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Srikalahast Temple in Andhra Pradesh

Srikalahasti Temple Srikalahasti Temple is located in the town of Srikalahasti, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is one of the most famous Shiva temples in South India, and is said to be the site where Kannappa, one of the 63 Saivite Nayanars, was ready to offer both his eyes to cover blood flowing from the Siva linga before the Lord Siva stopped him and granted him mukti.

Sri Kalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu deva temple, which is the only shrine for the God of Wind in India. Constructed in the 12th century by the Chola king, Rajendra Chola, Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshipped as Kalahasteeswara.

The Legend

Sri Kalahasti is named after the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. They were the Spider (Sri), the Serpent (Kala) and the Elephant (Hasti). Appeased with their unflinching devotion, Lord Shiva gave them a boon that their names be merged with the Vayulinga and called as Sri Kalahasteeswara.

According to Hindu mythology, the elephant or Hasti used to clean the Shiva deity by watering the idol with the help of river-water carried in his trunks and pray for him by placing Vilva leaves. The spider or Sri tried to protect the deity from external damage by weaving his web and to provide shelter for the Shiva lingam. The snake or Kala used to place its precious gem on the linga to adorn the lord. In this way, they all worshipped the Vayu linga separately without knowing what the other was doing.

One day, the spider had built a very big and thick web around the deity to protect it from dust and weather while the snake places its gem. The elephant not knowing this and assuming that this form of puja by Sri and Kala is a desecration by the seeming miscreants, pours water on it and cleans it up. This causes a war between the three. The snake punishes the elephant by entering its trunk and in the process kills itself while the elephant runs amok and hits its trunk and head against the shiva linga. During this struggle, the spider is squashed against the linga by the elephant's trunk and the elephant dies due to the snake's poison. Lord Shiva then appeared and gave moksha to all three of them for their selfless devotion. The spider takes rebirth as a great king while the elephant and the snake reaches heaven for satisfying all its karma.

This king continues his good work from his previous birth and builds a variety of temples that seeks to protect the underlying deity with tons of stones. It is interesting to note that all his temples, keep the deity beyond the access of an elephant. In this temple, access to the deity is through a narrow passage in the side of the building that prevents an elephant from extending its trunk over the lord from any side.
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