lord is called Karanja Narasimha Swamy.
7. MALOLA NARASIMHA SWAMY
Nearly two kilometres from the main temple of Upper Ahobilam, is the famous shrine of Malola Narasimha Swamy. The deity here appears in ‘soumya’ (graceful) form. As Lord Narasimha is seen with his consort, Lakshmi, He is known as Malola Narasimha Swamy. The word ‘Malola’ means beloved to Lakshmi (Ma=Lakshmi, Lola=beloved). It is said that the ‘utsavamoorthi’ of the Lord appeared to Srimath Adivan Satakopa Jeeyar, the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Matam. Right from the founder, i.e., the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Matam down to the 44th pontiff, Srivan Satakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatheendra Mahadesika, the present jeeyar, the utsavamoorthi of Malola Narasirnha Swamy is worshipped and it is taken by them whenever they are on religious tours, visiting the villages every year. Recently, the 45th Jeeyar Srivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yatheendra Mahadesikan has taken over the worship.
8. JWALA NARASIMHA SWAMY
The temple of Jwala Nrisimha Swamy, lies higher up the above temple, on a hill called, ‘Achalachaya Meru’. This is about four kilometres from the Upper Ahobilam temple. This place is said to be the actual spot, where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore Hiranyakasipu.
9. PAVANA NARASIMHA SWAMY
Nearby the above temple, is the shrine of Pavana Narasimha, on the banks of the river, Pavana and it is about six kilometres from the Upper Ahobilam temple. Hence the Lord of the shrine is known as Pavana Narasimha Swamy.
In addition to the shrines mentioned above, there is a famous shrine dedicated to God Narasimha Swamy in the Lower Ahobilam, which is popularly known as Prahlada Varada Sannidhi. The other objects of this place are ‘Ugra Sthambham’ and ‘Prahlada Mettu’.
(a) UGRA STHAMBHAM
At a distance of eight kilometres from the Upper Ahobilam temple, we can see a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. It is a long-held view that from the cleft, the Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and this cleft is known as ‘Ugra Sthambham’.
(b) PRAHALADA METTU
The small shrine, situated in a cave on the hill, is in between Ugra Sthambham and the Upper Ahobilam. It is dedicated to Prahlada Narashimha Swamy. The image of the Prahlada is installed in a small cave.
There are a number of holy ‘theerthas’ (water ponds) round this place. Of these, Rakthakundam is the most important. It is stated that Lord Narasirnha after killing the demon Hiranyakasipu, washed his hands in this ‘theertham’ and hence the water is still reddish in appearance. (History of the cult of Narasimha in Andhra Pradesh by Dr. M. Narasimhacharya).
The temple surrounded by three prakaras in the Lower Ahobilam is dedicated to Prahlada Varada i.e., the Lord whose grace bestows on Prahlada. With Vijayanagar style noticeable in the structure, there are a number of mandapas outside the temple. A shrine dedicated to Sri Venkateswara exists to the south west of this Narasimha temple and lends view to the episode that Lord Venkateswara obtained the blessings of Narasimha just before his marriage with Padmavathi. The Mukha Mandapa there, is now used as the Kalyana Mandapa of Narasimha Swamy.
With Lakshmeenarasimha as the presiding Deity, the main temple consists of a sanctum, Mukhamandapam and Rangamandapam with numerous pillars intricately carved and carrying rich sculptures. There are also three smaller shrines for Lakshmi, Andal and Azhwars. In the sanctum are also kept the Utsava archa-vigraha of Prahlada Varada, Pavana Narasimha and the processional archa-vigrahas of Jwala Narasimha endowed with ten hands and with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi on His either side. A small archa-vigraha of the first Jeeyar, Sri Adivan Satakopa Swami is also kept before them.
What is apparent and observable is Lord Narasimha’s posture in three places including the one in a polar of a divine ascetic presenting ascetic order to the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Matam. Both in the Upper and Lower Ahobilam, it is a common sight on the pillars of Lord Narasimha wooing His consort Chenchulakshmi. The Lord chasing Hiranyakasipu in one pillar and bursting forth from another pillar to tear him are very realistic. Thanks to the 44th Jeeyar’s efforts as also that of the Endowments Department of A.P. Government, the complex has been renovated, though a lot is desired to be done. It would not be out of place to mention that good resting places, free or paid boarding arrangements (as is done in Thirupathi), provision of enough drinking water and Devasthanam canteens would go a long way to attract more number of pilgrims.
The annual uthsavam (Brahmothsava) performed in February every year is a great attraction that lure both the common folk and the religious Pandits to participate in them. Though under the care of the Ahobila Matam whose Jeeyars are hereditary trustees, co-operation from the public and the government would help improve Ahobilam further.
