Celebrating the Azhwars and the Divya Desams of Lord Sriman Narayana!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Recently I have been browsing my own collection of digital photos - taken at the places I have travelled to, and one place that never fails to amaze me is Ahobilam. It is one of the two SriVaishnavite Divya Desams in Andhra Pradesh (the other of course being Thirumala-Thirupathi).

There are several Divya Desams whose current state is in stark contrast to how they must have looked during the times of the Azhwars. For example, Thirumangai Azhwar describes Thiruvallikkeni (aka Triplicane in Chennai) as "iraviyin kadhirgal nuzhai-dhal seidhariyaa ThiruvallikkeNi kandEnE" - i.e the place was so densely forested that sun rays couldn't penetrate. Today, I can safely challenge anyone to show me more than two full grown trees in the maada veedhis surrounding the temple of Lord Sri Parthasarathy.

Ah, I am digressing. Coming back to the point, Ahobilam is one of the few Divys Desams which have been preserved in more or less the same state as during the times of the Azhwars. Even the indefatigable Thirumangai Azhwar describes Ahobilam as a most inaccessible place, and calls it "Dheivam allAl sella voNNaa singa VaEL kunramae" i.e according to him, Ahobilam is inaccessible except to the gods! The formal name for Ahobilam is beautiful - Thiru Singa VaeL kunram (Hill of the Lion King). Indeed, Ahobilam retains its beautiful forests, natural springs, cave temples and hunting tribes so vividly and fearfully described by the Azhwar.

Ahobilam is consists of nine temples dedicated to the nine forms of Lord Sri Narasimha. The temples are located at various elevations on several hills. Some of them have to be reached only on foot, after a fairly arduous trek. In addition to the nine temples, there is a temple for Sri Prahalada Varadan at the base of the hills. Very close to this temple is the headquarters of the Ahobila Mutt, which is one of the most important Sri Vaishnavite monasteries. The nine temples are small and nestled amidst hills and forests.

The best way to travel to Ahobilam is by forming part of groups of devotees that travel to Ahobilam from various places in South India.

The origin of the name "Ahobilam" is very interesting and inspiring. Sri Garuda, who is Lord Vishnu's mount, and possessed of incredible physical might himself, was a witness to Lord Vishnu's incarnation as Sri Narasimha to slay the demon Hiranyakashipu. On seeing the power of Sri Narasimha, Garuda exclaimed in awe, "Aho Balam!" (What strength !!!)

Sri Lakshmi Narasimhan Thiruvadigalae Saranam.

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