Simhachalam

          Simhachalam is the hill of the lion is located at a distance of 18km from Visakhapatnam. The hill temple is accessed via a motorable road, up the hill. The temple combines the Orissa and Chalukyan features of temple construction, and it attracts scores of pilgrims from both Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The presiding deity here is VarahaLakshminarasimha, combining the iconographic features of Varaha and Narasimha. The image resembles a shiva lingam covered with sandal paste. It is only once a year, during the Chandana Virayana that the sandal paste is removed, and the image is seen by pilgrims. Legend has it that the ugra form of Narasimha as he killed the demon Hiranyakashipu was so fierce that the image is kept covered by sandal paste throughout the year.

HISTORY

          Kulottunga Chola 1 of Tamilnadu, made endowments to this temple, as evidenced from inscription dating back to the year 1087. The vengi chaluyas of Andhra Pradesh renovated the original shrine in the 11th century. Much of the structure as it stands to dry is the result of renovation by Narasimha1, of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, in the second quarter of the 13th century Srikrishna Devaraya, the Vijayanagar monarch visited this temple in the year 1516, as seen from inscriptions here. There are as many as 525 inscriptions in the temple.
The temple boasts of a beautiful stone chariot drawn by horses. The Kalyana mandapam within the temple has 16 pillars with reliefs depicting the incarnation of Vishnu. Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu is seen in several depictions throughout the temple. The artwork here has elements of similarity with that of Konark. Elephants, flowers, and plants are portrayed in plenty. The outer walls of the Sanctum depict images of a royal personality in various postures.

          Hiranyaashipu the demon king, was blessed with immense powers by virtue of his penance to Brahma. Endowed with a boon that neither man, nor beast nor weapon could kill him, nor would he die indoor or outdoors, he assumed total invincibility and conquered the earth and the netherworlds. Intoxicated by his victory, he declared him as the lord of the universe and directed his subjects to worship none other than himself. The only one of this subjects to defy his orders was his own son Prahlada, a staunch devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried several means to convince his son, and then to kill him indirectly, and none worked. Finally, he challenged him to show him Narayana, who he worshiped so fervently. Prahlada insisted that Vishnu was omnipresent and that there was no need to show him. Hiranyakashipu broke open a pillar in front of him, to disprove his son’s assertion, and out of his pillar sprang out Narasimha, the man-Lion form of Vishnu, who killed him on his doorstep, placing him on his lap.

         Narasimha is hailed as one of the 10 Avataras of Vishnu. The Nava Narasimha shrine at Ahorbilam in Andhra Pradesh enshrines nine forms of Narasimha. The hill temple of Simhachalam near Visakhapatnam also enshrines Narasimha.

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