There is a tall Jayasthambham erected in the spacious ground outside the temple walls to mark the victory of Krishnadeva Raya. The Kakatheeya Kings especially Prathapa Rudra had also contributed towards additional structures and maintenance of this Ahobilam complex.
Sri Thirumangai Azhwar describes the place as very hard to visit (sendru kandarkku ariya kovil, kavvu naayum kazhugum, deivamallal sella vonna), but due to the efforts of the 45th Azhagiyasingar, this place has transformed into “sendru kaandarku eliya (easy) kovil. Many devotees visit ahobilam frequently and the place is well connected with a guest house and access to trains from Chennai, Bangalore and Bombay. In addition, several tourist operators also frequently arrange religious trips to Ahobilam from major cities.
Manager, Malola Guest House
Ahobilam 518 545, Kurnool District, A.P
Phone: 08519 – 252 025/0252 045
094905 15284/094407 9273
Traveling to Ahobilam from Chennai
Ahobilam is about 400 km west and slightly north of Chennai. To get to Ahobila by road you will have to pass through Renigunta, Kadappa, and Allagadda. Since Thirumalai Tiruppati is on the way one might cover both Thiruppati and Ahobilam in one trip. However, the drive can be quite hectic and tiresome. The recommended mode of travel is by Train to Kadappa and by road from there. Each mode of transportation is further explained below.
By Train from Chennai to Ahobilam
Bombay mail leaves Chennai at about 9:55 p.m. and reaches Kadappa at about 3:15 a.m. You can take Bombay mail going to Chennai for the return journey. Chennai bound Bombay mail arrives Kadappa at 10:25 p.m. and leaves at 10:30 p.m. It reaches Chennai at about 5:40 a.m. Reservations may be made for round trip from Chennai to Kadappa and back. Quota for Kadappa is available in Bombay mail.
From Kadappa, Ahobilam is about 100 km. If you can afford it you can hire a taxi for the day to go to Ahobilam and return. The approximate cost would be Rs. 1000 for the round trip. If you are a group you can hire a van for a day. In either of these two cases, you will be able to finish all the Dharshan and return to Kadappa at night in time to catch Bombay mail back to Chennai. If you are not in a position to hire a taxi, you can take a bus to Ahobilam. There may be direct bus to Ahobilam, but frequency may be limited. In stead, take a bus to Allagadda, and then from Allagadda you can take another bus to Ahobilam. If you have to travel bus you may have difficulty covering all the temples in one day.
By bus from Chennai to Ahobilam
There is an overnight bus from Madras to Nandiyal leaving at about 8:00 p.m. Nandiyal is a big town past Allagadda. Buy your ticket to Allagadda. The bus will reach Allagadda at about 6 a.m. Get down at Allagadda. From Allagadda, Ahobilam is about 30 km. Town busses ply between Allagadda and Ahobilam every 45 minutes. The last bus leaves Ahobilam to Allagadda at 9:45 p.m. You may also hire a taxi from Allagadda. The same bus returns to Chennai. It leaves Allagadda at about 7:00 a.m. Check locally for exact time. By car from Chennai to Ahobilam The drive from Chennai is through Renigunta, Kadappa, and Allagadda. It will take about 9 to 10 hours of hard driving. Avoid night driving if you can.
Traveling to Ahobilam from Hyderabad
The distance between Hyderabad and Ahobilam is about 380 km. By train, take Thungabadra Express from Hyderabad (Kacheguda) to Kurnool. This train leaves Hyderabad (Kacheguda) at 7:00 p.m. and reaches Kurnool 10:30 p.m. From Karnool, Ahobilam is about 150 km. You may hire a taxi or take a bus for this part of the journey. The approximate cost would be Rs. 1400 for the round trip. The return train arrives Kurnool at 1:15 a.m. and reaches Hyderabad at 5:20 a.m. You may also take a bus from Hyderabad to Allagadda. From Allagadda, Ahobilam is about 30 km. Town busses ply between Allagadda and Ahobilam every 45 minutes. The last bus leaves Ahobilam to Allagadda at 9:45 p.m. You may also hire a taxi from Allagadda.
Traveling to Ahobilam from Bangalore
From Bangalore, Ahobilam is about 350 km. The train timing is not very convenient from Bangalore. Prasant Express leaves Bangalore at 2:00 p.m. and reaches Nandiyal at about 11:50 p.m. From Nandiyal, Ahobilam is about 60 km via Allagadda. The return train to Bangalore leaves Nandiyal at about 11:10 p.m. and reaches Bangalore at 10 a.m. By road, the travel is via Madanapalli, Cuddapah, and Allagadda. The drive is about 7:30 hours.
What sort of accommodation is available at Ahobilam?
