Srikalahasti is a holy town and a municipality near Tirupati, Chitoor District of Andhra Pradesh. It is located on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. It is also informally and wrongly referred to as Kalahasti. It is a popular ancient Temple dedicated to Shiva is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (temples celebrating Shiva as the embodiment of the primary elements), air being the element in case here, the other five temples being Tiruvannamalai (Fire), Chidambaram (Space), Tiruvanaikkaval (Water) and Kanchipuram (Earth) respectively. Thousands of pilgrims from all over India visit the temple to have darshan of the almighty Sri Kalahasteeswara God and Goddesses Sri Gnanaprasunambika Devi.
This temple is also associated with Rahu and Ketu, (of the nine grahams or celestial bodies in the Indian astrological scheme). The Tamil Cholas and the Vijayanagara Rulers have made several endowments to this temple. Adi Sankara is said to have visited this temple and offered worship here. There are Chola inscriptions in this temple which date back to the 10th century CE.
Temple History : Srikalahasti got its name because in days of yore a Spider (Sri), Snake (Kala) and Elephant (Hasti) elephant worshipped Shiva with great devotion. First of all the Spider came to worship Lord shive who is in the form of Shivalinga. The Spider built the silk net around Shivalinga and worshiped god Shiva. After spider left Snake came and it clears all the spider silk net and it bring some flowers and worshiped lord Shiva. Again after Snake left an Elephant came and washed every thing that Snake has done by bringing and pouring water through its trunk. One all the three came at one time and they quarreled each other and all the three died at the same spot. Then Lord Shiva appeared there and he blessed the three “Sri Kala Hasti” with Mukti. At the same spot where Lord Shiva appeared is now known as Srikalahasti. This is the history of temple of Srikalahasti.
Srikalahasti is one of the important ancient Shiva Temples of South India. The Srikalahasti Temple occupies the area between the river bank and the foot of the hills and is popularly known as Dakshina Kailasam. Also visit Pathala Ganapathi who is associated with the old Sivalingam beneath the temple. You cannot see the Old SivaLingam (related to the old Story of Srikalahasti) beneath the temple but you can imagine it (and the real story) when you see the Lord Ganapathi. In the outer temple, as soon as you enter the temple gates (after the shops) on your left you will see the old idol of SriGnanaprasunambika Devi which was placed outside.
Temple Architecture: The vast west facing Kalahastiswara temple is built adjoining a hill, and on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. At some points, the hill serves as the wall of the temple. The temple Prakarams follow the contour of the adjoining hill and hence the temple plan is rather irregular. North of the temple is the Durgambika hill, south is the Kannappar hill and east is the Kumaraswamy hill.
Krishnadevaraya built a huge gopuram, a few feet away from the entrance to the temple. The entrance to the temple is crowned with a smaller tower. There is an underground Ganapati shrine in the outer prakaram, while in the innermost prakaram are the shrines of Shiva and Parvati.
The present structure of the temple is a foundation of the Cholas of the 10th century, as testified by inscriptions; improvements and additions were made during the subsequent years of the Chola rulers of Tamilnadu and the Vijayanagar emperors.
The Manikanteswara temple, also in Kalahasti 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. There is also a Vishnu shrine in this temple.
Bhaktha Kannappa, a hunter is said to have been a great devotee of Kalahasteeswarar. Legend has it that he offered his own eyes to the Shivalingam, and for this reason earned the name Kannappan (his original name being Thinnan), and the distinction of having his statue adorn the sanctum. Nakkiradevar, Indra, Rama, Muchukunda and others are believed to have worshipped Shiva at this temple.
Festivals: Maha Shivaratri is one of the greatest festival seasons here, and the celebrations are marked by processions of the deities. The fifth day of the festival in the month of Maasi coincides with the Maha Shivaratri.
Access and Accomodation: Tirupati (30km) is the nearest airport and is perhaps the most convenient base for visiting Kalahasti as it (Tirupati) is endowed with several modern lodging facilities. A one day trip from Chennai is also possible, as Kalahasti is well connected by road with Tirupati and with Chennai and is only a four to five hour drive from Chennai. If well planned, Tirupati, Tirumala and Kalahasti can be covered in a day’s trip from Chennai by car. It is one night journey from Vijayawada to Kalahasti.