Ahobilam – The Nava Narasimha Kshetra

06.00 hrs – I woke up when my alarm buzzed while my brother and Bilal were still sleeping. I started to get ready and in the meanwhile, they too got up and while Bilal was busy in checking how to reach Ahobilam and all, my brother went for a jog as his physical test for the Police selection was around the corner! We got ready quickly and left for Proddatur’s old Bus station from where we should get a bus to Allagadda and before doing that my brother insisted us to have our breakfast and we did so. We got into the bus and the distance to be covered is around 60 kms. We reached Allagadda around 10.30 hrs. From there, we took another bus which would be leaving to Ahobilam, located in Kurnool district and only then did we come to know that there are two places called the Diguva Ahobilam (Lower Ahobilam) and Eguva Ahobilam (Upper Ahobilam).

The bus-conductor gave us tickets till Upper Ahobilam. It was around 11.20 hrs we were at the Lower Ahobilam. Ahobilam is the place where there are nine different self-manifest (swayambu) deities of Lord Narasimha amidst the Nallamala hills. The sacred ranges of Nallamala hills are believed to be personified Adisesha whose head is Tirumala, middle portion Ahobilam and tail portion is Srisailam.

The nine manifestations are:

  1. Jwaala Narasimha
  2. Ahobila Narasimha
  3. Malola Narasimha
  4. Kroda Narasimha
  5. Karanja Narasimha
  6. Bhargava Narasimha
  7. Yogananda Narasimha
  8. Kshatravata Narasimha
  9. Paavana Narasimha

Aho-bilam literally means “wonderful cave” referring to the caves in which some of the nine self-manifest deities reside. The Puranas indicate that the Devas (Gods) saw the manifestation of Lord Vishnu as half-lion and half-man and shouted as Ahobala (great strength) as well as Ahobila (a huge cave where the current sanctum is present). It is the place where Lord Vishnu appeared from the Stone Pillar or Ugra Stambha to slay Hiranyakashipu and hence this place is called Ahobilam. According to another Purana, Garuda performed intense penance to have vision of Lord Vishnu and realized him here. And hence these hills are also known as Garudadri.

Our bus stopped just in front of the temple complex of Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami at Lower Ahobilam. The temple complex was serene and if we have enough time we would be visiting the temple on our way back. The bus soon came to life again and started ascending the hill. The snake-like road is carved in middle of the hills and the lush green trees all along the way makes the journey a pleasant one. Within no time, our bus reached Upper Ahobilam and we got down there. We searched for a cloak room to keep our luggage, but couldn’t find one. But there are few accommodations where the pilgrims can stay and we requested the manager over there to allow us to keep our luggage there.  Once freed from the luggage, we walked to find a route-map and there it was, giving each and every detail. In the meanwhile a guide approached us, but he asked us way too much and we dropped the plan of hiring a guide!

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We started climbing up the hill. Initially there were a few concrete steps and it took us around 10 minutes to climb those. We reached the first temple situated in the Upper Ahobilam. This is the Ahobila Narasimha swami temple where the lord appears in his fierce aspect, called Ugra Narasimha. The temple is the main temple and earliest of all the nine temples in Ahobilam. The architecture is pretty much like the other South Indian temples but as told earlier this was a cave temple and the deity here is a Swayambu (self-manifestation). Just infront of this temple complex there is a mandapa, from where one can get the a nice panoramic view of the hills surrounding this temple. While Bilal stayed back, I went inside and took the blessings of the Lord!

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A night in Proddatur – The “Second Bombay”

11.12.2016:

18.10 hrs – We were waiting in front of the entrance of Belum Caves for a vehicle which could drop us at Kovelakuntla, so that we can catch us an onward bus to reach Proddatur. My brother Vijay lives there and I wanted to pay a visit to him! After a long wait, a bus came and we got into it and reached Kovelakuntla. The conductor of the bus suggested us to get down there and get an onward bus to Jammalamadugu from where we can get good number of buses to Proddatur.

18. 35 hrs – We were dropped at the Kovelakuntla bus station. We were feeling damn hungry and looked around for some food. The best part of Andhra Pradesh is that one can find a lot of make-shift shacks or carts mushrooming on the road-sides selling hot pakodas, bajjis and other street food. We found a cart where hot mirchi bajjis were being fried and I took some of them while Bilal took some aloo pakodas. While in the coastal region of Andhra, the mirchi bajjis will be slit and some onions will be stuffed into them, here they were cut into pieces and some chat masala was sprinkled over them! Nevertheless, I loved them 🙂 🙂

19.00 hrs – A bus stopped in front of us and we got into it! The distance between Jammalamadugu and Koilkuntla (other name of Kovelakuntla) is around 70 kms. It took us two long hours to reach Jammalamadugu and luckily we got a bus to Proddatur immediately from there. @ 21.10 hrs – Proddatur is another 25 kms from Jammalamadugu. On the way, we saw so many cement factories like Ultratech, Penna etc. By 22.00 hrs – We were at the Gandhi Road Junction waiting for my brother to pick us up. And there he was, freshly bathed and in his t–shirt and pyjamas, whereas Bilal and I were almost mud-colored after travelling all through the day! 😦

