Beside the sacred river Swarnamuki that passes through Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh, is the ancient Siva temple of Srikalahasti. It’s known as ‘Thakshina Kailash’, Lord Shiva’s abode in South India. The Sivalingam here is a ‘Vayu lingam’ representing ‘air’. It is also one of Lord Siva’s Panchabootha sthalas.
There are many legends around the temple. Once there was a spider, an elephant and a snake who worshipped Lord Siva. Each worshipped the Lord differently: the spider with its silken webs; the serpent with its precious stones and the elephant with flowers and water to wash the idol.
One day, the elephant cleared away the precious stones while washing the idol. The angry snake bit him, and he trampled the reptile to death. The spider was caught in the middle of the fray; all three died. Recognising their devotion, Siva merged their souls with his divinity and took the name Srikalahasti which combines all three: the spider (Sri), the snake (Kala), and the elephant (Hasti) thus becoming Sri Kalahastiswar.
The other legend is around the hunter Kannappa Nayanar. His worship was unique; every day he would bring water from the Swarnamukhi in his mouth to wash the sivalingam. He would first taste the venison he hunted before offering it to god. One day he saw the idol’s eye bleeding. He immediately gouged out his right eye and offered it to the idol. Then the other eye of the idol also begun to bleed. He decided to offer his right eye to the Lord. But then, how would he see where to put the second eye because he would be blind? He marked the spot with his foot. Siva, then, appeared and stopped Nayanar from removing his eye and also gave him moksha.
Here, the goddess Parvathy is worshipped as Gnanaprasunambika. After undertaking intense penance and meditation in mortal form, she received the ‘Panchaksara mantra’ from Lord Siva and became known as Gnanaprasunambika.
Timings: 6 am to 9 pm. Nearest airport: Tirupati at a distance of 60 km from Srikalahasti. Taxi fare from Tirupati: `750.