Mangalagiri - The Auspicious Hill
Mangalagiri means The Auspicious Hill. This place is one of the 8 important Mahakshetrams (sacred places) in India. The eight places where Lord Vishnu manifested himself are (1) Sri Rangam (2) Srimushnam (3) Naimisam (4) Pushkaram (5) Salagamadri (6) Thothadri (7) Narayanasramam (8) Venkatadri. Thotadri is the present Mangalagiri. Lakshmi Devi has done tapas on this hill. That's why it got this name (The auspicious hill). There are three Narasimha Swamy temples in Mangalagiri. One is Panakala Narasimha Swamy on the hill. Another one is Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy at the foot of the temple. Third one is Gandala Narasimha Swamy at the top of the hill.
This shape of the hill looks like an elephant. From all the directions, the hill appears in the elephant shape only. There is an interesting legend to show as to how the mountain came into existence. Pariyatra, an ancient king had a son Hrasva Srungi visited all holy and sacred places to regain normal bodily stature and finally visited this holy place of Mangalagiri and stayed for three years performing penance. All the Devathas (Gods) advised him to stay at Mangalagiri and continue to do penance in praise of Lord Vishnu. The father of Hrasva Srungi came with his retinue to take back his son to his kingdom. But Hrasva Srungi took the shape of an elephant to become the abode of Lord Vishnu who is locally known as Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy.
The temple of Sri Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy is situated on the hill. On the right side of the steps provided to reach the temple, there is a stone inscription by Sri Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar and a little further up, the foot prints of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya are to be seen. Midway on the steps there is a temple of Lord Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy there is only the face with the mouth widely opened. A dhwajasthambham was erected in front of the temple in 1955. Behind the temple there is the temple of Sri Lakshmi, to the west of which there is a tunnel which is believed to lead to Vundavalli caves on the banks of the Krishna. The stone inscription of the kings of Vijayanagar relate besides to the conquest of Rayalu over Kondapalli etc., that Siddhiraju Thimmarajayya Devara granted a total of 200 kunchams (10 kunchams make one acre) land in 28 villages of which Mangalagiri was one and gift of 40 kunchams by China Thirumalayya to Ramanujakutam.
The steps to the temple were constructed by Sri Channapragada Balaramadasu in 1890. There was a cave next the devi temple on the hill. It is said that, there is a way to Vundavalli from that cave, and the sages used to go by that way to take bath in Krishna River. Now, the cave is very dark, and the way could not be seen.
The Demon Namuchi
The Lord that has established himself on the hill is in the form of Narasimha (man-lion) which Lord Vishnu assumed to kill Hiranyakasipu, a rakshasa father of Prahlada, a great devotee. He is also called as Sudarsana Narasimhaswamy. The legend says that Namuchi, a Rakshasa after great penance obtained a boon from Brahma that he would not be killed by anything that is either wet or dry. He began to harass Indra and the Devathas. Encouraged and supported by Lord Vishnu, Indra commenced destroying the army of Rakshasa Namuchi, who did in a cave in Sukshmakaram (small size) giving up his sthulakaram (Physical manifestation). Indra dipped Sudarsanam, the disc of Lord Vishnu in the foam of the ocean and sent it into the cave. Lord Vishnu manifesting himself at the centre of the disc destroyed the Pranavayuvu (life breath) of the Rakshasa with the fire of his exhalation. He thus got the name of Sudarsana Narasimha. The blood that flowed from the body of the Rakshasa seemed to have formed into a pool at the foot of the hill which is known hill. The Devathas themselves were unable to withstand the fire of the anger of the Lord and they prayed for appeasement. The Lord took amrutam (nectar) and cooled down. It was in Krithayugam. The Lord said that he would be satisfied with ghee in Threthayugam, with milk in Dwaparayugam and with panakam(Jaggery water) in Kaliyugam. Hence the Lord is called in Kaliyugam as Panakala Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy.
