memories of family outings.....


AHOBILAM .............Man-Lions and scarlet beetles

We over estimated our trekking stamina .
And misjudged the image attributed to Ahobilam.

Of course we knew the basic facts about it before we set out. That there are these nine temples strewn around a hillside where Narasimha, the ManLion god mauled and disembowelled the demon Hiranyakasipu and revealed The Truth to Prince Prahlada . That there are no serviceable roads after a point and we'd have to walk up the hill. Ok, that was no big deal. 'Havn't we seen enough hill temples before!'
We took our sweet time arriving there, expecting to find a holy hillock we could finish with in a couple of hours.
We ended up spending the whole day there, returning to the vehicle, reluctantly, only when light had faded almost completely. Though the calf muscles were a bit wobbly and complaining, we were too satiated and thrilled to notice fatigue. We returned to the resting place at an ungodly hour besides not having found anything more than biscuits and tetrapacked fruitdrinks for supper. But elation was the defining emotion that went to bed with us after that trip.

I would say, the trip to Ahobilam was more than a pilgrimage. It was Communion - no, not with the god supplied by religion , nor with the Divinity, invested by tradition, on the hoary images in the caves. It was communion with Nature in its raw, unconquered, unregulated, primal self. The temples seemed like only minor, incidental baubles clinging to its hem.
The cluster of holy caves is situated in The Nallamalai hill range which is considered to be the personification of a recumbent Adisesha - his head resting in the Tirupati hills, his tail in Srisailam and his body in Ahobilam.
The Nine Narasimhas who are enshrined in Ahobilam are : Varaha( or Kroda)narasimha, Malola narasimha, Yoga Narasimha, Paavana narasimha, Karancha narasimha., Bhargava narasimha, Kshatravata narasimha, Jwala narasimha and Ahobilam. In addition to these are two other holy spots called Prahlada Padi, the cave where the prince received wisdom from the lord and Ugra Sthambam, the "pillar" from which the ManLion is said to have gloriously emerged.

The entre porte to the sacred site is Lower Ahobilam, a large, beautiful Vijayanagar style temple housing the Lord known as Parhlada Varada. The utsava murthis of all the 9 Narasimha temples are stored here because most of the "temples" are little more than rude natural caves with hardly any space for formally built atriums or sanctums. Two other smaller shrines, a short distance from this main one make up the lower section.
We drive some distance upward and soon alight at a vehicle parking lot. This is a sort of ledge flattened out beside a huge rocky wall at the crest of which is visible the crown of a small white washed temple. Viewed from below, the rock with a background of fleeting clouds and that little white gopuram floating about the summit does make for a brilliant visual.

A flight of rough cut steps takes us to this temple, the Ahobilam, which looks like an organic outcrop of the rocky jungle terrain. Just outside the gateway is a painted sign board showing the position of all the nine holy spots scattered around the hillside.
Since there are no actual roads or walk ways other than two absolutely necessary metal ramps, a guide becomes indispensable. We hire a nimble footed, athletic youth who thinks nothing of scampering up bald boulders or jumping across pebbly streams with simian ease. And he takes great care of some of us who may have looked like 100 year old relics to his young eyes !

The walk through the dense jungle with a treacherously uneven ground is absolutely enchanting. A broad ribbon of water weaves in and out of our path, tinkling smoothly here, gushing agitatedly through a chasm there. The boy takes us to the various shrines, all well hidden behind dense vegetation. The shrines are small caves, with small figures, some so very ancient as to have their facial features nearly worn down to a blank. But, reportedly, daily worship is never missed .
The shrine i loved the most is that of Ma-lola. The cave entrance has been beautified by a pretty pillared vestibule of carved stone with a roof that folds like peta.s.

Most of the other shrines are only small masonry sheds with no artistic value whatsoever. There are some crumbling, old, stone pavilions erected long ago for pilgrims.
The Ugra Sthambam is a rock weathered slim, standing upright, visible from certain points as we walk on.
(The last point, very difficult to reach is the Jwala and since we did not have enough time to do the round trip before darkness fell, we had to abandon plans to see the actual place where the final divine showdown reportedly took place )
Thats one small disappointment, but i will ever cherish the beguiling loveliness of the wild jungle - its grassy,leafy smells, the constant background music of running water, the insolent look of the colourful lizards basking on rocks, the tiny red beetles covering a milky weed ( which at the slightest brush leapt on to our limbs with a creepy scramble and a faintly tart odour ) , the robust trees festooned with trailing creepers and vines ......
On the same trip, a visit to MAHANANDI .
The main lingam looks cracked, chipped andsort of misshapen. Butofcourse theres a myth to explain away these imperfections.  All visitors are allowed to do pooja, abhisekham, whatever, to it by themselves , without the mediation of a priest.
The most interesting part of the temple is the remarkable kalyani, the sacred pond, with a central mantap, occupying the inner courtyard. It is said that it never dries up, nor does it ever overflow, throughout the year, the wayer looks almost on level with the ground. 
And ofcourse, theres that maha big Nandi. A humongous bull. But, in the beauty department , I feel it lags far behind our Mysore Nandi.

It was fun to watch tourists moving excitedly hither & thither with their cameras, desperately trying to fit the whole of the gigantic nandi into the picture . 
Perhaps some festival was coming up when we visited. For, along with busloads of tourists and pilgrims, seen milling around the temple, as in a " mela ", were colourful tribals in very interesting attires. And kids sported the kind of toy sunshades found mostly, only in village Fairs.

( Loved the roasted sunflower seeds , hot from the wok , sold in paper cones by picturesque tribals out side the temple. Cracking them open without crumbling the small kernels was a chore, but the slivers of nut finally obtained were fully worth the trouble. Yum ! ..... Whether trekking up the hill or cracking the sunflower seed, lesson learnt is same : No pain,no gain !)


bee said...

you have a truly enhancing blog. i enjoy your writing style and sketches.

bee said...

oops.. i mean 'enchanting'.

Team G Square said...

beautifully narrated the places . But why no photographs . Mahanandi is amazing , Ahobilam is on my hitlist to visit.

YOSEE said...

Team G : Thanx.
Why no photos ? Two reasons.
1.I am bad at photography.

2. I have a policy of not using photos that include us ,in this blog.And I couldn't find any i could use for this piece.

So, my sketches for illustration ! :-)

Team G Square said...

your sketches are out of this world madam .