Sri Ahobila Matam maintains a Guest House called Malola Guest House. There are a total of 14 rooms, 4 single rooms, 6 double rooms, and 4 triple rooms. Of these, two double rooms and two triple rooms are air conditioned. In addition, there are 10 dormitory type rooms.
For reservations please call
What about food? Are there any restaurants in Ahobilam?
A privately run canteen is located adjacent to Malola Guest House. Vegetarian food is sold at this canteen. In addition, Sri Ahobila Matam has established a trust called Annamacharya Nitya Annadanam Trust. The goal of this trust is to provide free food to devotees of Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha. Free prasadam is offered three time a day. Dadiyannam (Curd rice) is offered morning and evening. At noon time Tadiyaradhanam (full course meals) is offered. The monthly expense for this exceeds Rs. 20,000. Contributions to the trust is welcome. Please contact the Malola Guest House manager at 8519-232045 for details.
Will I be able to see all the temples in Ahobilam in one day?
Yes. you can, if you are physically strong and focused on covering all the temples. If you do not want to rush you need a day and a half; you still need to be physically fit. There are 12 shrines in total. There are the celebrated nine shrines called Nava Nrisimha. They are Jwala, Ahobila, Malola, Kroda, Karanja, Bharaghava, Yogananda, Chatravata, and Paavana. Then, we have Ugra Stambam, which is a column of rock. This rock itself is considered Lord Nrisimha. The eleventh one is called Prahlada Padi. These eleven are in the hills in one sense or another. The twelth one is Prahlada Varadan temple located at Lower Ahobilam near the Malola Guest House.
Normally, devotees want to cover the nine Nrisimhas and Prahlada Varadan. Only the brave (or foolhardy) attempt Ugra Stambam. Of the nine, Jwala, and Pavana are most difficult. The starting point for both is Ahobila Nrisimha temple at Upper Ahobilam, which can be reached by road, and a climb of about 50 steps. From Ahoilba temple, going to Jwala involves climbing through rocks on a river bed and up a narrow path way for about an hour. Kroda is right on the way to Jwala. Malola is about 100 steps to a side from Kroda. So, in about three hours one can climb to Jwala and be back, covering Kroda and Malola on the way up or down.
The starting point for Pavana is also Ahobila Nrisimha temple, but the route is on the opposite side of Jwala Temple. First, one has to climb some 250 very steep steps, and then walk for about 4 KM on fairly plain ground. The round trip may take about three hours. Recently, a path has been made for Jeeps to go to Pavana. It is a very rough 2 hour drive from Lower Ahobilam.
With the above two trips you would have covered 5 temples, Jwala, Ahobilam, Malola, Kroda, and Pavana. The remaining temples are very easy. Karanja is on the way to Upper Ahobilam from Lower Ahobilam, just on the road side. Yogananda and Chatravata are on plain ground about a couple of KM from Lower Ahobilam. You can drive on paved road for these two temples.
Finally Bhargava. This temple is also on plain ground about 2 KM from Lower Ahobilam. But there is no paved road. You have to hire a Jeep or Autorickshaw. If you are interested in Ugra Stambam, it is another hour’s climb from Jwala. Prahlada Padi may also be visited on the way back from Ugra Stambam. Or, Prahladha Padi may be visited from Malola Temple also. For a fee you can hire a guide to take you around all the temples. If you wish to visit Ugra Stambam, a guide is highly recommended.
Do I need to hire a guide? What will be cost?
Jwala and Ugra Sthambam are the two sannidees for which you need to hire a guide. All other sannidees are relatively easily accessible. Even between Jwala and Ugra Sthambam, the way to Jwala is marked. You have to look for it carefully. To hire a guide contact the manager of the Guest house. Contact details are given below. The cost to hire a guide will vary. The estimate is about Rs. 200.
Is there any special day for visiting Ahobilam?
Every month on Swathi Nakshatram (star) Thirumanjanam (Abhishekam) is performed for all the nine Nrisimhas (Nava Nrisimhas) of Ahobilam. A full contingent of devotees travel from Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore for this occasion. This is a special day to visit Ahobilam. You may also sponsor the Thirumanjanam. The cost is Rs. 5,000 for all nine temples. The amount is deposited in a trust called Swati Trust and used for the Thirumanjanam expenses. If you wish to sponsor a Thirumanjanam please contact the manager of Malola Guest House at 8519-232045. If you plan to attend Swati Thirumanjanam please make advance reservation for a room to stay at Ahobilam.
Further, Brahmothsavam is celebrated in Ahobilam in the month of Masi, sometime between mid February to mid March. During this time, entire Ahobilam takes on a festive appearance. The celebrations last 10 days. Lord Prahlada Varadhan enjoys riding in various Vahanas during this time. This is a great time to visit Ahobilam to have grand Dharshan of Lord Nrisimha. Be prepared for heat and big crowds.