Story in Threthayugam
In Threthayugam, the second of the four yugas, people who enjoyed in heaven as a result of their good deeds in the world are most unhappy to return to this world (when once the fruits of good deeds are exhausted, the soul has to come back to the world). They prayed Indra, the Lord of heaven to save them from the impending fate. Indra advised them to spend their time in the world at Mangalagiri to attain heaven again. In Krithayugam, the first of the four yugas when the sinners were few, Yamadharmaraja, the Lord of hell advised them to wash off their sins by doing penance at Mangalagiri. Mangalagiri is in existence from the beginning of the Universe with the names Anjanadri in Krithayugam, Thotadri in Threthayugam, Mangaladri and Mukthyadri in Dwaparayugam and Mangalagiri in Kaliyugam affording salvation to sinners also. In Krithayugam, Vaikhanasa Maharshi worshipped the Lord and his idol is worshipped even today in the temple. It is also believed that Lord Rama while departing for Vaikuntam after completing his mission in that incarnation advised Anjaneya to stay at Mangalagiri and after obtaining his blessings to remain in this world for ever. Anjaneya took his adobe at Mangalagiri as Kshetrapalaka.
Panakala Narasimha Swamy - God Who Drinks Panakam
It is said that here, god is self-existent. In the temple, there will be no statue of the god, but there is only mouth, widely opened to 15 cms. The mouth is covered by metal face of the god. The temple will be opened till afternoon only, with the belief that devatas will perform pujas in the night. The God takes jaggery water as offering by a conch. The Jaggery water is actually poured into the mouth of the Lord, a gargling sound is clearly audible as if the Lord is actually drinking it and the sound becomes shriller and shriller as and when the Lord is drinking. The sound will come to a stop after sometime and the balance of the jaggery water is thrown out. This phenomenon happens not once in a day but is a recurring feature during the course of the day as and when devotees offer panakam (jaggery water). It will be interesting to note that even a single ant is not traceable near the Lord nor around the temple in spite of the offering of so much jaggery water. As the offering of the panakam to the Lord is peculiar, the Lord here is called panakala Narasimhaswamy. There is a legend about the offering of the panakam (jaggery water) to the Lord. It is said that the hill was once a volcano. Sugar or jaggery water, it is said, neutralizes sulphur compounds found in a volcano and prevents a volcanic eruption.
Behind the temple there is the temple of Sri Lakshmi, to the west of which there is a natural cave. It is believed that it will lead to Undavalli caves on the banks of the Krishna river and the sages used to go to take bath in Krishna River. Now, the cave is very dark and the way could not be seen. We can reach the temple through steps-way on foot and also by road-way. The steps to the temple were constructed by Sri Channapragada Balarama Dasu in 1890. In 2004, ghat road had been constructed through which the pilgrims can reach the temple easily.
Laxmi Narasimha Swamy Temple
At the foot of the hill, there is another temple whose origin is traced to the time of Yudhishtira, the eldest of the pandavas. Yudhishtira is said to be the founder of the chief image of this temple and the deity here is called Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. In Vijayawada itself, which is 8 miles from Mangalagiri there is a hill called Indrakeeladri in which Arjuna is said to have done tapascharya (penance) in order to obtain the weapon Pasupata from Lord Siva. About 200 years back Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu who ruled from Amaravati as his capital constructed a stupendous gopuram (tower) on the eastern gate of the Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy. It is one of the highest gopurams in South India and only one of its type in this part of India. It is 153ft. in height and 49 feet wide with 11 storeys, and gates facing east and west. This great and imposing tower dwarfs the central shrine. The devoted patience of thousands of skilled craftsmen and the labour of many more apprentices which had gone into this great structure is a testimony to the religious fervour which characterized the builder. After constructing the gopuram, it was leaning towards one direction. The Kancheepuram Architects suggested to dig a tank opposite to the tower. After digging the tank, it is said that, the tower became straight.
The Image of the Lord in the form of Narasimha (man-lion) and that of Lakshmi Devi to his left are of stone. The garland of the Lord with 108 saligramams is of special significance here. Dakshanavrutha Sankham, a special conch believed to be one that was used by Lord Krishna and resented by the Maharaja Sarfoji of Tanjore, is one more possession of significance of the Lord. There is also an ancient ratha (temple car) belonging to the temple with ornamental wood carvings depicting the scenes from the great epics of Bharata, Bhagavatha and Ramayana. Thimmaraju Devaraju a military chieftain of the Vijayanagar rulers improved this temple. He had constructed prakarams (compound walls), mandapas, gopurams (towers), five images of Lord Bhairava, a festival chariot, ten varieties of courts for annual ceremonies, flower gardens lakes and tanks. He had also installed utsava vigrahas in the temple (metal images intended for being taken out in procession). To the north of the temple there is a temple of Sri Rajyalakshmi to the south that of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana and to the west vahanasala (the store house for the vehicles of which the golden garudavahanam, the silver Hanumanthavahanam and ponnavahanam are noteworthy). The Lakshmi narayana temple and the Anjaneya Mandiram in Pedda Bazar are the other places of worship in the town.
