SRIKALAHASTI THE SACRED ENIGMA
The enigma of SriKalahastishwara’s Vayu Linga controlling the fury of the wind is witnessed in the oil lamp which glows steadily in the airless sanctum of the temple
SriKalahasti –Edifice of Faith:
SriKalahasti in Andhra Pradesh State of India, on the banks of Swarnamukhi River is one of the five Pancha Bootha sthalams of Lord Shiva, celebrating him as the embodiment of Vayu (Air). The other four Pancha Bootha sthalams are located in Tamil Nadu state in Tiruvanamalai (fire), Chidambaram (Space), Tiruvanaikaval (Water) and Kanchipuram (Earth).
The etymology of the temple SriKalahasti is derived from three devotees, namely spider called Sri, a serpent called Kala and an elephant called Hasti. The legend describes that a spider (Sri) built its web over the Shiva Linga to protect it from the sun and rain. The snake (Kala) placed a gem on the Lingam and performed worship. The elephant (Hasti) would get water with its trunk and bathe the Shiva Linga (perform abhisheka). Each of these devotees worshipped in Treta Yuga, and Lord Shiva pleased with their devotion granted salvation to them. Hence Sri, Kala and Hasti put together becomes the name of this temple Srikalahasti and the deity referred as SriKalahastishwara. The marks that correlate this legend are still visible on the Srikalahastishwara, which is a swayambhu (natural) Shiva Linga. Srikalahastishwara is shaped like an elephant trunk, with tusks on each side and a figure of the spider at the bottom and from above, the Shiva Linga looks like a snake with five hoods.
The Sthalapuranam of SriKalahasti states that when Brahma the creator began to perform penance in the presence of this lingam, Lord Shiva left Kailash and took his abode in this idol. Hence SriKalahasti is also referred as the Dakshin Kailash (Kailash of the South). Lord SriKalahastishwara faces West symbolizing ‘Liberation from Ego’, and Goddess Gnanaprasannamba (the giver of supreme knowledge) symbolises ‘Wealth’. Every devotee who prays to Lord Srikalahastishwara and Goddess Gnanaprasannamba ultimately achieves the real wealth i.e., the freedom limitation conferred by Self Knowledge.
Kannappa Nayanaar, and a hunter by profession who later became one of the sixty three celebrated Tamil Saiva saints was a great devotee of Kalahasteeswaraa. Legend has it that he offered his own eyes to the Srikalahastishwara, and for this reason earned the name Kannappan (his original name being Thinnan), and the distinction of having his statue adorn the sanctum. This temple is also known as the Rahu-Ketu kshetra and the Rahu-Ketu Sarpa dosha nivarana pooja is performed in this temple for devotees who have any of these doshas or other problems like in marriage and family relations.
SriKalahasti – Antiquity and Architecture:
The temple has been referred to in pre-Christian Tamil literature and several Tamil saints like Sambandar Appar, Manikakavacahgar, Sudaramurti, Pattinathar and Ramalinga Swami of Vadalur have worshiped lord Shiva at this temple, which has inspired great poetic and rare musical works. Great Philosopher and Saint of the Hindu-Sanathana Dharam, Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavathpada is believed to have worshiped to SriKahastishwara. The foremost Telugu poet of SriKalahasti, Dhoorjati was one of the eight official court poets of Sri Krishnadevaraya and is known for his devotional work SriKalahastishwara Mahatmyama and SriKalahastishwara Shatakam. SriKalahasti is interlinked with South Indian Music and Dance. Sri Muthuswamy Deekshitar, one of trinities in the Carnatic Music Tradition composed the glory of this Lord in his kriti ‘Sree Kaalahasteesa’in raga Huseni and tala Jhampa. It is also noteworthy that the other trinity Sri Thyagaraja’s grandfather Veena Kalahasti Ayya hailed from this place and moved to the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu joining the Maratha court, and Sri Thyagaraja’s disciple Veena Kuppayya has composed five songs in the praise of SriKalahastishwara. Telugutemple dancers have performed to several traditional compositions, a tradition that continues today in Vilasini Natyam.
The temple architecture is a treat to the eyes of all those who visit Srikalahasti. Historically, the temple was constructed in parts by different kings of Chola Dynasty. It is the Chola Dynasty which is credited for renovating and embellishing the temple with intricate sculpture and art. The Manikanteswarar temple, also in SriKalahasti dates back to the period of Raja Raja Chola I (early 11th century), and it was reconstructed in stone in 1196 by Kulottunga III. Shiva here is also referred to as Manikkengauyudaiya Nayanar. The Mantapams and Gaaligopurams (Big towers) facing east were developed by the Vijaynagar rulers in 16th century. The tower built by Krishnadevaraya in 15th century over the main gate stands at an imposing height of 120 ft and also the Mantapam of 100 pillard hall was contrived and built by him in 1516 AD.
SriKalahasti as an Ancient Textile painting Centre: Kalamlari literally means Kalam pen and Kari – Work, i.e., art work is done using a pen. Vegetable dyes are used to colour designs on cloth and this ancient art of textile painting and using organic dyes flourished in SriKalahasti on the banks of Swarnamukhi. The Kalamkari tradition has two schools, one in SriKalahasti and the other in Masulipatinam, where the artists influenced b Persian motifs and designs are involved in block printing art. SriKalahasti tradition developed mostly in the temple region concentrating on themes from hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha, images of Gods and Goddesses. The artists use a bamboo or date palm stick at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to this pointed end to serve as the brush or pen. The dyes are obtained by extracting colours from parts of plants, roots, leaves along with mineral salt of iron, tin, copper, alum etc., used as mordants. Another style of Kalalmkari which developed in Thanjavur region during Maratha rule is called Karrupur (also known as Kodali Karrupur) in which Kalamkari work was embellished to the gold brocade work in woven fabric which was used as sarees and dhotis by the royal family during the period of Raja Sarfoji and later Shivaji. The meticulous craft of Kalamkari requires the fabric to undergo 17 laborious steps to highlight the beauty of delicate patterns and the richness of natural dyes. The number of skilled artisans required in creating one yardage of Kalamkari fabric which involves making the block to treating the cloth, printing, and washing is approximately 8 to 10
Several artists have their outlets/craft centres from where the visitors of SriKalahasti can buy hand-painted and hand-woven cloths. As Thirupathi the abode of Mahavishnu is just less than 70 km away from SriKalahasti, it has witnessed the confluence of streams of Vaishnava and Saiva devotees from all corners of the World.