Srikalahasteeswara temple in Kalahasti is a Lord Shiva temple in Chitoor district,AP around 40 kms from Tirupathi and 120 kms from Chennai.This is one of the five Pancha Bootha sthalams and represents the Vayu (air).
This temple is mentioned in the works of Nakeerar, Thirunavukkarasar(Appar), Sundarar, Sambandar and Manickavasagar in the holy literature Tirumurai. As the temple is revered in Devaram, it is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams .
As per the legends, SriKalahasti is named after a spider (Sri), serpent (kala) and elephant (hasti).
The elephant used to clean Shiva Linga by carrying river water with its trunk and decorating the Shiva Linga with Viva leaves.The Spider weaved a thick web daily over the Linga to protect the deity from dust. The serpent used to place Nagamani,a precious gem from Nagalogam, on the Lingas forehead. These three Linga seperately without being aware of what the others wer doing.
One day, the spider had built a very thick web around the deity , while the snake placed its Nagamani gem. The elelphant not aware of this, and thought the cobweb being there is dirty and unclean, poured water and cleaned it. Each were displeased with each of their actions and a war ensued among the three and the snake entered the elephant's trunk and bit him.The distressed elephant banged his trunk and head against the Shiva Lingam. During this chaos, the spider was trampled and squashed by the elephant and the snake also fell out dead. The elephant also eventually died due to the snake's bite.
Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all of three of them for their selfless bakthi and devotion.
As per another legend,Vayu performed tapas (penance) for thousands of years to a Karpoora lingam (Lingam nade of camphor). Shiva appeared before him and asked for his wish. Vayu said he wanted to be omnipresent, and wanted the Karpoora Linganam named after him. Shiva granted his wishes and said that he will be spread throughout this world,and without Vayu, life shall cease to exist. And as per the second wish the Karpoora Lingam shall be worshipped by devas asuras and mortals.
The story of the hunter Kannappa Nayanar who gave both his eyes by gouging them with his arrow and gave to the Shiva Lingam is also associated with this place.
The Temple : The temple is situated in a sprawling place with hills as a backdrop and almost as if forming a compound wall.The main Gopuram is 120 feet in height. The gopuram and the 100 pillar mandapam inside the outer praharam were constructed by Krishnadevarayadu on 1516 as per historical scriptures.The temple faces south.There is a rock cut sannidhi for Ganesha, 9 feet below the ground level. In the innermost praharam are the sannidhis of Shiva and Parvati facing west. The moolavar of Shiva is in the form of Lingam made of white stone resembling a trunk of an elephant. There is a sepearte sannidhi for Goddess Gnanaprasanambika, the consort of Kalahatiswarar.
There are sannidhis in the temple for Kasi Viswanatha, Annapoorni, Suryanarayana, Ganapathi and Subramanya. Beautiful idols of Vallaba Ganapathi, Mahalakshmi Ganpathi and Sahasra Lingeswara are seen in the inner prharam.
The Shiva Lingam is not touched by human hands,even by priests (dheenda meni). Abhishekam is done by pouring a mixture of milk,water,and panchamritam. Alankarams like sandal paste, garlands ,flowers and the upaveetham(sacred thread) are offered to the utsavar.
Adi Sankara is said to have visited this temple and worshipped here.
Rituals and Beleifs The temple is a Rahu,Kethu kshetram. Rahu Kethu pooja are performed here by those suffering from doshas as per their Horoscope, to clear the obstacles for their marriage.
Festivals Pradosham is important here. Apart from Pradoshams,Sivarathiri,Maha Siva rathiri, Navarathiri, Aipasi Annabishekam in Oct-November,Thiruvadhirai in Dec-January, are celeberated here.Maha Shivaratri is the most important festival when lakhs of devotees assemble here. Mahasivaratri Brahmotsavams are celebrated for 13 days, and the Utsava murtis of Siva and Parvati are taken in a procession around the temple streets.
Temple location The temple is 120 kms from Chennai in Chittor district, more closer to Tirupathi.
Temple Timings The temple is open from days from 6:00 AM - 8:00 PM with occassional breaks lasting 30 minutes for abhishekam and alankarams.
Dress code No stringent dress code exists for entering the temple , but devotees are requested visit in a decent dress.
How to reach?
The nearest airport is Tirupathi and the international airport is Chennai. and there are several bus services from Chennai Koyambedu and plenty of APSRTC buses from Tirupathi. You can drive a car or take cab from Chennai for a day trip to cover Tirupati, Tirumala too.