After a long day starting from Srikalahasti and then to Venkatgiri, we made our way to stay overnight at the village of Penchalakona This village is part of the Rapur Mandal in the Nellore District. The area is also a wildlife sanctuary which is about 1030 square kilometres. A simple dinner and catching up on some sleep, we stepped out early at 7 a.m to visit the famed Penisula Lakshmi Narasimha Temple.
The temple is regarded as one of Nava Narasimha Kshetras. The others are Ahobilam, Yadagirigutta, Malakonda, Simhachalam, Dharmapuri, Vedadri , Antarvedi, and Mangalagiri- all in the region of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana states.
As we stepped out to proceed towards the temple, we were greeted by a wonderful figures of Lord Hanuman and Garuda, (the eternal vehicles or vahanamas for Lord Vishnu), facing their backs to each other, at the entrance of the village.
It is believed that Lord Narasimha, one of the avataras / manifestations of Lord Vishnu in his half man/half lion form manifested Himself on a huge rock in a meditative posture. He is also known as the Somasila Narasimhaswamy.
The story of Narasimha is well known. Jaya and Vijaya were two dwarapalakas (gatekeepers) to Vaikuntha. And when the Sanata Kumara brothers or Sanakadhik (the first mind born sons of Lord Brahma), came to offer their respects to Lord Vishnu, the gatekeepers did not allow them in. The Sanat Kumaras were enlightened souls, although they looked like boys and roamed around naked. To reach Lord Vishnu’s abode in Vaikuntha, you have to pass through seven gates. The Sanat Kumara brothers passed through six very easily, but when they reached the seventh, the Dwarapalakas stopped them – as they did not take these young boys, who were naked very seriously.
The Sanat Kumara brothers expected Jaya and Vijaya to be like their master Vishnu, who does not differentiate between any being. Enraged, the Kumaras cursed them to be born on earth several times as humans. Lord Vishnu who learnt of the incident, appeared before the Kumaras in all his glory with his retinue and welcomed the four Kumaras. With deep devotion, the brothers appealed to Him to accept them as his devotees and allow them to offer worship at his feet for all time to come and let his feet be their final emancipation. Vishnu complied with their request and also asked them to modify the curse. So, the brothers assured Jaya and Vijaya that they will born as demons on Earth three times, but would be annihilated by their master Lord Vishnu himself and then return to their permanent abode.
Hence, the demons Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were born to Diti (the wife of Sage Kashyapa) during Satya Yuga. And they were a menace to the Earth. Hiranyaksha was killed by the Varaha Avatara. Angered by his death – Hiranyakashipu did everything to sully the name of Lord Hari. But as luck would have it his son turned out to be a staunch devotee or bhakta of Lord Vishnu. And you all know the story about how he tortured his own son. At one point he is angered and laughs in derision at Prahlada’s implicit faith and devotion for Sri Hari since the child keeps asserting that the Lord is present everywhere. Hiranyakasipu goes on to ask him, if, as he claims, such a person exists everywhere, why is He not seen in the pillar and goes to strike the pillar and instantly the Lord manifests from the pillar, proving the Sukta Vakya or maxim, ‘Narayana pervades both inside and outside of everything’.
And as the Bhaktavatsala (one who loves his devotees) – he takes the form of half-man half-lion form to protect Prahlada from his demoniac father Hiranyakashipu. His eyes were as bright as the sun, sharp teeth or His angry roars shook the three worlds. And he took this ‘Ugram’ (extreme angry form) to slay the person who troubled his devotee.
According to legend, even after killing the demon, the Lord’s anger did not subside and he started roaming the forests. To control his anger, Goddess Lakshmi took the form of tribal lady ‘Chenchu Lakshmi’ to please Narasimha Swamy. Chenchu Lakshmi hugged Narasimha Swamy at this place to control the anger. A hug in Telugu translates as Penu Vesukonuta. Thus the place got the name ‘Penusila’, and with time the name changed to Penchalakona.
Another local legend at Penchalakona, says that the Lord after killing demon Hiranyakashipu took a bath in Penchalakona to end the ‘Ugra’ Narasimha Avatar and manifested here in Yoga Mudra. ‘Penusila Kona’ which means means ‘Huge Rock Corner’. It was indeed a blessing to visit the temple and get His grace.
A special yagna for the annual ‘pavitra utsavam’ was also happening. Do see the pictures of the same in the slideshow. The main objective of the utsava is penitential, incase omissions and mistakes were done in the performance of various rituals throughout the year. A Hanuman temple exists opposite the main temple too.
After this beautiful darshan, we were on the way to the Chitvel Varadarajaswamy temple, but before that we were to pay our obeisance to the Bhadrakali and Veerabhadraswamy Siva temple. Do stay tuned for that!
Acknowledgements: Pictures by A. S Diwakar (Chennai)