On the top of the hill, there is no deity for the god. There is only facility to put a deepam. If anyone gets miseries, then they go there, lamp the deepam by cow ghee, and they lose the miseries. That lamp is visible from many villages.
Sri Panakala Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Brahmothsavam is very important annual festival. It is believed that the celebration was inaugurated by Dharmaraja at the behest of Lord Krishna. Pradyumna, the son of Lord Krishna, reqested his father to celebrate his birthday annualy for a sapthaham (seven days) from Phalguna Suddha Sapthami. Lord Krishna entrusted this work to Dharmaraja, the eldest of the pandavas who has the successor to the throne at Hasthinapura.
At present the festival is celebrated for 11 days commencing from phalguna sudda shasti (february - march). One day before Phalguna Suddha Purnima i.e. on Chaturdasi, here the marriage of Santha Narasimha Swamy, and Sridevi and Bhoodevi will be celebrated. They follow Agama sastra in this celebrations. Before the marriage, Chenchus celebrate on the occassion of Narasimha swamy marrying their daughter Chenchu Lakshmi. On that day night, Swamy comes by Sesha Vahanam and participate in Eduru Kola. The next day after the marriage is Purnima, on which the Holi festival is celebrated by indians. The same day, here, people celebrate Tirunalla, and about 1,00,000 people, local and from distant places congregate. On a big chariat, the Lord will go on procession and hundreds of devotees will pull this cart with fervour and enthusiasm.
Srirama Navami, Hanumajayanthi, Narasimhajayanthi, Vaikunta Ekadasi, and Mahasivarathri are other festivals which are celebrated here on a large scale. On Mahasivarathri, Lord will go on procession on a small chariot.
Ksheera Vruksham (The milk tree)
Ksheera vruksham (the milk tree) on the Mangalagiri hill is of great attraction particularly to the woman. The legend goes to say that king Sasibandi was advised by Narada to visit pilgrimages. King left the kingdom, and his queen, and started visiting pilgrimages. The queen came to know about this, and grew furious and cursed Narada to become a Ksheera vruksham on the hill within the easy reach of devotees, blessing women at its very sight, with property, children and washing off the sins they committed out of ignorance or oversight, for having ill-advised her husband to desert her and take to penance. Narada took this not as a curse but as a boon as it meant service to humanity, blessed the queen with happy life with her husband and a thousand children. Even today the milk tree is on the Mangalagiri hill and throughout the year thousands of women visit and worship the tree for begetting children.
There is a legend connected with the making of the procession idols of the temple. A repated goldsmith was appointed to make the procession images of the Lord. In spite of all his skill and care, the panchalohas (five metals) melted together in a huge crucible and smeared over the images to form a brilliant coating, the metals used to separate themselves and this bitter disappointment continued day after day. He began the process of burning one day after praying for the Lord's grace and heared a voice that success in his work required human sacrifice. Just then his son rushed to him and requested the father for water to quench his great thirst. He lifted his affectionate son and threw him into the molten mixture of the five metals and the body disappeared in no time. The amalgam was cast and beautiful icons of the Lord were then completed. After completing the work, the goldsmith thought about his son and called out in agony come my son and I will give you water to quench your thirst. It is believed that the body jumped out of the image and stood before his father.
Gali Gopuram (Tower)
Thoorpu Gali Gopuram (Tower on East Side) is the main attraction for the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple. Vijayanagara kings constructed three storeys and Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu constructed another 8 storeys. Raja Vasireddy constructed this from 1807 to 1809. Height of this temple is 153 feet and width is 49 feet. It is very rare to find out towers which have less width, and more height like this tower. Utthara Gali Gopuram (Tower on North Side) is opened on the Vaikunta Ekadasi (Mukkoti) day. It was constructed by Rangapuram Jamindar Madapati Venkateswararao in 1911. When Padamati Gali Gopuram (Tower on West Side) was being constructed, accidentally some stones fell down and some workers died. By this incident, the work was stopped and had not been started till now. Dhakshina Gali Gopuram (Tower on South Side) was renovated in 1992 for Krishna pushkaras by the initiative of the Executive officer Sri Nootakki Kotaiah.