22.10 hrs – My brother took us to the Nirmala Sweets Bakery and Restaurant in the M.G.Road and  told us that it is one of the finest restaurants that serves some fine vegan food. We ordered Vegetable Biryani, Nirmala Special Biryani (Steward’s choice) and also Egg Biryani along with some coke. Food tastes better with coke! 🙂 The food was served hot within minutes and we really attacked it! 🙂 😀 Nirmala Special Biryani was too good. They served it with lots of vegetables, spicy and with some fried potatoes and paneer (Paneer 65 and Aloo 65).

22.45 hrs – We were at my brother’s place. After a quick shower, we settled down to show him our pics of various places so far we visited and jumped on the discussion about our next destination. Trust me, we don’t have any planning or a specific circuit! That’s why I described this as a wild tour! Lol!! We started googling the distances of various places in and around proddatur and it was then I came across a video about Ahobilam! And my brother too told me that he heard that it’s a beautiful and must visit place! So, it was fixed! My next destination is Ahobilam!!

23.30 hrs – I drifted into a deep sleep and have no idea when the guys slept! I need to wake up early also, as my brother has to leave for his field around 07.30 hrs and Bilal should also reach his place early that evening!

Gandikota – Grand Canyon of India

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Probably one of the least explored places in India. Situated on the rivers of Pennar, in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, and is one of the best places in India. Truly an equivalent to the Grand Canyon.  Gandikota derives its name from two Telugu words, “Gandi” meaning gorge and “Kota” meaning fort. But, why this name? Coz, the river Penna forms a Gorge in this tiny village and there is a fort just on the river side, which is believed to have been built during the later half of the 13th century.

Places to Visit:

# Gandikota (Gorge Fort): It is a stone fort built upon a bill. Guarded by a huge entrance gate that is some 20 feet high and 101 bastions each over 40 feet high, it still remains a very imposing structure. Believed to have been built during the later half of the 13th century AD. Gandikota impressed the French traveler Tavernier, so much that he opined that it resembles Hampi, Vijayanagara in its massive monuments. And the Mukhadwara (entrance) of this fort welcomes us to enter the Gandikota village.

# Juma Masjid: It’s wonderful to see a mosque and a temple in the same complex of that tiny village. It was quite a big one and we can find a “Charminar” here too. Yeah, there is a charminar backside of this mosque. There is a granary just beside the mosque and had a vaulted roof. One can enter inside and see how the kings used to store their food treasures here 😀

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# Ranganatha Swamy Temple: On walking a further from the granary, one can find this temple. The temple is not in a good condition, yet people from the nearby villages come here to offer prayers to the Lord Ranganatha (Vishnu). The temple is located on an elevated platform. But the art on the temple walls has not lost its sheen.

# Pennar Gorge: A few steps further from the Ranganathaswamy temple, there lies thousands of rocks, small and big. Trust me, there won’t be a trace of what you are searching for. One has to take the pain of climbing up and down those rocks carefully, keep a watch on the surroundings and on their own footsteps and hunt for the treasure. After few minutes, one will find the treasure of nature’s beauty. The awesome Pennar Gorge. Stacks of rocks arranged in a perfect manner as if it was a book shelf, a mighty gorge and the river Pennar flowing through it. The beauty was beyond description. It just needs to be captured by one’s own heart and soul.

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# Madhavaraya Temple: While all the above mentioned places are on side, this temple is on the other side. It takes some time to reach this place from the gorge. This is probably the biggest structure among all the ones present in this village. The main sanctum of this temple is also elevated and there are good number of mandapas surrounding this temple. Truly a majestic structure.

Gandikota is yet another majestic creation of the mother nature. For the folks who love going on long drives, the stretch from Proddatur to Gandikota via Jammalamadugu is really a must try. Especially, if you plan to visit this place in the months of December and January, trust me, you will never regret. Coz, the mother earth will be covered with a blanket of sunflowers during this time, just like the below pic. For trek lovers, this place is worth trying as one can trek down the rocks from the fort hill to the pennar river flowing down. Don’t miss the sunrise 🙂

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Wait a minute, what about the food? If you wanna try the desi spicy food of Rayalaseema, you should try out eating Dosas with that Red chilli Chutney in the breakfast and Hot & Sour Soup in the dinner. I bet you will cry 😛

How to reach? 

Kadapa is well connected with the major cities like Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Bangalore by road. One can reach either Proddatur or Jammalamadugu and from there can catch an auto or a cab to drive to Gandikota. And the drive will be smooth as the condition of the roads is too good.

A special thanks to my friend Ruthwik for suggesting me to pay a visit to this place and to my loving brother Vijay for joining me in this beautiful journey.